by JILL LOUGHLIN
might think storybook character 'Fireman Sam' is alive and well
- and zooming through the streets of Belfast this Christmas!
But the man in the dinky little red fire
engine is only the new owner of The Model Shop in Belfast,
long-time customer, collector and enthusiast, Gareth Hutchinson.
The Moira man has now turned his 20-year hobby into his
business, after buying the landmark Queen Street shop with
friend Jim Poots from Tandragee.
And what better way to ring the changes than
a festive visit from Santa - who is often known to resort to a
fire engine when his reindeers are indisposed! A collector of
model cars for over 20 years, Gareth recently took delivery of
the custom-built fire engine which is two thirds the size of the
real thing and is fully road worthy. "It has a Honda van chassis
and an 800 cc engine, but the things most people notice are the
sirens and ladder," said Gareth, who has two other miniature
fire engines, three full-size 'Herbie' Beetles and a 'retired'
Ulsterbus among his collection at home. "The sirens work, but
the ladder is fixed and is just for show. The inside of the
vehicle is hollow, which is great for storage, but we can't
really put out any fires! '
The little red engine has proved a real
head-turner and Gareth will be using it to help promote his new
business which dates back to the 1930s and stocks everything
from 'Matchbox' size cars to radio-controlled planes and boats,
die-cast trucks, complete model railways and custom-built
collectors' items costing hundreds of pounds