RICHMOND railway station opened in 1846, figuratively reached the end of the line in 1969 – physically it had never been anywhere else – might have hit the buffers sooner had not Catterick Camp served its national purpose.

The Duke of Kent, it’s recalled, would embark at Richmond during the war. His car registration was K7. The duke was seventh in line.

Officially a Grade II* listed building, avowedly a national treasure, it became a garden centre, closed in 2001, stood as empty as the milk train to Darlington.

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A public meeting over its future was called in October 2002. Proposals, says a website, were “received with varying degrees of enthusiasm and horror.”

Horror? “Oh that would be the night club idea,” says Ian Hepworth, chairman of the Richmond Buildings Preservation Trust. “The people of Richmond were never very keen on night clubs – not the older ones, anyway. Some of the ideas were quite interesting, others very commercial.”

Though unsuccessful, proposals by the Mad Hatter’s Tea Company were thought to be among the more sane.

The charitable Trust, formed for that purpose, finally assumed responsibility for reinvigorating the station and for raising the £2.5m necessary to achieve the transformation.

Now home to a three-screen cinema, flourishing art gallery, restaurant, meeting rooms and businesses from aromatic bakery to burgeoning brewery, the reborn Station celebrates its tenth birthday in November and attracts 350,000 visitors a year.

Clearly the cinema’s eclectic, a playbill for Churchill – released this week – next to another for Captain Underpants. They should not be confused.

Near the ice cream parlour, the loop DVD which tells the station’s story talks of a “high status experience”. The website’s yet more succinct. “It’s amazing what a little charity can do.”

IAN had run an electrical business, was contemplating retiring –“sort of retiring” – when he helped form the Trust. Donald Kline, a local bookseller and journalist, is credited with the original vision for the station.

“A lot of people thought it could never be done, there were times I thought so myself,” admits Ian. “I love Richmond and I wanted to try to give something back to the community. It was better than sitting at home watching television all day.”

The Trust’s mission statement talks of the aim “to preserve for the people of Richmondshire and the nation the historical, architectural and constructional heritage that may exist in and around Richmondshire”.

They’re also “actively” looking for other projects which fit their aims, most immediately at possible conversion of the redundant grammar school buildings across the river from the station.

About 90 per cent of the trust’s income is now from the Station’s tenants. “A lot of the originals are still here, some have taken extra accommodation.

“It’s a safe space, a space for all ages. They appreciate that. We wanted to give it the 'wow' factor. People seem to think that we succeeded.”

PAST and present, Richmond station may have no greater admirer than railways author and former Dalesman editor David Joy, a man who – as possibly we have suggested before – bears a remarkable resemblance to the Big Friendly Giant.

That he’s 6ft 7in, a little unkempt and wears braces may have something to do with it. He talked of the book at the Station last Wednesday.

Rails in the Dales, latest of his 40-odd books, speaks of the station as a superb terminus in a class of its own, a product of the golden age of railway architecture, “astonishingly medieval”.

Even the once-attendant gas works are thought “stylish”, the barge boards “exquisite”, the three chimneys “unbelievable”.

The book’s an evocatively illustrated history – a layman’s history – of eight lines like Darlington to Richmond, the Wensleydale line, the little branch from Ripon to Masham and (of course) the Settle and Carlisle.

Incorrigibly, David also tells the story last week of the chap arriving at Dent station – England’s highest – to learn that the village is four miles, four very vertiginous miles, distant.

“Why couldn’t they put the station nearer the village,” he demands of the elderly Cumbrian station master.

The station master strokes his beard. “’Appen they wanted it nearer the railway,” he says.

David recalls also Richmond station’s “fairly close escape from demolition.” I ask him afterwards what he makes of its transformation.

“Oh superb,” he says. “Richmond has what its community deserves, I couldn’t have done better myself. If only it still had a railway.”

n Rails in the Dales is published Railway and Canal Historical Society (£16 50.) JINGLING to Richmond’s tune a couple of weeks back, we noted a suggestion by the lady of this house that if the New Zealand rugby team insisted upon the haka then our boys should respond by morris dancing. Four days later, a letter in The Times made precisely the same point – “enough to frighten anybody". Preferably, adds the lady, as performed by Dad’s Army.

STILL on the railways, our old friend Coun David Walsh has been contributing to memories of the Great BR Breakfast in the Guardian letters pages. David, from Skelton in east Cleveland, recalled a 1960s journey from London to Newcastle in which he found himself sharing a compartment with a group of cassocked seminarians from Ushaw College, near Durham. The steward informed that “the last supper” was about to be served. They duly ate and drank.

VIV GARBUTT, who died last week, was a truly class act. We’d last met the Teesside Troubadour at Christmas, when he’d played Darlington Folk Club at the Copper Beech and clearly wasn’t at all well.

On stage he was transformed. “I always said that I wanted to play the Copper Beech again before I started to go bald and look daft,” the thinning, but still hirsute Vin told them.

Best known as an award winning folk singer and writer, he was also a brilliant raconteur. His father had been a sergeant major, his mother was an Irish Catholic. “Until things got a bit greener, I always thought a catalytic converter was an Irish missionary,” he said.

He’d had years of heart problems, talked of expecting a replacement pig’s valve, finally received a mechanical replacement in major surgery in April.

“The pig might have been disgruntled,” he explained on his Facebook page shortly before the operation, but asked also for his readers’ prayers.

He wrote almost all his own stuff, was asked at Darlington to sing – and to try to remember the words of – the one about the ship that was looted after running aground near his home in Skinningrove, east Cleveland. The cargo was mainly leisure shirts and boys’ pants with a Super Mario motif. Chorus?

There were T-shirts for the husbands Sweat shirts for the wife And all the kinds in Skinningrove had underpants for life.

The guy, bless him, was a genius.

JUNGLE, hairier yet and once just as familiar around these parts, died two years ago last Thursday. He’d been leader of Darlington’s Hells Angels chapter, a classic example of book and cover. Many loved him. They’d planted a young oak tree in his memory in his favourite part of Weardale, organised a remembrance do in the pub – which is where I bumped into them – but decided against an In Mem notice in the paper. Liz, Jungle’s former wife, said that it would have cost the same as 40 Jaeger Bombs. “I think he’d have preferred us to spend the money on Jaeger Bombs.”