Listed building in Outwell was inspiration for character’s home in Thomas the Tank Engine stories
PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 March 2011 | UPDATED: 15:58 08 March 2011
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At first glance you would be forgiven for walking past the Grade II listed building next to Carole Day’s home without realising its important role in the history of the Fens.
Even a closer inspection of the outside and inside of the renovated building would lead you to believe it hasn’t been used for anything other than a place for storage.
But not only is it the last goods office to remain standing following the closure of the famous Wisbech and Upwell Tramway, it also provided inspiration for the home of a character in a popular series of children’s stories.
Rev Wilbert Awdry, who lived in nearby Emneth, used the Outwell Village depot office as the garage for Toby the Tram Engine in his Thomas the Tank Engine stories. Rev Awdry’s books also helped to immortalise the unusual steam trams that used to glide up and down the line.
Now almost 70 years after the tramway closed, the building has started a new chapter after being lovingly restored by Carole Day and her partner Ian Mansell.
Mrs Day said: “I am a huge railway enthusiast and I love railways and steam, so when I came to look around here four years ago I fell in love with this place.
“The house was built in 2003 on the site of the old tramway, but the old depot office was in quite a state when we moved in and it looked like it hadn’t been touched for 40 years.
“I decided to renovate it and the cost of the renovation came to just under £10,000 but I was delighted to give such a historic building a new lease of life.
“I was keen to make sure the original windows, doors and sign remain even though it is just being used for storage at the moment.
She added: “I have always said it is a bit like a Tardis on the inside because there is more space than you would think.”
Mrs Day said she often gets railway enthusiasts knocking on her door wanting to have a closer look at the former goods office.
She continued: “I was told about an article that had appear in Model Railway Magazine where the tram route was modelled to scale.
“I wrote to them to say I was living on the route and I had the last remaining depot office in my garden. They did a story about it and we have had quite a few people coming here ever since.
“They usually just want to have a look inside and take some pictures of it and it is quite exciting to see the buzz they get from seeing it.
“When we renovated it we also had a man come along who claimed to have been the last ticket master at the depot, but I have not seen him since.”
Mrs Day had wanted to open up a museum in the former depot office showing the history of the tramway but has now abandoned that idea.
She said: “I didn’t want to charge anyone to come in and I was thinking of opening it on a Sunday or for heritage open days.
“But I hit a few barriers because of health and safety amongst other things, which was a real shame because I think it would have been quite a popular attraction.”
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