I am currently in London where a couple of friends generously let me stay at their house with embarrassing frequency. Everytime I am in the UK I tend to visit a few of the many heritage/preservation railroads in that country. It seems that the British have this knack for getting an abandoned rail line running again and making it look like it is back in the 1930's. Stations, platforms, bridges, rolling stock, signals, you name it, look like they came out of a time warp. Everything is lovingly and, more importantly, accurately restored. Close your eyes and smell the steam! You could be forgiven to think that you are way back in the old Southern Railways days. The Bluebell Railway is one of those labors of love. I will visit it tomorrow and do a blog about it.
The British are no less serious about their model trains. The time period from the 1920's through the 1970's seems to be a favorite for modelling. Here too, accuracy to the prototype and detail to minutia are of utmost importance: it's just not acceptable to have a model Class 37 with the incorrect livery or too many rivets curving around ones layout!
I tend to be more laissez-faire about things like that. My operating motto is: it's my railroad and I run on it what I want to! So on my railroad you will see the latest Union Pacific GE AC4400 locomotives hauling a coal drag, being passed by a fast Deutsche Bahn ICE 3, all the while a Virgin Trains Pendolino is sitting in the station. You get the idea. So it should not come as a total surprise that I tend to take a look at model train stores no matter what country I am in. Of course the UK is no different. The decison was made to pay a visit to "The Engine Shed". Having read about and seen their multi page advertising spread in various model train magazines I had become curious about them. "The best stocked model shop in the UK" the ad proclaimed. The "ultimate experience in European railway modelling" it cried.
The store is located in Ford, West Sussex. Off I went on a Southern train from Clapham Junction towards Bognor Regis. A bit over an hour later I got off at Ford. It's one of those places that makes one wonder why there is a railway station in the first place. Feeling a bit lost on the station platform I took a look around and, low and behold, right next to the station there it was. A huge, red sign marking it's presence and entrance to quite a sizable building. Looks promising, I thought and in I went.
It was worth the trip! I was impressed. This place is big. The photos do not do it any justice at all. All the model train manufacturers from A to Z were represented. Model trains in scales from Z to G in orderly rows in display cases. Just about any imaginable accessory for a model train layout was available. There were OO/HO locomotives I did not even know existed. Suffice it to say that I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Having always thought that Turbergs Modellbahn store in Berlin was the epitomy of model railroad stores, the pleasent surprise was total and complete. One of the gentlemen working in the store approached me, asking if he could be of any help. At least I think that's what he said! He must have noticed the look of incomprehension on my face, because he quickly repeated himself and now I did understand him. (Who was it that said: two countries seperated by a common language!)
In any case, I inquired about a particular HO decoder that I had been trying to find unsuccessfully for a long time in stores or on the Internet. We have fifteen of those, came back the reply. Oh, well: I shall take five of the decoders and this locomotive and that locomotive. And while you're at it throw in this London Midlands Railway DMU. That will go really well with my Australian EL class diesels!
A few pounds lighter (very bad pun intended) I walked the couple of feet back to the train station, catching the train back to London.
I'll be back!
Part of "Gaugemasters" European model trains display.
Part of "Gaugemasters" display of British model train manufacturers