Railway lines seem to divide every bit as much as they connect. The railway-building mania of the 1840s created numerous millionaires, but was greeted with outrage by those it displaced or replaced.
Today’s proposed high-speed rail links, HS2 and HS3, have polarised opinion in a very similar way.
In another sense, they physically divide towns and cities in such an inescapable way that nobody wants to be stuck “on the wrong side of the tracks”.
Yet for every person who sees railways as dirty, noisy or intrusive, there are many more who love them with a passion. The meticulous-minded collect engine numbers, while the incurably romantic take trips on the Orient Express.
Many – both men and women – actually make a point of living near a railway line. They might be drawn by the reassuring regularity of the trains, or simply to the clicking whoosh that lulls them to sleep at night.
Others still enjoy the history and romance of living in a railway property, even long after the track and trains have disappeared.
There are plenty of examples of these “de-railed” properties in Britain – not least in our area – because many lines and stations fell victim to the so-called ‘Beeching Axe’, the swingeing cuts to the nation’s rail network recommended by Dr Richard Beeching in the early 1960s.
The York-Harrogate line was planned for closure but managed to escape unscathed, but other lines weren’t so lucky, such as the Nidd Valley line and the Leeds-Northallerton line via Ripon.
But all that infrastructure didn’t just disappear. The trackbeds have become footpaths, the viaducts carry cycle paths and many of the station buildings have been converted into beautiful homes.
So – specially for all the grown-up railway children across our district – the following three properties all offer their own kinds of railway magic.
Just south of Tadcaster, Station House used to be Stutton station, a stop on the Harrogate to Church Fenton Line. It opened in 1847, closed to scheduled passenger trains in 1905 but was still used for ‘seaside specials’ within living memory. It finally shut completely in 1964. Now a detached family home, it has four bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen (formerly the ticket office), utility room, study and two reception rooms.
Outside, there’s a drive (formerly the trackbed), double detached garage, gardens and greenhouse.
Just north of Harrogate, 2 Station Cottages is one of a terrace built for workers at Nidd Bridge station – a stop on the Leeds to Northallerton railway, which opened in 1848.
The house has three bedrooms, a shower room, dining kitchen, two reception rooms and a conservatory. Outside, there’s a garden and off-street parking on the drive.
Finally, further up the same line, 32 Station Drive used to be the stationmaster’s house for Ripon’s station, which operated from 1848 to 1969, when it fell to the Beeching Axe.
The house has five bedrooms, two bathrooms, dining kitchen and sitting room, with garden, patio area and detached utility room/store outside.