The station heritage restoration project was completed last year after 18 months of work. The main station building dates from the early 1930s and, after the line closed to passengers in 1972 and the last member of staff who dealt with freight retired, the station was boarded up and narrowly avoided demolition.
The restoration has seen the booking office restored, telling a tale of how railway travel was sold in the days prior to computerised ticket machines or purchases from an app.
The Dartmoor Railway Association requested that the heritage station signage should reflect what was at the station in 1959. Research showed Southern Railway signage was in use then, so all the heritage signage is of Southern Railway design. Since Okehampton station is a modern station, too, the agreement of GWR was necessary in order to install the heritage signage. The station is also unstaffed so all of the main station building, while owned by the railway, is overseen by others.
Richard Burningham, Manager of the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, said “I am so proud of what our joint collaborative effort has achieved at Okehampton. I'm especially proud and pleased that the public are using the trains in such numbers. Thanks particularly to GWR for allowing all of the heritage work to take place and thanks to the funders for making it possible. All of this builds on the bedrock of what Roy Gibbs, Devon County Council and others achieved in the 1990s. I know people were worried at the very beginning of the reopening project that all the heritage would be swept away and quite the opposite has happened.”
Ian Mundy, Dartmoor Line Reopening Project Manager for GWR, added: “It is hard to believe that it is already a year since we and our partners reopened the Dartmoor Line, ahead of time and under budget – and this event today marks the completion of this project. With the building now fully restored to its former glory, the success of the project is testament to the hard work of so many who campaigned for the line's reinstatement and those who worked day and night to deliver the project £10m under budget. The continued demand shows just how important good rail connections are for the community, and the economies, they serve.”
Sue Baxter, Chairman of the Dartmoor Railway Association, said “The heritage areas of the station are now restored to a marvellous standard. We are glad we managed to help bridge the transition between the former leaseholder and new owner Network Rail. It has been a privilege to work with so many organisations to keep and then restore the 1950s feel of the station which was so beautifully achieved first under Devon County Council ownership for the first reopening in 1997.
“It looks as though the Booking Clerk has just slipped out of the Office for a few minutes. Dartmoor Railway Association volunteers are proud to be custodians of Okehampton Station, which is a much loved community facility. We are also told by travellers that it is a destination in itself now, because it is a fully working station where you also step back in time.”