In pictures: All aboard a unique holiday home in Ely
Renovating old railway carriages has proven popular in recent years – a number of them have been turned into quaint little cafés and restaurants – but this stunning open-plan holiday accommodation a couple have created with theirs is surely one of the most impressive yet.
Andrea Pearman and her partner Richard Coleman have created a unique place to stay in the grounds of their property in Coveney, near Ely. “Everybody who has walked into it has been blown away – it’s definitely got the ‘wow’ factor,” says Andrea. “Every review we’ve had has been 10 out of 10, and it’s got lots of little gimmicks in there that I haven’t told anybody about, so you don’t realise until you stay that these things are there.”
The couple got the idea after being impressed by a railway carriage a train enthusiast friend who lives in Pymoor had acquired as a heritage piece. Last September, they asked him if they could get one for them. “They’re not easy to get hold of,” explains Andrea, a horse lover who used to run an equestrian centre in Bury St Edmunds. “You’ve got to know somebody who knows somebody... I think they just go for scrap.”
The carriage, from Ripley in North Yorkshire, arrived in May. “He found it in February but it took that long to organise the haulage,” notes Andrea, who says it was in good condition. “We haven’t really done much with the outside, other than tidy up the paintwork a little bit,” she says, adding that a lot of the carriage’s original features, such as the table and chairs and the signage, have been kept exactly as they were.
It took months to convert one half of it into accommodation and work is due to start on the other half in February. “We were scuppered with builders getting Covid, electricians getting Covid, and going on holiday,” recalls Andrea. “Overall it probably took three months but we could have probably done it in a month.”
But it was not as simple as gutting the carriage and installing a bed and bathroom. “I wish it was that simple!” laughs Andrea. “When they build these carriages, they do so, as we found out, from the inside out. So when you want to take a bathroom out, that’s kind of encased in the actual train – it’s not a simple job.
“My poor builders worked really hard, cutting through stainless steel because it’s got all the air conditioning shafts in it, above and below, and we weren’t using any of that. But we needed to put our pipework in, so it’s been hard.” A lot of the air conditioning and the electrics from the carriage will now go on to help restore another carriage for heritage purposes. “It has been used as a bit of a ‘donor carriage’, in parts,” says Andrea.
The carriage is fitted with a smart TV, wifi, electric oven and hob and a bathroom with shower cubicle. Outside is a small garden with a firepit. Andrea and Richard moved to their current home, from which Ely Cathedral can be seen, around 18 months ago and wanted to put a holiday let on their land.
“We’ve got a pond and we were looking at a boat but we were struggling with the water level,” says Andrea, “and then saw the carriage and thought we could convert it.”
[Read more: Nene Valley Railway]
The accommodation opened to visitors in mid-October, and one-night stays were offered for £150. “It’s still quite a well-kept secret,” says Andrea, who speaks enthusiastically about the carriage’s “peaceful surroundings”, describing it as a “lovely getaway”.
Seven nights are priced from £1,115. For more information on the carriage, visit bit.ly/3Wte0nw.