Bill has been an avid toy collector and restorer for more than 20 years, and with the help of his wife has breathed new life into hundreds of toys of all shapes and sizes.
“It’s quite good fun looking for the stuff and repairing it,” says the 69-year-old, who has been a farmer all his life. “It’s a bloody bad habit, or a good habit I think.”
After the McNabneys moved from their home in Henderson to the eastern suburbs, they set about building the purpose-built toy museum.
Its construction was a family venture involving the couple’s three sons, daughter and son-in-law.
“We couldn’t have done it without the kids – not at this stage in our lives,” says Kathie. “Bill would have been overwhelmed by it.”
Walking into the grandfather-of-eight’s toy wonderland, it’s hard not to be in awe of the vast number of treasures on show.
From front to back, the 11-metre by 30-metre museum is packed with pedal cars, trikes, tractors and scooters.
Rows of display cabinets contain hundreds of miniatures, from Linfox trucks to Matchbox cars. A copper vintage aeroplane dangles from the ceiling, while other toys command attention from the floor.
Wooden pull-alongs, including the quintessential Buzzy Bee, are near the back of the museum, and a delightful set of Bunnykins dinnerware conjures fond memories of childhood from another cabinet.
Bill’s hobby started off as “something to do” at night in the workshop.
“He doesn’t really read, except for the farming journal and newspaper, and we aren’t really into TV,” says Kathie.
“When he started it was so good that he had a hobby because all he would do was work. He started restoring things that were old and broken down, and then moved into pedal cars, which he loves.”
It can take about 40 hours to spruce up a pedal car from scratch, depending on its size and condition. The toy is dismantled and sandblasted, then painted and the pieces put back together.
“Some them are pretty rough,” says Bill. “But there’s never a job too hard. Kathie does the upholstery.”
Some of the museum’s inhabitants stray a little from the toy genre, including a collection of novelty salt and pepper shakers, old-fashioned builder’s tools, and pig figurines.
“Bill loves pigs,” says Kathie, with a smile. “The staff would buy him a pig [ornament] for his birthday each year. But he’s not really interested in the ornaments. He’s interested in the livestock and the bit of bacon at the end.”
Bill told Our Homes Today he doesn’t have any favourites in the collection, but Kathie confides that the Pathfinder is her husband’s “prized possession”.
“It’s surprising how many men know all about it,” she says. “They come and drool over it.”
Overseas trips are a happy hunting ground for the couple, who scour op shops whenever they are visiting friends abroad.
“Once you get family in a foreign place you do the second-hand shops,” says Kathie. “I think we saw every old tractor in Northern Ireland in 10 days.”
Offers to buy or sell come now and then, but Bill drives a hard bargain and isn’t afraid to call it quits if a toy is priced too dearly.
“The good thing is finding it, but the better thing is making the deal,” he says, with a twinkle in his eye. “If you went in with an open cheque book you’d spend a lot of money.”
About five bus loads of people a month visit the vintage toy museum, which is the realisation of a long-held dream for Bill.
“He enjoys it and wanted to share it with people,” says Kathie. “When I come around here and it’s with a group, it’s lovely. They get lots of information and they just buzz.”