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Monk Bar Model Shop celebrates its 50th anniversary
Can there be anywhere better to visit at Christmas than a toy shop? MATT CLARK spent a morning at one of York's oldest and best.
BEFORE Yellow Pages, Kelly’s Guide was the font of all business knowledge. And in a dusty copy from 1964, the traders listed along Goodramgate include fishmongers, bakers, butchers and a TV repairer.
All were independents; now most have gone, leaving Monk Bar Model Shop as one of only two survivors from the guide.
This year the store is celebrating 50 years of supplying York youngsters with everything from plastic kits to OO gauge railway sets.
John Masheder worked here as a Saturday boy in the early days and took over as soon as he came of age. Now his son, Andy, is at the helm and he says today’s buyers still go for much the same thing.
“Our age range is eight to 80 and the younger ones love the old locos,” says Andy. “I think there is still something about steam trains, although we probably wouldn’t think that way if we had to go to work on one.”
Curiously, customers also favour Spitfire’s over stealth fighters, DB5s rather than DB9s. Andy says he thinks it’s down to us harking back to a bygone era when things were less sterile and perhaps more interesting.
No one wants a model of a Mondeo; they want something that has more about it.
The same is true with F1 cars. When Graham Hill and Nigel Mansell raced they were characters and people wanted a Scalextric replica of their race cars. Then it was down to the best driver, not the best set up. Today few queue up at Andy’s shop for a model of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.
That said they will stand in line for icons. This year’s great gathering showcase of Sir Nigel Gresley’s big six streamlined giants at the National Railway Museum saw models of Mallard and her sister locos fly off the shelf.
Christmas is the busiest time of year. One woman is in to buy her husband a Porsche. It may only be 1/24th scale, but it’s the thought that counts.
Andy says New Year is just as hectic, with young lads looking to spend their Christmas money on accessories for their train sets.
They are spoilt for choice. Anything imaginable is available, these days, from plastic pallets and picket fences to tea-swilling workmen and digital loco sound effects.
“A layout is never really finished and with railway sets there is always room for something else,” says Andy.
Some people will go to the extent of building bridges and houses from scratch; one of the magazines in the shop even has an article entitled How to Build a Coal Yard.
But it’s only just trains, planes and automobiles on offer at Monk Bar Model Shop. Lead figures may be a thing of the past, but Andy still stocks fantastic collectors’ pieces including a fabulous pair of Napoleonic soldiers, not to mention one of Churchill – complete with cigar.
This old curiosity shop really is an Aladdin’s cave. Here’s to the next 50 years.
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