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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 30 - Winter 1976

Ten Years of Sales - Austin Harland

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A A Harland - LRPS at the Essex Show, 1966

In the July 1965 edition of the London Railway Preservation Society Newsletter an appeal was made for car-owning members to help out with the transport of sales stock and equipment to Exhibitions. Little did I realise what I was letting myself in for when I answered it. Ten years later I handed over the Sales Managership to Peter Hoskings and although I have not completely severed my connection with the Sales Dept. this is perhaps a suitable time to review its progress over the years.

When I was appointed to the Publicity and Sales Sub-Committee of the LRPS we were still at the Luton and Bishop's Stortford Depots and our only contact with the public was through our Sales and Display Stand. It was also virtually our only source of income apart from membership subscriptions (£1.05 in 1965) and donations. I dealt with Model Railway Exhibitions and other indoor events while Richard Castle attended Traction Engine Rallies and Dennis Vass handled the buying and postal sales. Stock consisted mainly of postcards, ball-point pens, the Gomm range of badges and Oakwood Press booklets.

A 1953 Ford 10 cwt pick -up, bought from a gardening firm in St Albans for £30 by Richard and the then Chairman, John Leighton, formed the basis of the outdoor stand. This must have covered hundreds of miles for the Society. In July 1966, for example, it attended Rallies at Bovingdon, Sudbury, Ely and Bedford on successive weekends. It was also used for general transport work for the Society such as moving the lever frames from Braughing and Buntingford Signal Boxes to Bishop's Stortford. My first sight of it was at the Essex Show and very smart it looked in its green livery with a silhouette of the Beattie mounted on top.

Early in 1966 letters were sent out to all the Model Railway Clubs within a radius of about 50 miles of London asking if and when they were holding Exhibitions and, if so, could we attend. Some replies came back and some even said ' Yes' but our first event took us from King's Cross to York and back behind Flying Scotsman on one of David and Jane Harding's rail tours. These were to become regular events over the next few years taking us to Chesterfield, Keighley and Caernarvon. Nine 'ordinary' Exhibitions were attended that year, five on successive weekends in September and October and the final result was "quite successful. Sales amounted to almost £100 to quote the January 1967 Newsletter.

The next two years followed a similar pattern although in 1968 the Ford was retired and the indoor and outdoor sections combined under my control. Some interesting statistics appeared in the Newsletter referring to 1968: "During the year we spent a total of 23 days at 14 different events and .. .among other things we sold 1162 postcards, 352 photographs, 219 ball-point pens, countless second-hand magazines and a station name-board from St. Albans City". An advert in the same issue offered Hugh Evelyn prints, Gomm badges, LMS carriage prints and a smokebox number plate from 9F No. 92193. The first Society publication for sale to the public appeared in 1968 in the form of a 10-page duplicated Stock List compiled by John Hutchings and priced at 1/- (5p). It listed 14 locomotives, 4 of which never reached Quainton, and 7 other vehicles.

In 1969 we moved to Quainton and things began to change. At the Open Days in August and October we set up a stall in a small tent in the down yard and business boomed. Sales turnover, which had reached £250 in 1968, more than doubled over the year to £650. From Easter 1970 we endeavoured to be open at Quainton every Sunday until October and this policy paid off with turnover going over the £1000 mark. Attendances at Rallies and other events suffered through lack of staff but as far as I can recall we only missed about three weekends at Quainton.

The next step was a permanent shop. The only building we had was in use as a store and office but we managed to squeeze the shop in to one end where a counter was built with an opening flap above. This served for about two years but smoke and dust blowing in and the cramped conditions made it far from ideal. We had gradually expanded into the rest of the store as more space became available elsewhere but in 1973 we took over the whole of the building apart from a small ticket office at the Aylesbury end which remained for a further year. By the beginning of 1975 the shop had assumed its present layout with the display window in place of the opening flap, a small storage area behind it, and the remaining space taken up by the counter and various display racks. Sales are now limited by the numbers of customers who can get into the shop to spend their money on Open Days!

The first specifically Quainton items sold, excluding pens, etc., with simple wording, were the round Beattie badge and key fobs with the same design. The printing of the latter was found to wear off but with a change of material and supplier the problem was solved and both items are still popular. Slides and car stickers were other early products. Our first large investment was in notelets, 1500 boxes of them, with designs specially drawn by the late Eric Haswell. In 1974 the Beattie Centenary Book written by John Fairman was published, as was a colouring book for children in collaboration with other Preservation Societies. We were also fortunate in having a photograph of No. 3 chosen for reproduction as a jig-saw. Production of postcards had to be delayed until our locomotives were in a suitable livery for photographing but in 1975 the first two appeared, Coventry and Nos. 3 & 7715, followed by Swanscombe in 1976. I must also mention here the famous Quainton mice "bred" so successfully by Mrs Miller. Over 1000 have now been produced, earning well over £100 for the Society.

Revised editions of the duplicated Stock List mentioned earlier appeared in August 1969 and March 1971 but by 1972 we were confident enough to embark on a fully illustrated, properly printed booklet. This was compiled by Peter Hoskings and myself and consisted of 36 pages listing 27 locomotives and 20 other vehicles. It was priced at 25p and the 3000 copies produced were sold out in 18 months. A second edition followed and the current Stockbook is the third. It is rapidly selling out and another edition is already being planned so any relevant new information will be welcomed by either Peter or me. The forerunner of the Quainton Guide also made its first appearance in 1972 in the form of a programme edited by Peter. Separate eight page editions were produced for each Bank Holiday but in 1973 it appeared as a 'Programme and Guide' with 24 pages priced at 10p. It became the Guide in 1974.

In addition to these special items we were selling all sorts of other items. Books, magazines, postcards and prints have been sold ever since we started but the quantities involved have increased tremendously and our latest venture is into the model railway field. We have certainly come a long way since the entire stock would fit into my Mini!

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J R Fairman - Sales HQ, 1976

So now what of the future? This is really Peter's province but I'm sure he will not mind me putting forward a few thoughts. As I have already mentioned the shop is too small and we are also limited by only opening on about 40 days per year but we have a long way to go before matching the turnover of some other Railway Societies. There are already thoughts of a new purpose built shop in the up yard complex but that will not be for a few years yet and in the meantime temporary branches are being opened in various places on Open Days. If we had enough staff we would consider opening on Saturdays on a regular basis and we would like to go back into the Traction Engine Rally and Exhibition business. Postal sales is another area that could be developed.

Finally I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those members and customers, who have helped me over the years and hope that they will continue to support the Sales Department under its new management.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1976 and so does not reflect events in the 39+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Ten Years of Sales - Austin Harland - Quainton News No. 30 - Winter 1976

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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