The service now waiting on platforms 1 and 2 will help take some people in Nairn out of isolation when lockdown ends.
The Nairn Men’s Shed project, which is currently closed due to the pandemic, has doubled the space available for its activities by taking over the old waiting room at the town’s 19th century railway station.
It adds to its existing premises on the opposite platform which they acquired in 2017 and converted from a florists.
The group has funding to redecorate the new facility and install lighting, a kitchen and new toilet for its growing membership when they are able to return when restrictions ease.
The town’s shed project started three years ago and has seen numbers, both men and women, grow from six to more than 30. A workshop and arts group held meetings more than five times a week.
During lockdown it has held weekly Zoom meetings to keep people in touch locally and with other similar groups nationally and internationally. People from sheds in England and Wales have joined in the chat, while a member from the Honolulu Shed also took part recently.
Nairn Men’s Shed chairman John Rushforth said: “This is both a good news and a bad news story. We’re expanding our lease to take over the building which will create more social space and potentially some wider community involvement.
“It’s a real move forward for us and it’s come about because of our success in growing the membership and just running out of space.
“However, while we have the premises and the funding, we can’t start using the funding which is frustrating. We can’t wait to get back. It is so frustrating being unable to use the building knowing how much it means to our members.”
The shed created a workshop in its original base at the B Listed railway station it leases from Scotrail. It is believed it is the only community group in the UK operating alongside an active railway line.
Before lockdown members, aged up to 90, carried out a series of projects, including building picnic tables for a community orchard, storage units for the local Alzheimer day centre and planters for the station, as well as re-roofing a nursery’s building. Before the latest lockdown it was also planned to refurbish a sleigh for the local fire brigade’s Santa run.
“We were motoring along”, said Mr Rushforth, who is also a trustee of the UK Men’s Shed Association. “That’s the sad part. Men’s sheds are about reducing social isolation and lockdown is the complete opposite of what we do.
“I totally believe there is a need for this group. We haven’t advertised once for members. But I’ve been approached during lockdown by many people who have realised how isolated a member of their family was and were desperate for them to come along once the shed can open again.
“Everyone would love it to re-open and get back that enjoyment of one another’s company. It will make a phenomenal difference.”