Summer is a dim and distant memory – although we’ve had a few warm days of late, so perhaps the October half term will still offer some decent weather. One thing’s for certain, there’ll be plenty to smile about at Cirencester next Sunday when we return to the Bingham Hall for our fourth visit of the year. Even more stallholders, plenty of fresh stock, and extended, improved and even closer parking!

All the usual rules apply. Early Birds from 8:00 am (entry £5) and main doors open at 10:00 am. Regular entry is £2.50, with all under-16s free. Our Valuation Roadshow will be operating, of course, as will Dee’s excellent catering, with tasty refreshments and an all-day breakfast. What’s not to like!

While the new car parking (with 80 spaces in the nearby Primary School) is great news for our Cirencester venue, the even bigger news is that we are launching a brand new fair in the New Year. On Sunday 7th January 2018 we shall stage the first of what will become a regular event at a very exciting venue – well, Ronnie’s excited anyway. The Swindon Town Toy & Train Fair will be held at the famous County Ground, home of Swindon Town FC.

This could end up being our largest fair yet, with excellent facilities, great parking, a bar (for the grown-ups), easy access, and a huge catchment area for collectors and enthusiasts. We will be publishing full details shortly, but as a subscriber to our Newsletter, we thought you should be among the first to know.

As one door opens, so another closes, and it now looks unlikely that we shall be able to re-stage our fair in Marlborough. The trial run last summer held great promise, but the venue organisers have been, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. It seems Swindon is the future!

Dealer Profile – Brian Smith

From time to time we run features on some of the dealers who have been long-term supporters of our fairs, and this month it’s the turn of Brian Smith.

Ronnie Davies first met Brian many years ago at the Sunbury Antiques Market, staged twice a month at Kempton Park racecourse. It’s one of the busiest trade fairs in the country, and a great place to ruttle out a rarity or a bargain. This was in the days before Ronnie was running toy fairs, but he has always been a good source of fresh new-to-the-market stock. Brian was looking for the kind of old tinplate toys which are now his speciality, and Ronnie had some pieces that caught his eye.

They got chatting, and the rest is history. “Once we’d established our first fair at Cirencester, Brian became a regular visitor, but when we started Didcot he took the plunge and did his first toy fair with us as a dealer,” explains Ronnie. “He has such a wealth of experience, and knows so much about tinplate, especially the early stuff. Since then he has became a stalwart at all our fairs.”

Brian always brings along a fine selection of tinplate, including classic examples from the Japanese manufacturers of the late 50s and 1960s, as well as earlier pieces by the likes of Märklin (founded in Germany in 1859), Bing and Schuco. “You can be sure of finding some of the best vintage tinplate and toys on Brian’s table,” insists Ronnie, “and his stock is often one of the highlights of the fair.”

Brian will be at Cirencester this coming weekend, and again at Didcot at the end of November (Saturday 25th) and then Cirencester on December 3rd.

It’s all a matter of detail

Few of us can fail to be in awe of those who can recreate life in miniature, whether it’s the extraordinary lengths that some will go to build millimetre-perfect model railways (see below), or others who just have extraordinary patience and an eye for detail. For most it’s a hobby, but for a few with exceptional skills, it can become a career. One such is Mario Venturi.

Born in Florence, Italy, in 1945, Mario became a professional modeller nearly 30 years ago. He recently announced his retirement, so now would seem a good time to draw attention to some of the extraordinary work he has completed during his long career.

He has specialised in model soldiers from just about every period, through ancient times and medieval to the 20th century. Working in painstaking detail, he has recreated significant events from history, and his dioramas and exhibition pieces now feature in museums and collections across the world.

In 2005 he co-authored Creating Miniature Knights with Peter Greenhill, one of the UK’s foremost modellers. The book, lavishly illustrated with Peter’s own photographs, tells the story of the 100 Years War using Mario’s meticulous models to explain battles like Crécy, Poitiers and, of course, Henry V’s famous victory at Azincourt, where British archers decimated the flower of French chivalry in a hail of arrows.

The pictures here, taken from his diorama of the Battle of Poitiers, give a hint of the level of detail and the quality he has achieved. You can find more – and be inspired – by visiting Mario’s own website: Mario Venturi.

The World’s Largest

Work like Mario Venturi’s is testament to one man’s dedication and talent, but it takes a few more to achieve the accolade of “the world’s largest”, but that’s certainly true of Miniatur Wunderland.

Located in Hamburg, Germany, this popular family attraction is officially the biggest model railway in the world, but it’s far more than that. Yes, there are trains – more than 900 of them are active every day, hauling over 12,000 carriages along some 13 kilometres of track – but there are also cars, vans, lorries and buses hurrying along the many miles of roads and motorways. There are ships and canal boats, cable cars, cyclists and so much more besides, all of it “in action”.

Creating this masterpiece in miniature has taken half a million man-hours, and the layout now covers more than 13,000 square metres, but it’s still growing. While the current scheme covers areas of mainland Europe and America, there’s no British section … but they’re working on it now. One of the most recent additions is a working airport, where more than 40 aircraft taxi between the terminal buildings and ‘take off’ from the runway. Almost every detail of daily life in a big city has been faithfully recreated, populated by over 200,000 tiny figures.

A day in Wunderland lasts 15 minutes, and then the main lights go down, and some 300,000 LEDs bring the darkness to life. To control all this requires a bank of more than 40 computers and a staff of 260. Roughly a million visitors gawp in amazement at the models every year, but if you can’t get to Germany, then there’s plenty on the attraction’s own website to give a taste of what this Miniatur Wunderland is all about.