Hollywood actress Bette Davis liked Bell Busk Railway Station so much she wanted to take it home with her – brick by brick.

While filming scenes at the Victorian station with her then husband, Gary Merrill, for the 1951 film “Another Man’s Poison”, the formidable Miss Davis commented on its “flickering oil lamps” and inquired whether the station was for sale.

Just a few years later, the station was under threat of closure and its supporters wondered whether the actress had been serious.

It appears that the approach to Ms Davis remained just a suggestion. In any event, she did not buy the station and it was eventually closed on Monday May 4 1959.

Today, the curious black and white former station is the Tudor House bed-and-breakfast. But with trains still using the Settle-to-Carlisle line, it is a firm favourite with rail enthusiasts.

Peter Hitchen, who bought the bed-and-breakfast 10 years ago with his wife, Rhoda, said not all the guests were interested in the history of the railway, but all left charmed with the history of the former station.

“We’ve not quite had anyone sitting reading a timetable while eating their breakfast, but we do get some real enthusiasts,” said Mr Hitchen.

The ticket manager’s office is now the dining room, the waiting room is a guest bedroom and the old, covered waiting area next to the platform has been incorporated into the house, but still with open windows looking out over the double track.

A few years ago the relatives of a man who grew up at the station organised a surprise golden wedding anniversary stay for himself and his wife.

“He lived here from 1925 to 1932 when his father was the station master and gave us lots of information about the station,” said Mr Hitchen.

The station, which was built in 1849 and was owned by the Little North Western Railway, was a popular dropping-off point for ramblers heading up to Malhamdale.

It was also used by farmers to transport sheep and cattle to Skipton Auction Mart and also to transport milk to depots. Cattle and sheep were held in pens in the grounds of the station before being loaded onto the trains.

Today, some 20 trains pass every day and there are a number of freight trains delivering coal, along with the occasional steam train. Fifty years ago, a campaign to save the station was headed by the Rev H Palmer, of Kirkby Malham, and Mr W Sharp, of Otterburn.

At a meeting of Settle Rural District Council, it was revealed that 105 “local government electors” had signed a petition calling for the station to remain open. The electors, who came from Otterburn, Malham, Scosthrop and Kirkby Malham, called on the council to take “all steps to ensure that continuance and, if possible, the improvement, of passenger train services from Bell Busk Station”.

Mr Palmer told the meeting that there were two issues – the economic argument and the public utility argument. “The railways complain that they are losing money. The attitude of British Railways seems to be ‘give us the business and we will keep the station open’. It is a most extraordinary attitude,” said Mr Palmer.

“It would not work in any other business of any size. Their attitude seems to be ‘pour the business into our laps and we will keep the station open and, if not, we are closing down’.” Mr Palmer, it appeared, had little time for British Railways. “They should go out and get the business and that principle should apply to all nationalised industries,” he said. He pointed out just how much keeping the station open cost the railways.

“They have the wages of two men and what is necessary for the upkeep of the station.”

And he believed that the state of the station suggested that the railway company was running it down.

“Those who have seen the dilapidated state of the buildings would come to the conclusion that not much money is being spent on it. What are the railways doing to make it pay?” he asked.

As for its use as a public facility, Mr Palmer said: “Ever since railways started, it has been expected that they would do a certain amount of work that was not numerative.”

And he pointed out railways were similar to another public service – the Post Office. “If the Post Office were to say it does not pay us to deliver letters to Pen-y-ghent and we are going to stop the service, we would be in a fine pickle.”

Mr Palmer said the service was “insufficient”.

“The times of the trains in most cases are inconvenient. I have a daughter who lives in Doncaster and comes home at the weekends. When she inquired at Doncaster for a train ticket to Bell Busk, she was told, ‘Bell Busk – never heard of the place,’” said Mr Palmer.

“She had to book a single ticket from Doncaster to Leeds and then from Leeds to Bell Busk. The fare from Doncaster to Leeds was 4s 2d and from Leeds to Bell Busk, 5s 6d – a total cost of 10s 4d,” he said.

“Do they think we’re country gawbies?” asked a cross Mr Palmer.

He went on to produce a pamphlet issued by British Railways advertising rambling breaks to Bell Busk Station: “They know there is money to be got out of Bell Busk Station,” he said.

“Malhamdale is thinly populated and we must recognise that the chief use of the station will always be by visitors. On Sunday, there is a special train for organised ramblers – if British Rail can do this for ramblers, they could also do it for other visitors.”

And he said there were many people and businesses around Malhamdale who were dependent on visitors.

“I know visitors can be a nuisance to farmers and to country vicars, but the more that come, the better,” he said. “We don’t want to keep the lovely Dales unspotted by the outside world.”

An option, on a temporary basis only, would be that the station was downgraded to a halt station – where people would request trains to stop. “But we want to look further than that,” said Mr Palmer. “In this petition, we are asking for an improvement. We want to see the diesel service extended to Settle, or even beyond that.”

The campaign to keep the station open was also supported by Major J Yorke, of Halton East.

He told the meeting: “I may be wrong and I hope I am, but I have a nasty feeling that when British Rail decide to close a station they go through the motion of having an inquiry, but the station is virtually closed before the inquiry takes place.”

The meeting was also told that the Hollywood actress, Bette Davis, had expressed an interest in the station while filming in Malhamdale.

“She was so impressed with Bell Busk Station, with its flickering oil lamps, that she asked if she could purchase it,” reported the Craven Herald.

But despite the efforts of Mr Palmer and the campaigners, just a few weeks later a decision was made to close the station on Monday May 4, 1959.

The Herald reported that the Transport Users’ Committee had written to Settle Rural District Council with its recommendation.

“A most careful examination has been made of all the circumstances of the case, including the use of the station by transient passengers, including ramblers.

“The committee, however, did not consider that they would be justified in opposing the closure proposal, especially in view of the un-economic position of the British Transport Commission.”

When the station closed 50 years ago, the building was initially used as a private home. It became a bed-and-breakfast in 1982.

Now, it is set to change again, with the impending retirement of the Hitchens who, after 10 years, plan to move back to Ilkley.

Tudor House is currently on the market – but the Hitchens have enjoyed their time at the unique business.

“It’s lovely. We get all sorts of birds, which people are always amazed about, and a whole range of people. They don’t always know that it used to be a station, but they always end up intrigued,” said Mr Hitchen.