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Where to buy model railways in London?
Since originally writing this blog, another shop has gone. Meanwhile, WH Smiths has given up on Modelzone, with all the concessions closing over the last few weeks perhaps precipitated by Hornby closing most if not all of its concessions. Whilst it's sad to see any shop close, Wheels of Steel was perhaps the most restricted with its generally second hand range. So there are 6 shops left - use them or (as we've just seen) lose them. TC Feb 17
You may be one of the hundreds of households that has received a Hornby or Bachmann OO model railway train-set for the first time this Christmas - perhaps even a Graham Farish one in N gauge. We hope you enjoy it.
Once you have discovered the fun of what is included, your mind (or certainly that of the child for whom it might be officially intended) may well turn to buying something else for it - whether that is a bit more track, another locomotive, coach or wagon. Or perhaps some buildings, kits, tools or paints. Perhaps the shop that sold the set doesn't sell much more than that set, so where can you go?
20-30 years ago, there was a network of shops across London selling a vast range of items which meant you didn't have to travel too far - depending on your age the names Beatties, W&H, Hamblings, King's Cross Models, Blunts, Puffers, Engine Shed may ring a bell - all long gone. And most toy shops now have only the most basic of ranges from one supplier.
Of course, there are a plethora of websites you can use to order by post, but if you want to browse before you buy, or buy things like paints that can't be posted easily these days, where can you go? Especially if you want some advice. Well here are some suggestions of the seven shops we would call 'model railway shops' - ie that have a range of different products - that are still left in London itself. The views are those of the authors and based on last visits to the shops (which is a while ago in some cases), and they are in no particular order. But do use them - or there will be even fewer of them.
Ian Allan Bookshop - Waterloo - 45 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7RG
Although the name suggest it's a bookshop (which it is - with a wide range of books and magazines on transport), they also stock a range of model railways in OO and N gauge - in particular Hornby, Graham Farish, Bachmann, Dapol and Peco. The range includes track, rolling stock, buildings and scenery, some kits, paints and tools. Prices are often competitive with the larger mail order / internet based retailers - especially on locomotives which are nicely displayed. It's a short walk from Waterloo station.
Invicta Model Rail - Sidcup - 130 Station Road, DA15 7AB
A relatively new shop a couple of minutes from the station, but the proprietors Kerry and Vernon have a long pedigree in the trade. Stocks a growing range of products from all the major manufacturers such as Hornby, Graham Farish, Bachmann, Dapol and Peco on its two floors, generally at good prices as they compete well with the internet / mail order suppliers. They often have some good 'end of line' bargains from the major manufacturers. Seen around the country at larger exhibitions, they also have a range of 'exclusive' models. They also have a comprehensive website.
Northfields Models - Ealing - 217 Northfield Avenue, W13 9QU
A few minutes walk from the underground station a small - dare I say cramped - shop, with a mix of new and second hand in OO and N gauge. Whilst a stockist of most of the major brands (Hornby, Bachmann, Farish, Peco and Dapol), the range is a bit more limited as might be expected from a smaller shop. However this is balanced by the friendly and enthusiastic proprietor Witek who has plenty of good advice, and knows what he has and where to find it. Although it's difficult to browse and there is no e-commerce website to give you a clue as to what might be in stock, it's still worth a visit. Cash only - but there is a machine just along the road.
Jane's Trains - Tooting - 35 London Road, SW17 9JR
Located near Tooting Thameslink station Janes trains has been going since 1981 and like most of those listed is a family run business. When entering you are greeted not only by a old world charm chime from the door bell but you are greeted by the sight of what can best be described as an Aladdin's cave of Model Railways.
The major mainstream scales in OO and N both new and second hand models, with brands like Hornby & Bachman as well as Graham Farish for those who model in N gauge and Dapol. As well as kits and essential parts for building your model railway buildings, card kits, plastic kits, Train Tech electronics, wagons, locos, they also run a repair service. If you pre order an item you will receive a 10% discount from the shop. Friendly service from Jane, Ian & Allan.
Roneo Models - Romford - 32 Roneo Corner, RM12 4TN
Just in Greater London, although with an Essex postcode and phone number, this established shop sells a wide range of products. Although we have never visited the shop, they are a regular attender at local model railway exhibitions, with a wide range of items - "ready to run", plus kits.
Kent Garden Railways - Orpington - 66 High Street, St Mary Cray, BR5 3NH
Another shop right on the boundary of London. Although the name suggests it specialises in larger scales suitable for outdoor use like G-scale, they also stock a range of smaller gauges and can be found at exhibitions. Their website gives a good indication of what they have - most of the major manufacturers of OO, plus N gauges and the tiny Z gauge.
So that's it for retail shops....but there are other options
Craft / Art Shops : If you are after for example some Hornby Railroad or track expansion packs, you may find a local craft shop has a small stock - for example the one by Turnham Green Station does. And if you are interested in being more creative, Hobbycraft and a number of independent shops have ranges of tools, materials and paints. For materials and tools, 4D Models in Lehman Street near Aldgate is definitely worth a visit.
'Exhibitions - almost every weekend of the year there are model railway exhibitions around the country, and most weekends there is one within travelling distance from London. They vary in size considerably, and the smaller ones (with lower entry prices) are likely to have fewer layouts and a smaller range of traders. If you are looking for one immediately after Christmas, the CMRA show in Stevenage in the second weekend of January is probably a great one to start with. And of course the South East's largest exhibition at Alexandra Palace every March is always worth a visit.
Travel a bit further - the pressure on rents and other costs on London itself has forced many businesses to close, but fortunately this hasn't spread to the home counties, and there are a number of shops ringing London. Model Junction in Slough is one of our preferred options - now with UK as well as US outline models. But there are plenty of others a google search should find for you.
Finally - if you know of another shop in London that we have overlooked, please drop us a note, and we'll add them to the list! Happy shopping and modelling.
Tom and Mark