About Metcalfe Models
About Metcalfe Models
Metcalfe Models & Toys Ltd. is a first choice brand for many model railway enthusiasts. From the very first brainwave right up to the present, the company has gone from strength to strength producing card kits to a quality that has never been compromised. You will now see Metcalfe kits in their bright green packaging on the shelves of almost every model and hobby shop nationwide. For a company that started on a kitchen table almost 20 years ago, that’s not half bad.
All the kits are still designed by Nick Metcalfe and are proudly printed, packed and distributed from the Metcalfe HQ in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Metcalfe Models are sold worldwide now with wholesalers in countries as far as Australia and New Zealand
Nick Metcalfe, a printer by trade, along with wife Judy began their cardboard cut-out venture in 1991 as a part time experiment from their home in North Yorkshire. The idea came when Nick spotted a model of an Irish pub in a gift shop he visited whilst on holiday in Ireland and suddenly spotted potential for a business. Armed with a fascination for architecture and graphics, and with his expertise in printing Nick was able to make the idea a reality.
Nick’s boss at the time Rufus Drake of Ellesmere Press in Skipton kindly agreed to rent his printing machinery to him at weekends and evenings. The first design to roll off the press was a scale model of Embsay Station, a local historical train station. With the first kit, Nick and wife Judy dedicated their spare time to producing and selling it to gift shops across the Dales.
Nick’s next kit idea was inspired by Judy, whose family were puppeteers in Ireland. The Punch and Judy and Noah’s Ark card puppet theaters were a huge hit with gift shops nationwide and kick-started the mail order business, run by Judy. But it was that little model station that caught the eyes of model railway enthusiasts and after a meeting with Ruth Annison of the Settle-Carlisle Railway Trust, Metcalfe Models and Toys were commissioned to produce the Settle-Carlisle range of card kits.
Surprised at how well the model buildings sold, Metcalfe produced more and sent samples to Railway Modeller for review. A few days later, very late one Sunday evening the couple received a phone call from Sidney Pritchard, the managing director of PECO, who made an offer they couldn’t refuse. Since that day, PECO have been the sole trade distributors for Metcalfe Models.
Another big break came about a year later in 1994, when market leaders Corgi commissioned him to design and manufacture a bus depot kit for their Original Omnibus Range. This was a huge success, prompting further commissions for a World War II Aeroplane Hangar, a Fire Station and another Bus Garage in 00 Gauge.
By this point, Nick was finding it difficult to fit in his full time job managing the print company and coping with the ever increasing demand for Metcalfe kits. In 1995 Metcalfe Models and Toys started manufacturing its own small range of un-cut model kits full time in it’s own print works on the aptly named Sidings Business Park, Engine Shed Lane in Skipton. It wasn’t until 1997 when the company bought its first die-cutting press that the Ready Cut range was made.
As the product range grew, the company began to run out of space for production and moved to a slightly larger unit in the town. It was only a short while after this move that the company took the gamble to buy a crumbling and flood-prone Grade II listed farm building in 1999 to become their new factory and office. One year of careful renovations later and the sight was perfect for the growing manufacturers.
The renovation project was not without its difficulties as the building was prone to annual flooding from the River Aire of up to four feet. To combat the problem, John Wharton architects had to raise the ground level inside and around the building by five feet, yet still preserve as much of the original barn as possible. Now, even though the site still floods every year, absolutely no damage is ever caused.
In 2001, Metcalfe Models and Toys were approached by Hornby to design and produce kits for Scalextric slot car racing. The commentary tower, garage and grandstand kits were very popular with adults and children, but Nick decided to focus purely on the Metcalfe range and this was the last commission he took.
As the business was still rapidly growing with a happy workforce of seven people, the renovated barn became too small. In 2002, work began on a stone warehouse adjacent to the original building, which of course the company quickly outgrew and plans were put through to build a brand new office and works around the new warehouse.
The final build was completed in early 2010 with a new state of the art office, works and packing department for it’s 11 staff. With new upgraded machines and space, the now world famous Metcalfe brand has scope for further re-designs and many more new kit ranges.