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News > OB News > The tiny model railway shop that's been running for 50 years

The tiny model railway shop that's been running for 50 years

Everyone wanted this as a career...
10 Aug 2022
Written by Huw Richards
OB News
Phil Bramley (SHR, 70-76)
Phil Bramley (SHR, 70-76)

With its Scalextric and model railway collections dating spanning five decades, it sells to customers around the world.

Nestled away in a small village on the Gower Peninsula rests a hidden little model railway and Scalextric shop that has stood the test of time since opening back in 1971.

The store first started as a mail order business but now is a successful family run business that is one of the area's best kept secrets. Having stood the test of time, it is arguably one of the oldest specialist shops in and around Swansea taking anyone who steps through its doors an opportunity to take a step back in time

Phillip Bramley inherited Holt Model Railways and Scalextric from his father. It is a seemingly easy to miss quirky shop with around 30,000 line items to choose from.

Decades ago, Phillip's father and model railway enthusiast Peter Bramley moved his family from London to south Wales only to find a distinct lack of stores selling the collectables.

Having "immense enthusiasm" for all things railway, Peter Bramley contacted manufacturers in hopes of bringing the hobby to the area and led to them setting up shop in "the last place you would expect to find a railway shop".

A contagious love for the model railways would extend to both Phillip and his mother Marguerite, whose love of the shop will see her return behind the till next year at 91 years-old.

The specialist family run shop is one of the oldest specialist shops in the city with items dating back over 50 years still available for sale within Bishopston. 

"My father woke up one morning and decided to leave his previous job to pursue this, I took over in 1978 but the family have been working in and out of the store since it began.

"At that period of time, it was frowned upon to work from the house and we always expected to meet some hostility from competing toy shops in Swansea so decided to open up in Bishopston" said Phillip, 65.

Within the initial space of 18 months, demand for the model railways grew leading to them relocating the store into a bigger location within the same area, an old petrol station.

Open the door of this little store and you're met with "nothing but railways" with some sample models on display to interact with. Despite its small appearance, the store has over 30,000 line items to choose from alongside a handful of Scalextric goods.

"The beauty of model railways is that it is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. It offers children an opportunity to look back in time and teaches them a number of essential skills in life such as patience and hand skills.

"When we first opened all those years ago, there was a sense of predictability with customers and number of sales which continued all into the 1990s.

"The cornerstone of the suppliers was a brand named Hornby which couldn't compete with manufacturers in China and the whole landscape has changed so there is a degree of uncertainty with it now," said Phillip, suggesting that the demand for model railways had decreased through time leading to an overall decline in model shops

As time passed, a generation familiar with steam passed but brought a new age of young individuals who have interest on liveries of trains that once weren't successful in the market.


With Covid restricting much of us to our homes, Phillip highlights that the pandemic gave the hobby "a shot in the arm" both in nostalgic lovers alongside a younger customer base who found love with creating their own fantasy world within their four walls.

"The older models were manufactured for time, models from the 60s and 70s were created in a way they could be repaired and a large portion of our store thrives from second hand goods.

"The new models have lost that charm and the older models are timeless. It gives children a look back in time and history and they are historical records of how engineering once was in this country" he added.

Despite operating from a seemingly quiet location, Holt Model Railways and Scalextric deliver to customers all around the world with one repeat customer in Scotland even dedicating his own built bungalow to his own model railway which he looks to insure for a staggering £750,000.

With China being the dominant manufacturer of model railway goods, Phillip says typical freight costs of the goods have risen from £4,000 to £18,000, making second hand goods more important as a result.


"The first thing people say when they step through our doors is along the lines of it being the last place they would expect to find a model railway shop.

"I think people will be amazed to discover a new hobby may be something that they didn't entirely expect, anyone with an interest in engineering or building may find something new to love. It is incredibly easy to start and the passion for it is all over the world" added Phillip.

Aspiring model railway enthusiasts are welcomed visit the shop on Bishopston Road from 15th August as it's closed for a short holiday.



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