Nestled on the Marston Vale line, this charming station has a lot more going for it that you would assume at first glance. It contains not only an exceptional tea-room, but also a museum which gives a great insight into the station and the line.
Arriving on refurbished class D78 London Underground stock, now classified as class 230, the station is a very quaint structure, but nonetheless impressive.
Going round to the main entrance you are greeted with the tea rooms ahead of you and the museum to the right.
I was taken on a tour of the ground floor of the building by Andy, and many of his historical facts are the basis for this next section as we move through the museum.
The railway line here was designed by Robert and George Stephenson, and work started in 1845. Just 11 months later in 1846, the line opened, an astonishing achievement.
The land it runs over was mainly owned by the Duke of Bedford, and he requested that many of the stations along the line were built in the Gothic revival style.
This area was the original ticket office, and up to 1930 it was a full time job to run it. However in the 1930’s, LMS railway began to cut costs, and it was decided that the signaller could also run the ticket office.
This remined the case until the 1960’s, when the pay-train system came to the line, which meant that you paid for your journey on board. The ticket office was therefore shut, leaving the crossing keeper as the sole employee at the station.
In 2006, the line had all the manual crossing gates replaced with automatic barriers, and the crossing keeper also found themselves redundant. However the operating company at the time, Silverlink, suggested that the station at Ridgmont be converted to a museum, it being the only complete station building left along the line.
With the help of the Community Rail Partnership and the Bedfordshire rural communities charity, half a million pounds was raised, mainly from the railway heritage fund.
After much clearance work, repairs and conservation, the building opened as a museum in the mid 2010’s. It is lovingly restored in a 1950’s, style and is a credit to the community who have helped maintain it.
Many plaques adorn the walls, as well as some nameplates from the old class 153 rolling stock. These commemorated important figures from the stations history.
A room, which forms part of the tea rooms, has many signal diagrams from around the local area.
The other seating area for the tea rooms are situated within the old ladies waiting room. The tea rooms offer a wide range of hot and cold food and drink. However it is the cream teas and afternoon teas which draw the eye, and it is highly advisable to book in advance for these to avoid disappointment. I opted for the cream tea, and it was excellent.
There is plenty of seating, and on a good day you can even sit outside in a very pretty courtyard.
Lets go back and look at the trains which serve the line, at time of writing. As previously said, they are made up of class 230 stock, basically fully refurbished London underground D78 stock which ran on the District line. Here is one example, taken at Bletchley railway station.
The interiors have been fully stripped out and replaced with new seating and toilet facilities. They are perfectly suitable for the line and pretty comfortable, bearing in mind that they are not designed for long journeys.
You may also be lucky enough to see some freight, which occasionally moves to and from the cement works at Bletchley.
The village of Ridgmont itself has quite a rich history, and is mainly known for its brickworks which utilised the surrounding oxford clay. It was the second largest brickworks in the world. However, an Amazon warehouse now sits on the site.
The Marston Vale line gives the communities along it access to the West Coast mainline and Midland Main Line, via Bletchley and Bedford.
Below is a video I filmed in 2021, detailing the station, its tea rooms and the museum.
Ridgmont is a fantastic station to visit. Not only is there a fascinating museum with lots of railway artefacts, but also a very nice tea room with excellent food. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and certainly make you feel welcome. I would highly recommend a visit, and hope that the rail service is increased to more than 1 an hour, as it had been affected by the lack of passengers due to the 2020 pandemic.