The closure of commercial hobbyist retailers and parents' push to get kids creative has helped The Engine Shed model railway store in Leytonstone to grow

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: David Haswell (pictured) says closure of Model Zone helped independent business to thrive David Haswell (pictured) says closure of Model Zone helped independent business to thrive

A model railway shop in the heart of Leytonstone is thriving despite the demise of many of its competitors.

Opened nearly three decades ago, the Engine Shed in High Road, Leytonstone, continues to win over customers with its locomotive kits, model railway sets, specialist parts, and expanding hobbyist supplies.

Locomotive fanatic Dave Haswell was a regular customer throughout the 80's and 90's until he over-heard it was up for sale and bought the business, transforming a childhood hobby into a full-time occupation.

"It's about bringing something to life and re-creating part of history by trying to capture a particular piece of time," said Ms Haswell.

The 52-year-old, who was a chef for 18 years, believes his store, which draws international tourists out of the capital, is one of only a handful independent model railways shops still trading in London.

He said: "When I took over in 2000 there were about twenty types in the London postal code area.

"Now there are only about four or five that I know still exist because the owners were either getting too old or higher rates and rents pushed them to close."

Although, he claims the market is nothing like it was, his business has benefited from the closure of Model Zone stores after they went into administration in June 2013.

The married father-of-one took a life-changing decision to trade in a career in the food service industry, and sold a restaurant in Romford after being fed up of the unsociably long hours. 

Having watched his father and uncle repair and make engineering parts from a young age, the interest in model railways caught on, and Mr Haswell suggests there is a revival amongst the arts and crafts trade.

He said: "We have done some tremendous things for parents and their children's school projects with an example being making a volcano.

"But then parents get all technical and want it to glow or have lava flowing out of it and that's when they come to us.

"More parents are getting their kids into building model planes and trains to develop their practical skills.

"Spending £10 on a fix kit will keep their child happy for a couple of days rather than forking out £40 on a video game."

Mr Haswell says the key to his business success is being able to touch and feel the products, spending time with customers, offering expert advice and not flogging customers’ unwanted items.

Comments (6)

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1:04pm Mon 16 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

You could have fooled me, I went in there a few months ago and they had hardly any stock, the shop looked terribly disorganised, the boxes on display were empty and a dishevelled bloke I with a scraggy bearded advised me to look on ebay!
You could have fooled me, I went in there a few months ago and they had hardly any stock, the shop looked terribly disorganised, the boxes on display were empty and a dishevelled bloke I with a scraggy bearded advised me to look on ebay! Villagecranberry
  • Score: -10

2:31pm Mon 16 Jun 14

bin yaqub says...

Perhaps he knew you.
Perhaps he knew you. bin yaqub
  • Score: 2

3:06pm Mon 16 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

bin yaqub wrote:
Perhaps he knew you.
Hardly, I only wanted to buy a train set for my nephew.
[quote][p][bold]bin yaqub[/bold] wrote: Perhaps he knew you.[/p][/quote]Hardly, I only wanted to buy a train set for my nephew. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -4

3:10pm Mon 16 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

bin yaqub wrote:
Perhaps he knew you.
Go and have a look yourself.
[quote][p][bold]bin yaqub[/bold] wrote: Perhaps he knew you.[/p][/quote]Go and have a look yourself. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -4

6:12am Tue 17 Jun 14

tjm01 says...

Villagecranberry wrote:
You could have fooled me, I went in there a few months ago and they had hardly any stock, the shop looked terribly disorganised, the boxes on display were empty and a dishevelled bloke I with a scraggy bearded advised me to look on ebay!
Honestly you really are such a plank, he could of sold you something just to get a sale, instead he offered an alternative allbeit ebay, and what sort of a train set were you looking for,if you are that keen on playing with trains try the nearest level crossing
[quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: You could have fooled me, I went in there a few months ago and they had hardly any stock, the shop looked terribly disorganised, the boxes on display were empty and a dishevelled bloke I with a scraggy bearded advised me to look on ebay![/p][/quote]Honestly you really are such a plank, he could of sold you something just to get a sale, instead he offered an alternative allbeit ebay, and what sort of a train set were you looking for,if you are that keen on playing with trains try the nearest level crossing tjm01
  • Score: 5

11:25am Tue 17 Jun 14

Villagecranberry says...

tjm01 wrote:
Villagecranberry wrote:
You could have fooled me, I went in there a few months ago and they had hardly any stock, the shop looked terribly disorganised, the boxes on display were empty and a dishevelled bloke I with a scraggy bearded advised me to look on ebay!
Honestly you really are such a plank, he could of sold you something just to get a sale, instead he offered an alternative allbeit ebay, and what sort of a train set were you looking for,if you are that keen on playing with trains try the nearest level crossing
Well, you obviously have not been in there have you?

The train set I required was for my 8 year old nephew. He had several on display but they were empty boxes and the young lad has grown out of amusing him selves with empty boxes.

Your 'joke' about level crossings will not be welcome by the numerous families who have lost children and loved ones in level crossing accidents in recent years.
[quote][p][bold]tjm01[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Villagecranberry[/bold] wrote: You could have fooled me, I went in there a few months ago and they had hardly any stock, the shop looked terribly disorganised, the boxes on display were empty and a dishevelled bloke I with a scraggy bearded advised me to look on ebay![/p][/quote]Honestly you really are such a plank, he could of sold you something just to get a sale, instead he offered an alternative allbeit ebay, and what sort of a train set were you looking for,if you are that keen on playing with trains try the nearest level crossing[/p][/quote]Well, you obviously have not been in there have you? The train set I required was for my 8 year old nephew. He had several on display but they were empty boxes and the young lad has grown out of amusing him selves with empty boxes. Your 'joke' about level crossings will not be welcome by the numerous families who have lost children and loved ones in level crossing accidents in recent years. Villagecranberry
  • Score: -1

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