The Collection - The Disease

Dear Marjorie - My husband is 46 years old and spends most of his time playing with toy trains. He doesn't pay any attention to me these days.

Dear M - You have my deepest sympathy! Unfortunately, this condition is well known and is usually terminal. Very few people ever fully recover. However, you can turn this situation to your advantage! Trainaholics are so oblivious to their surroundings that you can bring as many men back to the house as you want - your man will never know!

Whatever you do though, don't get rid of your train fanatic - they are notoriously good at paying the bills! Blessings

When I first read this letter in a women's magazine I was shocked, devastated, mortified........

It took me a while to comprehend the truth in these words, but I am determined to 'clean up' my act.

No more trains!

The disease started .......... continue reading my incredibly boring history


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hornby Dublo Boxed Set - EDG18

….and next out of the box, ladies and gentlemen, is another fine Hornby Dublo boxed set – EDG18 (Electric Dublo Goods 18).

This set has seen a bit more handling than the others so far listed and the locomotive especially, has a few paint chips that detract from its appearance.

…but not by much!

The locomotive #80054 is one of the tough and reliable 2-6-4 Class 4 Standard Tank breed dressed in the lined black BR livery.

These engines, the ‘80000 series’ were developed from the LMS Fairburn design and 155 of them were built at the Brighton, Doncaster and Derby works between 1951 and 1955.

They were put to good use throughout Britain, including commuter trains on the London, Tibury and Southend line. The last Class 4 engine was withdrawn from service in July 1967. Diesels ruled OK! Spppptttt..raspberry!

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On with the show:

The rolling stock in the box consists of a low sided, double bogey, 50T brick wagon #163535 in very good condition and another double-bogey wagon – this time a low loader carrying a home-made bulk tank.

The metal wheels and loco date the manufacture of this outfit to around 1954 to 61.

The box! Oh I am so sorry to the pulped paper addicts – Alas it is not perfect. It bears the scars of excited little hands prying the lid off to reveal the shiney objects and of hammering the lid back down when called down to ‘tea’.

Now here’s another little aside (of which I am quite fond you may note) – What do you call your meals?

Like the cardboard box, we all bear the scars of upbringing and tend to carry for the remainder of our lives, the baggage of nomenclature that identifies our class or status (that is, according to my dearly beloved).

There’s no getting away from breakfast, unless you are of the constitutional type that cannot consume solids before midday, but what’s the next meal called in your household?

Elevenses? Man, did this confuse me the first time I was offered potatoes and fish fingers at eleven o’clock in the morning! My carers for the day could have been beamed down from Zeta Reticulae for the plane brown confusion my young brain suffered when presented with such a platter at that time of day. Obviously, it was a trick left over from a particular work schedule and carried through into retirement.

…and now that I look at my own crazy schedule I realize that I have an even funnier meal time - ten-thirty in the morning! Starting work at 4am and finishing at 10am means that my fast isn’t truly broken until mid-morning. I wonder if we will continue this into old age? Maybe we can find some children to confuse!

Start the day with a thick, steaming cup of cocoa – that’s my advice!

Evening meal can be called either dinner or tea, but the word dares to identify your social status. If such a thing should bother you, then take care what words you use!

Back to the box – the smiling sprog on the lid of this box is playing dare with his nose on the rails and in these litigious times, ought to carry a health warning.

WARNING – do not place your nose or other bodily part on the track. Serious injury may result.

The Brake Van # 178717 is sound, but it does have a few marks of corrosion on the roof and at one end. Not serious, but it is indicative that the child lived in a damp house and was perhaps a little scrofulous methinks! (I have waited years to be able to use the word ‘scrofulous’).

The inside of the box is quite spiffy, so if you ignore the old cellotape repair on the outer lid you could say the box is half decent.

The usual minimalist track selection is included; 8 large radius curved sections and two full straights.

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No controller – maybe someone found an alternative use for them!

Incidentally, there are several other ancient boxes in the outfit that might be of interest….. to some. This one here contained Embassy Christmas crackers manufactured by Sungrove Ltd, Wendell Road, W12, London. That must be Hammersmith. Unfortunately, I can’t find any company history to blind you with, other than it was paid for in old money (see earlier post)..

One clue to the date though, is the drawing of the kids on the box lid was done in the days when God knew best and it was believed that sunshine was good for you. Unfortunately, these kids were left out in the sun too long! Now, where did I put that bottle of calamine lotion?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hornby Dublo - The Alternative Story

Hornby Dublo finally quit the 3-rail system in March of 1964. It ceased train production altogether in December of the same year. In May of the following year Hornby Dublo merged with Tri-ang……and that, doctor, is about the time that I lost interest in history.

The Hornby Dublo system was designed to bring the scale of train models down from the clunky ‘O’ guage, that took up the entire sitting room floor and made grandad say some funny words when he stood on it, to a more manageable and versatile level. It was pricey stuff at the time, but the quality - oh! … I mean FEEL that quality sir – none of your cheap Telford steel in there!

’OO’ scale worked out at 1:76.8 or 5/32nd inches to the foot in old money. This meant that the locomotives would fit in a pocket. The 1:43 ‘O’ guage was too large even for the voluminous pockets in my school trousers!

The Hornby Dublo system was designed by Donald Smith, Ernest Lee and Ronald Wyborn who had the enviable job of playing with trains all day long, or so I’m told and the creation shone like another diamond in the already famous Meccano crown.


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Meccano put it all together in their Liverpool factory until 1964 when they lost interest in railways and pulled the plug on Dublo. Right up to this day they have kept secret the supplier of those lovely cardboard boxes that have become more sought after than the contents. That is the zenith of marketing! Hornby even started a Dublo members club called The Hornby Railway Company, just so they could flood computers with tempting emails. Errrr…. Maybe they didn’t have email then. How did we ever manage without email? Oh…and the Binns Road factory in Liverpool, where Hornby Dublo was made, was demolished in 1980, but thankfully all the employees got out before the demolition ball started swinging.

Of course, Meccano were the masters of marketing back in ‘the olden days’. Even in 1938 they produced a monthly magazine telling people all the wonderful things they could do with Meccano. However, they possessed the imaginations of goldfish compared to what has been done with the little bits of coloured tin since then:

Mad Meccano Scientist Video

In the September issue of Meccano Magazine in 1938, Hornby Dublo made its grand debut. It was a hit.

A Few Friends Gather To Celebrate Hornby Dublo - 1938


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The range was continually developed and enhanced and the Dublo line blossomed until 1942, when wartime demand for metal to lob at Hitler meant that toy trains took a back seat. Fortunately, Hitler faked his death in a bonfire party outside his mansion in 1945 (also known as a bunker for some reason) and possibly escaped to California and the underground world of Telos. I think its more likely that he was offered a job with one of the giant financial corporations where he received billions of dollars in bonuses for stimulating ‘re-build’ economies around the world. Sensibility eventually returned, the war ended and the more important business of making kiddies toy trains recommenced in 1947.

During this down period, the factory produced items for ‘war use’. Rumour has it that miniature spy trains and dinky toys with built-in cameras were dropped over Germany to gather intelligence. Curious job that, because there is no such thing as intelligence in war.

Did you wince when you read that?

Back to the story – The original rolling stock were made entirely from metal, a mixture of casting, printed tinplate and enameled tin (mostly roofing on wagons and coaches) ….. yawwwwn!. Even the wheels and axles were metal which made a terrific racket designed to add authenticity and annoy the hell out of your granny. They continued with the heavy-metal culture all the way from 1938 until ’57.

The chassis of the rolling stock were diecast using a substance called ‘Mazac’ – presumably an acronym for something entirely useful. Even wheels were made from Mazac until 1950, when a noisier version made from sintered iron was discovered. Mazac caused a few problems though and developed some serious structural defects when the quality controller discovered Prozac, fell asleep on the job, spilled his coffee into the crucible and a large batch of parts passed through that later fell apart due to inter-crystalline corrosion. This was pretty unimportant though and I shouldn’t dwell on one tiny little hiccough when today’s car makers can make bigger cock-ups and then ask the government to bail them out to the tune of billions of dollars. Aaahh!..sorry – I’m off on another rant.

Safe to say Mazac and the quality controller saw it through to the end days of Hornby Dublo production. The rest of it was sold off to the water companies to put in drinking water. ‘Good for health’ said the report. They bought it, just like they buy the rest of the toxic junk that the ‘pharmaceuticals’ say is good for human health. Pah!

In 1950 they decided to beef up the locomotives with a new heavy duty chassis and Alnico magnets instead of the horseshoe type. They also took notice of parental complaints that they couldn’t hear the damned radio when the trains were running. Suppressors were fitted to the motors and the neighbours also stopped banging on the wall.

In 1958, here it comes… PLASTIC – totally chewable parts. The wheels and couplings were the first to fall victim, quickly followed by the bodywork of most of the rolling stock. From late 1960 onwards, coaches had plastic roofs that buckled in the sun and a few coaches even had the full plastic surgery job. For some reason, the tank wagons were always made from printed tin and diecast.

Hornby Dublo appeared to grow tired of trains after the war though and never really re-entered the spirit of the business. Tri-ang bought the tools and had a go at flogging the stuff for a little while from 1965 before passing the baton and the remaining stock to Wrenn in 1968. They couldn’t flog it either (or they didn’t want to!) Wrenn was more interested in making toy trains so small that they would fit into the new miniature houses that became so popular when house prices took off with a bigger impact on the economy than the entire Second World War.

I’m getting awfully political here and I feel my blood pressure rising….SIGH. I read that somewhere – sighing helps to reduce blood pressure….. but don’t believe EVERYTHING you read!

1959 saw the introduction of the Hornby Dublo 2-rail system. This only lasted for 6 years though, before it was palmed off on to Tri-ang. The 3-rail stuff continued to be produced up until 1964, but by then they were using plastic and, well, the rest is history.

The Hornby Dublo buildings were interesting. From 1938 until 1941 the buildings were all wooden. Can you imagine that happening today?

In 1960 the new range of plastic buildings was introduced and I have to say that they survived my leaking roof better than wood and paper. In 1950 they also had a go at casting aluminium into stations and signal boxes. Now then, I would like all Americans to try this word as it is written.

Phonetically and all together now A L U M I N I U M

Did you notice the second ‘I’ in the word? PRONOUNCE IT THEN! If it was meant to be ALUMINUM it would have been spelled like that! It’s Latinium – like barium, atrium, conium and euphonium!

Right, who else can I ‘pick-on’? 

The funny thing is, well actually it’s not so funny, but…Frank Hornby never received a single penny from Hornby Dublo or the later Hornby trains sets that carried his name. Mr Hornby died, even before the drawings of the first chuffer made it to his desk. It was in a meeting in 1937 about new products that the idea of shrinking the ‘O’ guage to ‘OO’ was first mooted. Frank died the previous year. However, he was exceedingly rich when he went though, Meccano was a success beyond dreams.

The ‘Dublo’ part came from George Jones, a commercial director with the company, who presumably, spent some time in Texas at the same school that trained and released George Bush Jr. upon society.

The 3-rail system was quite an innovation. The base was the usual printed tin with resinous wafers of Paxolin or ‘Pax’ board as it’s known in the trade, insulating the center rails. With the exception of its debut year (1938) all the rails were nickel plated brass. If you have any track with cardboard insulation and plated steel rail, that was due to the Korean war, which created a shortage of materials in 1951. Another war disrupting the serious business of model trains? Can God ever get over the crass stupidity of mankind?

Here’s something interesting – get a copy of the Hornby Dublo 1957 catalogue, because Dad’s grown an extra finger! Once again it’s funny how the collectors of paper and cardboard will pay more for a 1957 catalogue than they will for a 1954 catalogue.

More boring data:

A full straight track is 11½ inches long. You would need 1,317,130,435 sections of track to make it to the moon on an average day.

In 1940 the points were made with a plain grey painted base and no-one knows why. Prior to that date they had printed bases like the rest of the track. Answers on a postcard please.

Standard curves were made to provide a 15” radius circle.
In 1940 the larger radius curve of 17¼ inches was created so that two tracks could run parallel around the curve.

I hope you enjoyed this potted plant history of The Dublo empire. If you have any comments to make about my political agenda, please keep them to yourself.

Ok – let’s get back into the box to see what else we can find to stimulate you with…..and don’t say this isn’t riveting stuff – YOU are still reading it! 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

EDG7 - Boxed Set

Boxed Set EDG7

This is one of the most basic outfits produced by Hornby Dublo. It was probably the most popular of all the early boxed sets.

The locomotive is the same N2 class seen in LNER colours in the previous post, but in the British Railways black and red livery.

The only history I can find about the chuffer are references to a couple of photographs:

One taken on 26th may 1951 outside the Doncaster sheds and held in the BR collection and the other one in a private collection taken in 1956 at Wood Green (presumably the 'Palace Gates' in London and not the West Midlands station).

Have you wilted yet from the profundity of my knowledge?

I grew up with a back garden that ended at a railway line. I spent hours, years, decades even, wandering that line and walked it from end to end on more than one occasion. Not the busiest line in the world though.... in fact, no trains have ever passed that way during my lifetime! The track had been ripped up and the resulting straight trail is now called 'The Weavers Way'. So I didn't spend my youth covered in soot smuts from watching the passing trains (and in any case they were diesel).

In other words, I don't spend every Thursday evening in the pub with other trainspotters discussing the relevance of coal tender sizing, I am not a font of railway trivia - I'm a researcher!

So enough the ramblings and on with the show:

Accompanying the tank locomotive 69567 are the following trucks:

..and it's all packaged in the original (not a replica!) cardboard box! WOW!

Actually, my wit dries up here a little, because the box is in remarkably good condition, which would tend to indicate that the set was not taken out and put back again on a daily basis, it presumably belonged to a more enthusiastic 'child' who had a baseboard where it could be left be set up.

The state of the locomotive would indicate that this train set received more use than average and the paintwork is a little scarred in places.

The rolling stock is however, all very clean with very few marks and no dents. They are all metal construction with no chewable parts, indicating an early date of manufacture.

Hornby Dublo first introduced the 00 gauge train set in 1938, having made a huge success of Meccano. The plastic wheels and coupling didn't appear until 1957, somewhat after their rival companies and Hornby Dublo was usurped from it's position as the number one toy train maker.

British Rail livery was not introduced by Hornby Dublo until 1953, but it wasn't until the following year that freight sets included the BR colours. This set therefore, dates from between 1954 and 1957.

You can click on any of the images for a closer view. Just hit the 'back' button to return to the blog.

Once again the set is without the controller as the controllers are mounted with transformers.

What's in the box?

EDL7 BR N2 Class Tank Loco 69567
High sided wagon - green
Box van with white roof
Guards/brake van with grey roof
8 x large radius curve rails
2 x full straight rails
Original box in excellent condition.
(the warranty is missing as is the controller, oil bottle and one of the cardboard inserts for the loco - oh no!)

I'll let you have a sleep now after all this excitement, but don't miss out on the next thrilling installment!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pulling Power

Hornby Dublo Locomotive EDL7

LNER N2 Class Tank Loco 0-6-2

Originally built for the Great Northern Railway in 1920, LNER started building them in 1925, these little work horses were designed for suburban passenger services, however, they also performed shunting services and relocation of stock.

Apparently the design meant they could only be fired by left handed crew. What a cock-up!

Developed from the 3 cylinder Ivatt N1 Class it had slightly larger cylinders......yawn!

Class N2/2 Introduced 1925, LNER locos with condensing apparatus
Class N2/3 Introduced 1925, LNER locos without condensing apparatus
Class N2/4 Introduced 1928, LNER locos with condensing apparatus

The British Railways serial numbers were: 69490-69596 (the latter being snaffled by Mr Hornby for his model chuffer)

I can only find one engine of this class having survived the great meltdown – number 69523 which has been preserved on the Great Central Railway. This was actually, the famous engine in that great classic film ‘The Railway Children’ (they don't make 'em like this any more!), where a very young Jenny Agutter (playing Bobbie?) whipped off her wicked bloomers to attract the drivers attention…….guess what? It worked!

This little baby... hmm? is in excellent condition with very few paint chips to her name. Unfortunately, for you cardboard fans, she comes wrapped in tissue paper - clean, of course!

What year was this one made? I have no idea, but I am sure some 'anorak' type person can fill me in with the details. I would love to know.

Don't laugh! Honestly, I would really like to know!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Old Money - New Money

Money For Nothing

This old train set originated from green, soggy and extremely overcrowded island of Britain ( I could cope with green, but the other two symptoms provided sufficient incentive to get out whilst the going was good. We now reside in the white, frozen and barren wastes of Canada. Fair swap? Hmmmm…some might not think so.

Because, the train set pre-dates 15th February 1971 it was all bought and paid for with REAL money. Proper stuff, that actually contained some of the precious metal that it purported to contain in order to render it of value. We tend to forget that ‘notes’ are nothing more than I.O.U’s, which could be exchanged for something of actual value – coinage. These days beggars and phone boxes are the only places that accept coins and the phone boxes are virtually obsolete!

In February 1971, the British government pulled a great financial coup on the people of the country, by replacing the old standard coinage with a new system called ‘Decimal’ (that took a lot of thinking up). The marketed feature of ‘Decimalization’, was that it was so incredibly easy to use, whilst obfuscating the fact that the money was no longer connected to the principle of bullion value. In other words, take away the silver from the people and replace it with some cheap metal, then melt down the silver from the old coins and hey presto – the government is rich again!

The first problem is that many people didn’t understand the New Money system and the second problem was that overnight, the price of most goods skyrocketed. What once carried the price ticket of two shillings and sixpence (2/6) or 30pence,, when converted into New pennies cost more than twice as much!

Old Money consisted of:

Farthing ( = 1/4d)
Halfpenny (Ha’penny or 1/2 d)
Penny (symbol ‘d’ for Denarius – an old Roman coin – the penny was affectionately called a ‘copper’)
Thruppence (3d or 3 pennies)
Sixpence (6d - also called a ‘tanner’)
Shilling (symbol ‘s’ = 12d - also called a ‘bob’)
Florin (2 shillings = 24d or a ‘two bob bit’)
Half Crown (30d or 2shillings and sixpence = 2/6)
Crown (60d or 5s = 5 shillings)

I am guessing that the 'Crown' was the preferred name for the Sovereign and it's pal the Half-Sovereign.

There were some other peculiar coins like:

Groat (equivalent to 4d) I’ve never seen one
Sovereign (one pound silver coin – replaced the guinea)
Half Sovereign (worth five bob – If you had one of these you were stinking rich!)
Guinea – (originally this was worth one pound and contained real gold with the market value of one pound. There were forty four and a half guineas to one Troy pound of the finest gold…… at least there used to be.
Amongst a whole string of others, Charles II did his level best to wreck the economy and a bit of skulduggery in the mid seventeenth century lead the guinea to be traded at a premium. The last mint of golden guineas was in 1813 to pay the Duke of Wellington’s army (because the men would only accept gold ….can you imagine that happening today? Actually, I can! I will bet my left shoe that within the next two years gold will become the coin of demand once more) The guinea in 1813 cost 27shillings to produce, because they were honest about the amount of gold each coin contained. Can you imagine ANY government doing such a thing now?

Anyway, one guinea was worth one pound and one shilling or 21shillings. Horses were always purchased in guineas, the reason being that the extra shilling over the pound was for the stable boy to take good care of the horse and feed it the best hay. The same applied to other livestock purchases, but the horsey people being a bit stuck-up really enjoyed flashing their gold around. There’s even a famous horse race called the Golden Ginuea.

Finally, before you fall off your stool with boredom, there is a fascinating connection between the Elephant & Castle pub (public house or bar for the uninitiated) and the Golden Guinea, but that’s for another day.


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How many to the pound?

960 farthings in a pound
480 ha’penny in a pound
240 pennies in a pound
40 tanners in a pound
20 shillings in a pound
10 Florins to the pound
8 half crowns in the pound
4 Crowns to the pound

This was the real stuff – introduced by King Henry II to represent REAL weight in silver.
One penny was equivalent to One Troy pennyweight of silver and there were 240 pennyweights in a Troy pound of silver.

What was New Money?

Half Pence (no longer legal tender)
Penny (Referred to as One ‘P’ or Pee - about half the size of the old penny and everyone over-emphasized the letter ‘P’)
5 pence piece (this WAS the same size as the shilling, now the size of a sixpence)
10 pence piece (originally the size of a florin, now roughly the size of a shilling)
50 pence piece (getting smaller by the minute)
One pound (some rather dubious quality metal involved with this thing)

Overnight on 21st February 1971

One shilling dropped from 12d value to 5p
One florin dropped from 24d to 10p
One pound dropped from 240d to 100p

Shopkeepers beyond the age of 'new tricks' didn’t have a clue and all went out of business
…..and the less than honest shopkeepers simply changed the ‘d’ for a ‘p’ and more than doubled their income!

AND….the point of this article is that many of the boxes in the train set still bear the price tags.

The Duchess of Montrose cost 79/6. How much is that?

Work it out yourself!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Passenger Coaches - Mind The Gap

The 'system' includes 9 passenger coaches all of which are in excellent nick.

It would have helped identify them if each different coach design produced by Hornby Dublo had a unique serial number. Instead they liked to recycle the numbers, which wasn’t very authentic if you want my opinion……you don’t huh?

Two of the coaches are included in the lovely Duchess of Atholl boxed set. Two others are still in their original boxes. The rest of them are easier to set on the rails!

Let’s have a look at them:

First on the track:

W3984 Standard British Rail coach. (brown & cream)
Composite type (plastic roof and running gear with metal chassis)
All the seats have been freshly cleaned, but I did notice a BR coffee cup under one of the tables.
Immaculate condition

W15870 First Class British Rail coach (brown & cream)
Composite type (plastic roof and running gear with metal chassis)
Matching W3984 and also in top notch condition.

Can you remember when the introduction of plastic into these toys was heralded as a breakthrough! “silent action wheels” “whisper quiet” and we all clamoured for this new substance. Then as you get a bit older you start saying things like – “They don’t make ‘em like they used to – you know”.

Dear Marjory - Is there something I can take for this?

The following two coaches are included in EDP2 train set with Duchess of Atholl
Both are all metal construction and barring very slight scuffing (no paint damage though) they are in very good condition

M4193 ‘The Royal Scot’ in the London Midland and Scottish livery

M4183 1st and 3rd (the snob & donkey) classes also in the LMS colours.

Next on the agenda:

M26133 corridor/guard coach (low-life class) + ticket gorilla/guard compartment WR? (red & cream)
The coach is very good with only minor marks.

W34881 Third Class corridor coach with guard compartment (brown and cream)
Metal chassis and roof, but with those whispering plastic wheels you love best.

The coach is very good with only minor marks to its detriment and very few cigarette burns on the tables.

M4183 1st and 3rd classes (the snobs always hated these ‘mixed’ coaches and would loiter in the doors waiting for a space in the 1st class only coach) This one is in the London Midland and Scottish livery and matches the Duchess of Atholl train. ....if cardboard boxes really get your juices flowing, it still has its original Hornby Dublo box which is in beautiful condition…..sigh!


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26133 3rd (plebian) class corridor coach in LMS livery complete with spittoons and wooden bench seats.
Another one for the Duchess to pull if you have a station large enough.
These LMS coaches are from an early era and don’t have any nancy-boy plastic stuff. Noisy as hell on the rails – just the way I like ‘em.

M4183 1st class WR coach (red and cream)
All metal construction, except for the wheels, which are chewable. It’s not just in really good condition though - it's in BONZA good condition mate! This gleaming beauty comes in the original box (I think it's original - it's red with white stripes, says it's for 2 or 3 rail and cost the princely sum of 13/9. If you don't hail from the wet and crowded isle of Great Britain, you probably have no idea how much that is - perhaps I will talk about money next time.