HIDDEN in the back streets of Leamington is quite possibly one of the smallest shops in the country.
Mark Tripé runs the Classic Train & Motor Bus shop at 21B George Street with barely the space for more than one customer at a time. The shop – which measures roughly three metres squared – has been selling a range of model trains and kits to enthusiasts for the past 16 years.
The 44 year-old chose to open the shop, in an otherwise pretty much all residential street, in order not to get crippled by high business rates.
But while it might be small it can boast customers from across Europe.
Mark told The Observer: “The world of model trains and scenery involves taking what’s real and making it miniature, so what better way to introduce people to the world of miniature than in a shop this size?
“Despite being as small as we are, we get customers from all over the country and ship to people across Europe. We take pride in being a somewhat specialist trade and we are glad we don’t have to be on the high street to get the same number of customers.
“We stay busy enough and have a lot of loyal customers who pop in every week.”
Mr Tripé started the business after spending over ten years working for British Rail, before its privatisation, as a guard.
As a collector since childhood himself, Mark saw the shop as the ideal opportunity to combine work with his hobby, where he gets to meet fellow enthusiasts of all ages.
Many may think the world of model trains is a male preserve, but the shop regularly gets women in to buy.
And the shop has become more than just a place to buy models from, but also something of a social hub where kindred spirits meet to discuss their hobby.
“We get all kinds of people coming into the shop, from five years old to 102,” said Mark.
“It really is a timeless hobby which is easy to get into. Most like to start with the basics and then start to design and embellish their displays.
“Some even come in just to buy miniature postboxes or wheelie bins for their displays. Some of the levels of intricacy is inspiring to see.”
* ALL TRACKS lead to Stoneleigh for model railway fans this weekend.
Leamington and Warwick Model Railway Society is staging its 40th anniversary annual exhibition at Stoneleigh Park on Saturday and Sunday (March 7 and 8).
Members of the society pulled into Leamington’s Royal Priors shopping centre during half term with a special mail train display to coincide with a visit by children’s favourite Postman Pat.
The exhibition will feature more than 25 layouts and plenty of traders offering everything model railway fans could need for their own layout.
Visit www.lwmrs.co.uk for full show details.
The small shop on George Street is easy to miss but has become a hotspot for collectors and hobbyists. Picture by Jon Mullis 08.015.016.leam.jm1
It’s all small Classic Train & Motor Bus. 09.015.010.leam.jm2