TONY DEWHURST hopped on board the Time Train to meet three friends at their new business venture . . .
Pressing open a creaking door, to squeeze past Basil Brush, a splendid model of Thunderbirds pilot Scott Tracey and enough bric-a-brac and 1970s curios to make Steptoe and Son quit the business, I felt like children’s character Mr Benn.
Remember him: The classic children’s character, whose adventures always began when he visited a magical fancy dress shop?
He leaves the shop through a magic door and enters a world matching his costume, where he enjoys an amazing adventure before a rather sinister looking fez-wearing shopkeeper leads him back to reality.
When he returns to normal life at 52 Festive Road he is left with a small souvenir of his magical day.
“Mr Benn didn’t know what to expect, who he was going to meet, or what somebody would bring him, so I think about him every day when we open the door,” joked one of the owners of Clitheroe business Time Train, Jeff Beamer.
“You are constantly searching for that gem; a rare bit of vinyl, a first edition comic or just something to bring a bit of fun into people’s lives.
“It is a bit like Indiana Jones searching for the Lost Ark.
“When adults purchase an old toy, they are buying a memory, sometimes with a great emotional attachment to their lives.”
Created by three friends, Jeff, Matt Taylor and Lisa Pickles, the trio quit their jobs last summer to open their second-hand curiosty shop. They took a giant punt on selling everything from Japanese Hat Boxes to the original master clock from St Pancras Station, and it all happened by accident.
“A couple of Christmasses ago I was short of money so I got a wedge of cash and spent it at auctions, car boot sales and charity shops, and lo and behold it worked,” said Matt.
“Suddenly my front room became this mad-cap shop of collectables and people wanted them.
“I was selling to friends and the odd collector. Every time I went to the auction and bid for a toy there was this chap from Preston in a big hat doing the same thing.
“It was Jeff, so instead of fighting over the same stuff we joined forces and Time Train was born.”
Matt, who had worked as a fishery manager at Stocks Reservoir for six years, added: “I chucked in my job in to sell old stuff and it has all sort of fallen into place.
“On our first day I bought a box load of vinyl LPs for £8. There were Rolling Stones and Beatles albums, and an LP from the 1971 Glastonbury Free Festival, including a poster, a Glastonbury balloon, all still sealed in the packet. The whole lot went for £1,000.”
While days like that can be and few and far between, the Ribble Valley pals are loving life in the past on board their Time Train express.
A crowd of schoolchildren gathers outside as Jeff stands in front of a menacing, life size figure of Davros, the master of the Daleks.
“It is amazing what you can unearth with a little bit of detective work,” he said. “I’m a fisherman and found four, Victorian fishing flies at a local car boot sale “They were very distinctive, made out of Eagle’s down and coloured yellow.
“We sold them to collectors in Russia, New York and London for £150 each. Sometimes you just get lucky, but you’ve got to have a sharp eye, like the time I found a five feet Oscar replica at a Clitheroe car boot sale. “ The dusty shelves groan with comics, vinyl, Hornby trains, Scalextrix racing cars, and Star Wars memorabilia.
There’s even a rather fetching collection of Spice Girls dolls.
This month saw the final printed edition of one of the world’s longest running and much-loved comics, The Dandy.
“The kids of today live in the digital world, so more and more they want to see the items, pick them up and look at the art work,” said Lisa, who gave up her job at a garden centre.
“They love to hold the vinyl and admire a record sleeve because it is a very tangible thing.
“A lot of them want the old Sega Mega Drives from the 1990s, which I find incredible.
“The hardest thing is finding these items.
“I suppose that’s what’s cool because the thrill of discovery makes this experience so special.
“The shop is a minefield of madness, but you are also delving into history and educating yourself.
“People are shocked to see the old toys again, but they love nostalgic, quirky things.
“There’s an old chap who comes in every day and just enjoys looking around. He calls it the Happy Shop.”
Jeff, who worked for a building company, explained that some collectors only want the boxes.
“They’d buy an Airfix model, but they would never dream of opening the box. They just want to admire the artwork because every box is different.
“Every collectable item has its own nuance, and sometimes it just boils down to the finest of details.
“It is incredible to think that the first edition of The Beano sold for £26,000 and you’d get between three and four thousand pounds for a Sindy Doll in perfect condition.”
One of Clive Sinclair’s ill-fated C5 cars, lovingly restored by the team, sits in the window, squeezed in between seventies games Ker-Plunk and the vintage horse racing board game Totopoly.
“When the kids come in, sometimes with their parents, that’s when Time Train really comes alive, “ added Jeff.
“A lot of our stuff sells on line so the old world is meeting the modern world head-on. “ Lisa says: “We just want to pay our way in the world and enjoy what we do.
“A lady bought some Ladybird Books and said that’s what she loved her mother to read to her as a child.
“She wanted to tell those tales to her own children. I thought that was lovely.”