CORNWALL HOMES: LIFE IN A CORNISH TRAIN STATION
St Germans train station in Cornwall is now a home and holiday rental property with guests staying in revamped railway carriages
When Cornish couple Lizzie and Dave Stroud were travelling by train from Saltash to Penzance they passed through St Germans railway station and saw the dilapidated station building and wondered what it would be like to live there... and now they do
It was 22 years ago when Lizzie and Dave moved in to St Germans station, with only two chairs a mattress and a Workmate. For most people the thought of taking on a building with no mains water or even electricity would be too much but for this couple it was exciting. They set about making it into a cosy home and then turned their hands to make the bit of land that came with it into a garden.
During the excavation of the land they found the old platform edge and then much to their surprise a siding. Thinking it would be lovely to have friends to stay they decided to search for a railway carriage to put on it. They found the Old Luggage Van in a builders’ yard in Liskeard. It was in a pretty bad state but they knew with love and care and an awful lot of hard work they could make this into a beautiful place to stay.
Helpfully Dave is an engineer and with the help of friends and family the carriage was finally restored ready for use. But having invested £12,000 on the conversion they decided to let it as a holiday home and that was how Railholiday was born with the first guests staying in 1998.
They had intended to keep to just the one carriage and with Dave working full-time and Lizzie teaching music the Old Luggage Van brought in a little extra income. By now their son Walter was born and they were expecting their second child Poppy. But when the opportunity of a 68 foot 1950s corridor carriage came along they couldn’t resist.
Harvey, as it is now known, was based down in Hayle so that meant the family all going down whilst the renovations were carried out. Harvey is a real trip down memory lane, retaining lots of original British Rail features including lamp shades, luggage racks, mirrors, blinds and upholstery. But to make it into a holiday home fit for the 21st century there was still a lot to do, but with help from family and friends that is exactly what they did. It even boasts a signal box playhouse/ bird hide and a wildlife garden with a brazier for roasting marshmallows.
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This is very much a family effort with Lizzie’s sister Nicki turning her hand to pretty much anything including digger driving, mum Frankie is the environmental adviser and dad Tony builds fences and keeps the vegetable gardens going and Dave’s dad John, is the backbone of the team, as well as chief paint stripper. The couple’s two children Walter and Poppy have been involved too, providing ideas for toys and activities for children, designing Christmas cards and making videos.
Over the years Lizzie and Dave have acquired two more carriages at St Germans -The Travelling Post Office and Mevy, a Victorian Slip Coach both of which have been given the same loving treatment. The Travelling Post Office had been stored in Wales for many years and needed a lot of work but Lizzie and Dave were determined to restore as much of its original features as possible and it retains its original post boxes, but now has two lovely bedrooms, a relaxing lounge diner as well as a kitchen and shower room.
Mevy, acquired from Buckfastleigh, takes you back to a time when the railway had three classes – and this coach has all three and a guard’s room, the bathroom in third class, lounge/diner in second and the sumptuous master bedroom in first with the children’s bedroom in the old guard’s room. The couple have used local crafts people on all their carriages and Mevy is no exception.
Newton Abbot based Luscombe Upholstery created the seating area based on carriage photos from the Victorian era. Traditional net-makers Bridport Nets made handmade luggage rack netting to fit into blacksmith/artist Paul Ager’s wrought iron brackets and the artist Brian Hoskin provided photos and artwork for the built in picture frames. Mahogany, salvaged over many years, was put into good use to replace missing mouldings. Edwardian postcards inherited from Dave’s great grandfather are displayed above the windows and patchwork throws in the bunk-room utilise curtain material from the time the carriage had been used as a home. Lizzie’s friend Sarah James taught Lizzie how to gild and together they put the gold detail into the first class compartment.
Will they expand with more carriages? Lizzie says yes! They are currently working on a wheelchair accessible carriage, while being kept busy constantly adding new touches to the carriages they have. Upgrading furnishings, keeping the magnificent gardens, preparing welcome packs of local produce and making sure all their guests have a wonderful time.
For Lizzie and Dave this is not just about having a business but about the experience as well. They have a passion for the railway and take great pride in what they have achieved in taking derelict carriages and bringing them back to life. So now there is no travelling to work; when it is lunch time Lizzie just shouts and whoever is working that day comes in and they all sit and eat together. It has certainly been hard work getting to where they are, but the results are fantastic.