The plaster diorama bases and building ruins of Portsmouth based Great North Roads (GNR) are well known, producing diorama bases and elements of a realistic size, excellent cast detail and very good value when purchased at the model shows on the occasions that they are available. However it had been thought that Great North Roads and its owner Simon might have been running things down as web site activity has been non-existent for a number of months.
This is far from the truth, and Great North Roads not only continues to exist but has also widened its range since the beginning of 2014. However as with so many small manufactures who have continued to trade over the last 4 years things have been pretty difficult and a number of events have conspired to reduce exposure of the Great North Roads brand.
Simon explains “I was impacted significantly by a dishonest trader in the US that left me out of pocket and it took time to re-establish the funds to continue with production of our models. To help get things back on track I also decided to remove some of the other lines that Great North Roads was responsible for, resin figures and certain scenic materials were dropped or sold off.” Unfortunately as so often happens after expending much effort to restart production of his Plaster based models Simon was knocked for six again by events in his personal life that resulted in a location move. “Great North Roads had to become a spare time occupation as I returned to employment in the aviation industry. The workshop I was operating from was unable to be moved so after finishing my shift I had an hour or more drive to my workshop before starting production, followed by an hour return trip. It was a strenuous time.” The business managed to survive. “The web site continued to bring in orders and as time permitted additional stock was cast so I could have a wide range at the model shows I still attended, although this was far fewer than before. A small number of model shops also carried Great North Roads products and their loyalty has been very helpful in keeping turn over going”. Thankfully Simon now has a new workshop very close to his new home and this has allowed him to increase productivity, although he still has to continue with his ‘real world’ job.
“While it would have been nice to return to having Great North Roads as my sole job the market is a different place and to stay offering a good value product means I have to keep it as my own hobby. Postal cost rises mean shipping of the heavy diorama bases adds to their cost and that has seen a down turn in web orders, additionally of the traditional hobby shops that carried Great North Roads products, only Salisbury Model Centre in the South West is a regular stockist as other shops have closed or moved into the R/C field.“
What projects have been developed since the beginning of the year? Simon’s enthusiasm for the Great North Roads range is evident as he recounts what he has been working on. “I have a couple of master pattern makers, both here in the UK and in Greece. I sometimes give direction for what I would like, the First World War trench being a key example of something that will be very relevant over the next few years, and other times I let the master makers present me something they have been working on. I also dabble myself to either make something specific or rework a master so that it is easier to cast without sacrificing detail.”
“Since the Embankment base (GNR102), recent additions have all been quite large and include an urban canal side road, a blockade diorama (GNR109) and a log lined artillery position. The next 1/35th scale diorama base is a two piece WWI German Trench scene.” This item will be unveiled for sale at SMW, Telford which seems fitting given the theme this year. A substantial sized base with a lift off section to allow modelling of a dugout it will be ideal for ICM or Tommy’s war figures.
“The remainder of 2014 will be spent on finalising the packaging for the Trench base as well as continuing with a couple of projects in development including a church spire that has been a long term goal of mine. The Great North Roads web site is due a revamp too.” So it’s good to hear that Great North Roads is not just surviving but continuing to grow, keep a look out for Great North Roads products at forthcoming shows, they really do make great scenic backdrops.