Friday, September 13, 2019

Farewell to Ian Allan, Birmingham

It was a sad day on Tuesday. I paid my last visit to the Ian Allan bookshop in the centre of Birmingham.

It's a trip I've made many times - any trip to Brum included a few minutes in there for as long as I can remember. Once it was the basement on Stephenson Street but a few years ago they were displaced to a nicer shop around the corner.

Is it silly to mourn a shop?

If it is, I am silly. So many model shops have vanished now. The Train Shop in Warwick, Toytown in Leamington (models upstairs), Trinders in Birmingham, Bob's Models in Solihull. Now Ian Allan joins the list.

For bargain hunters, this was good news. I arrived to see signs announcing 75% off everything. I'm sure the vultures were circling but I just wanted to make a final purchase for old times sake.

Inside, there was hardly any stock and what there was, was mostly books, Much of it has gone to the Waterloo branch, but customers have been clearing the shelves too. Some will miss the place and left "Sorry you're leaving" cards for both shop and staff.

My bag was heavier by the end of the visit. I don't need 8 1/2 inch tall plastic kit palm trees but I didn't fancy any of the other kits. Anyway, this was the silliest and that wins for me.

My favourite purchases were as Ian Allan as you could get:

A loco spotting book and a card showing a Class 40 in the snow.

For now, the centre of Birmingham is devoid of model shops. This might change though as one of the IA managers is setting up a news hop near the law courts, and near the bottom of the Grande Central ramp, is an art shop called "Let's Fill This Town With Artists" that supply architectural modelmakers. If you need 3mm scale people or lichen, they can help.

I am sad about the loss of another safe place for nerdy train-loving people. We don't have many places to call our own. If you have a local model shop, then use it!


Huw Griffiths said...

I'll be sorry to see the Ian Allan shop go - if only because most of my visits to Birmingham in recent years have included a visit to the shop.

OK - I'm not completely convinced that my wallet will mourn their passing quite so much - but then I happen to enjoy books about railways (certainly the sort of books that include information that might actually be of use to me if I move across to the "dark side" and (shock, horror) build models.

Not only do I enjoy browsing - and buying - decent railway books, in a decent transport bookstore - but I also rather liked dealing with the people at the Ian Allan shops (both present, as at Waterloo and former, as in both Cardiff and Birmingham).

Yes - for me, visiting a book or model shop isn't just about what they sell (although this matters) - it's also about the people who work there - people I happen to like - people I wish the best for in the long run.

Duncan Young said...

That's so right. There is not a model shop in Newcastle or Tyne and Wear but a couple of good ones in County Durham and I patronise those because their prices are good, the advice is good and the staff are good - and the patronage appears good. Moreover, the staff are not ageing and some younger successions appears to be coming through. Better than some of the 'Comet' style discount outfits.
Re Ian Allan, work permits me to use London, next to Waterloo in a bohemina style street food area. Always a trickle of people in the shop but I hope that's enough to sustain it....
Ian Allan use to be such a force in all aspects of transport enthusiasm, but now?