Made in Yorkshire – with pride!

That’s the well-justified boast of Metcalfe card construction kits and materials — and Pete Kelly revisits their Bell Busk premises to catch up on what’s been happening recently.

Virtually every railway modeller in N or OO/HO gauge will be familiar with the bright apple green packaging of Metcalfe Models’ ever-expanding range of railway, industrial and town and country buildings, along with the all-important bridges, walls, building materials and mini kits.

So much has happened in the world of card building kits since I last visited the family firm in the quiet hamlet of Bell Busk, North Yorkshire, right in the shadow of the embankment carrying the Leeds to Morecambe line between Gargrave and Hellifield, that a follow-up was essential – and the opportunity to meet up once again with Nick Metcalfe, who started the firm with his wife Judy 27 years ago, finally arose on Wednesday, October 3.

A cycling club calls at one of Metcalfe’s most endearing OO-scale models – the well-detailed Old Post Office and cafe, seen on the writer’s old ‘Slagdyke’ layout. Inset: Nick Metcalfe and wife Judy examine one of their models of a stone-built church.

After showing me the latest kits, including a superb two-bay goods shed to match the highly successful range of Settle & Carlisle railway buildings, and some welcome new modern structures for the growing ranks of modern-image railway modellers, Nick took me on a whirlwind tour of the premises, starting in the design office and finishing in the distribution warehouse from which a quarter of a million kits go out each year.

It all began many years ago in a village school in the Yorkshire Dales where Nick’s teacher, Miss Marjory Roberts, quickly recognised his ability to make virtually anything from paper or card, and christened him the ‘Cardboard King’.

Nick Metcalfe shows a padded cutting face from the Heidelberg cylinder die-cutting and creasing machine.

She was an excellent judge of character, for in time that little school would be modelled faithfully as the still-available Metcalfe OO/HO-scale kit No PO 253, along with N-scale version No PN153.

Raised on his grandfather’s farm until the age of 14, Nick served a five-year apprenticeship with a local printing firm after deciding against a life on the land. He loved the work, which complemented his keen interest in architecture, and the two finally merged when his first cardboard cut-out venture began as a kitchen table experiment in 1991.

For the full article and to view more images, see the November edition of Modelling – available now!

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