Address: 290 Bay St, Brighton VIC 3186
From an interview with Brian that has been edited
I started Trainworld in 615 Hawthorn Rd East Brighton.
There’s been train shops in Melbourne for years. They go back to before the Second World War, but train shops were leaving town and heading to the suburbs.
So a friend and I started one in Brighton for the fun of it. A lot of the other shops sold European trains but we decided that we were going to stick to British and American models.
The European trains – that’s Märklin, Fleishmann and PIKO – have virtually died out here and the British brands of Hornby and Bachmann aren’t that big in Australia anymore.
We imported more American goods and – about ten years ago – Powerline produced a T-class Victorian railway locomotive. The Australian models have taken off in leaps and bounds since then.
So the majority of our model trains are Australian.
Think of model trains like cars.
You wouldn’t drive around in most of the cars from the 1950’s.
Modern trains have progressed in the exact same way. For example, the new jaguar is much more refined then the XK120 was. From the basic injection moulding of the 1950s to the highly specialised mouldings with steam sound. As the technology improves so too do the model trains.
And there are coaches here that I designed. The Victorian Railway S-cars are scale models to 1-1000th of an inch of the real job. Everything is scale modelled. The interior inside is fitted. The magnolia on the floor of the carpet is the right colour.
That gives you a rough idea of how much work goes in.
We sell Melbourne W-trams.
They come in and out of production and this is the final series of this particular tram.
We also make a few wagons and – down the bottom – is an old tin-plate station from the 1930’s. It’s made with lithographic printing which is a very old way of making them. It’s printed on tin or metal and then bent.
Don’t ask me how it’s done but it’s a printing process going back to the 1800s. And the buildings are all made in Australia. They are made out of wood and laser cut. It is a new and rapidly expanding phenomenon that’s only been around for a few years.
So the hobby has more facets than a diamond.
Some people collect trains and put them on the shelf. Others run them, or are only interested in the books and magazines, or the scenery, or they spend all of their time on building huge layouts.
Everybody has a different area that they specialise in.
Customers buy all sorts of components for their train set.
You start off with a layout and then you add to it and add to it ad infinitum.
There are layouts as big as this shop. Just get that concept in your head. They are all made out of individual parts that are built up over time. We’ve got everything here from the basics to start it up, to the electronics to run them, to the scenery to finish them.
We sell everything from go-to-whoa.
When I started I knew only too well how enthusiastic some train collectors are. It’s a worldwide hobby. It’s big in Australia. Bigger in England. It’s huge in America. It’s rising rapidly in Japan.
China is moving into it.
And if you go to the big train show at Sandown you’ll see there’s a wide variety of ethnic groups who are starting to get into it. It’s growing in different ways.
It used to be that every kid had a train-set but now it’s more at the adult level.
The locomotives are getting highly detailed and highly specialised.
This is the most valuable train in the place.
It was made around the time that Queen Victoria died.
It was known as The Black Prince and it was named after Edward VII when he came onto the throne. It was made with the lithographic printing and all of the interiors are fitted out. This would have been a very, very wealthy persons’ train in those days.
I bought it from a 2nd hand collection – and I don’t think the original collector knew how valuable it was – but when I saw it I understood that it was pretty rare.
It has a symbol of the Bing Company from Nuremberg which means that it is a genuine product.
This is a hobby not a business for me.
I make better money out of doing tax returns.
I was five or six when I got my first train and it’s just something that’s kept going on.
Quite a lot of people start from a young age by following their parents. But people are getting less into it now. There is more competition and computers are getting younger people out of collecting.
We used to say that we had them between 7-16, and we got them again when they got sick of girls at about 33. Now we find that they go straight through. It’s very interesting the patterns attached to train collecting.
It doesn’t go the other way round.
In my experience very few girls collect trains. I think it’s predominately – but not exclusively – a male dominated hobby.
The other part of the system is the books & DVDs.
You can’t run a hobby unless you know what you are talking about. So I believe you have to read as well as learn.
We have a big collection of magazines and – out the back – we have 2nd hand books, new books, how to books and scenery. I produce one of the magazines.
I edit a fair bit and wrote quite a lot of the articles. Sometimes I also take the photos. It has about 20,000 readers per issue. It’s the biggest specialist magazine that Gordon and Gotch distribute.
We also have about 8,000 titles in this place and – if I wanted to – I could hive off the bookshop quite easily.
Running a small business is more complicated then it ever was.
It has more regulation and BS then is needed to run a business.
You have to make sure you have a handrail here and that you have a carpet rather than bare floorboards. All of that has changed. We have the supermarket concept of how you display your goods.
Excluding the expensive locomotives which are behind the cabinet everything is open.
The days where stock was hidden behind the counter is long gone.
This isn’t a static hobby.
It’s quite inclusive in the sense that a very large number of people recognise that– once you build a layout – you can run trains all day.
We had a man who had nothing but a layout in his garage and he had a stroke. His wife said, “just give him a pair of locos, will you?”
He spent a lot of time repairing them and virtually wore them out because he ran the trains all day.
She said it was one of the best thing that she ever found to keep him occupied.
I have no idea what will happen in the future
You have to be very careful when you make a statement about what will happen in retail.
But most of the people who are into it like seeing what they are doing.
That is probably our saviour.
Written by Aron Lewin and all photos by Tatiana C C Scott