There was once one beside every waiting room, but Bridlington’s is almost the last standing.
John Sadler’s brief encounter with it lasted 17 years, and his clearout as he reaches the end of the line will see a renewed onset of romantic railway nostalgia.
He is putting on the market the collection of 300 engine nameplates, station signs, advertisements and other artefacts that have decorated his cafe since he moved in.
The hoard is said to be the most significant of its kind to have emerged for some time, with an estimated value of around £30,000.
Now 70, Mr Sadler is giving up the tenancy of the Grade II listed “station buffet and refreshment room” and auctioning its contents.
“I would have liked to have handed it over as it stands, but the railway companies wanted to develop it,” he said.
“It’s a shame, because it’s one of the only two station cafes in the country to have kept its original name.”
It has also kept nearly all its original fittings, including separate first and second class rooms with a servery connecting the two. However, no first class trains currently stop at the station.
Only the gas lamps and the coal fire have changed since the facility opened in 1922.
Mr Sadler took it over in 2002, after a lifetime in Bridlington’s leisure industry, and has added to its collection of railwayana in the years since.
It now includes the nameplate from Dame Vera Lynn, the war department “austerity” locomotive named in the singer’s honour. The engine itself is currently undergoing restoration in the North York Moors.
Andy Spicer, who will conduct the sale from his auction room in Driffield on Valentine’s Day, said the collection was “one of the most amazing to come on the market in years”.
He added: “There’s all sorts of wacky things – a railwayman’s lantern from the days when you had manual level crossings and a man had to go out to open and close it at night.
“A collection like this doesn’t come up every day. It’s very, very rare. A lot of it has been there for donkey’s years. You can hardly move inside the buffet for it.
“Some of the signs alone are worth £8,000 each.”
The cafe resembled a time capsule, he said. “Everything is fundamentally as it was. When John took it over, all the mahogany woodwork had been painted – but he spent weeks stripping it back to its natural finish.”
Mr Sadler said the menu as well as the decor had remained mostly unchanged in his time, with real ale and what he called “typical British standard food.”
But he added: “The coffee’s different now – it’s all latte these days.”