Man who transformed Wymondham rail station retires

A railway enthusiast who transformed a derelict south Norfolk train station into an award-winning attraction is handing over the lease of the building after 23 years.

David Turner, the proprietor of the Brief Encounter restaurant at Wymondham train station, is reluctantly leaving the business to begin retirement after rising rates and running costs put pressure on trading.

New lease-holders are due to take over in mid-February and, although a catering business is to be retained at the station, he said he knew few details at the moment about what their plans for the site may be.

Mr Turner, who lives in Ashwellthorpe, said: 'I can't pretend this has been an easy decision, but I feel that the time is right to let go. Although we had quite a successful summer last year, nobody would pretend that trading conditions are easy in the current economic climate, especially for those of us in the leisure and tourism sectors.

'My lease on the buildings here is due for renewal very shortly and I'm not getting any younger so this seemed like the right time to take a step back.'

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He added: 'I would like to thank our many customers for their support and to pay tribute to my own staff, some of whom have given many years of loyal service and have themselves contributed so much towards building the business to become widely recognised as one of the very best of its type in the country.'

When Mr Turner took on the station buildings in March 1988 they had been unoccupied for two decades and were due to be bulldozed, but he gradually restored the complex establishing the Brief Encounter tea rooms, a piano repair business and a range of railway memorabilia.

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The transformation has earned the station a string of regional and national awards, including the title of best small station at the National Rail Awards in 2006 and the winner of best retail outlet at the Community Rail Awards in 2008.

Railway enthusiasts have also flocked to the lovingly restored building including Michael Portillo, who filmed at the site in September for his BBC2 programme Great British Railway Journeys.

'People said I was mad when I took on the buildings. They were almost derelict and threatened with demolition. But I replied that I have always loved trains so I gradually set about bringing the station back to life using proceeds from my piano business,' he said.

'I have enjoyed it. I shall miss seeing the tears, the laughter and the hugs and kisses from the windows as people get on and off the trains. I shall miss the familiar smells of the place.'

Mr Turner will continue his piano tuning business from his home. He also intends to devote time to his garden and his support of Wymondham Abbey.

His railway memorabilia collection on display at the station will be taken down by the end of the month having found a new owner.

Station Taxis and the Nailway beauty salon will both continue to trade normally alongside the part-time railway ticket sales booth operated by National Express East Anglia.

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