Best of both worlds at Rails of Sheffield

Pete Kelly visits one of Britain’s biggest model railway dealers to learn the secrets behind its success.

Rails of Sheffield, established by Hedley Barber in the 1970s, has become one of the biggest and most successful model railway retailers in the UK – yet far from being justly satisfied with its burgeoning on-line sales of new and second-hand items, including some highly-desirable exclusive limited-edition models, it is determined to keep its welcoming shop row spanning 21-29 Chesterfield Road a magnet for visitors from far and wide.

At your service! From front, Jacob Wood, Tracy Barber and Adam Davies pose by the Rails of Sheffield sign.

Browsing the websites is one thing, and Rails of Sheffield’s is one of the best out there, but especially when it comes to pre-used models, nothing can compare with actually going along and seeing what’s on offer – and to prove the point, nine months ago Rails opened a superb Emporium of second-hand model railways with long rows of well-lit glass cabinets displaying, in gauge order, hundreds of models looking just like new.

How many of us, perhaps modelling one region or railway company, spend countless hours looking for those fondly-remembered but out of production models that would suit our layouts perfectly? The Emporium is well worth a visit in itself – but better still, if you’re looking for something specific, you will almost certainly find it there.

Inside the Emporium, well-lit glass display cases crammed with second-hand (and some new) goodies stretch enticingly into the distance.

As well as stocking all the new lines from major model manufacturers and constantly exploring new possibilities for exclusive model locomotives and rolling stock, Rails of Sheffield looks far and wide to buy second-hand model railway items of any age and gauge, ranging from single items to lifetime collections.

Rails of Sheffield has several warehouses off site, and I was privileged to be shown inside one of them, that was stacked almost from floor to ceiling with second-hand model railway items of every description, including old boxed sets (even Hornby-Dublo and Tri-ang), and locomotives and rolling stock of all ages and gauges. A gentleman called Chris was sitting at a table patiently examining and testing incoming items to make them ready for sale.

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

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