Toy bus, Minic 52M "Green Line" single deck bus, Tri-ang Toys trade mark, metal, clockwork-operated, made by Lines Bros Ltd, Merton, London, England, 1946-1960
The Minic series of clockwork tin-plate toy cars and trucks were made by the famous British toy manufacturer, Lines Bros Ltd, under the trade mark Tri-ang Toys from 1935. Lines Bros were formed in 1919 and became based at Merton in South London. They expanded and built factories and took over other toy-making firms not only in Britain, but Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The Minic toy cars, trucks and vans were generally not based on actual vehicles. Nevertheless, their popularity was enhanced by their 1:43 scale compatibility with 0-gauge model train sets and their inexpensive price. The vehicles were all numbered and this encouraged the child collector. The first range of models, called the "Series 1", began with 14 vehicles and appeared a few years before the Second World War. Production resumed after the War with vehicles similar to the pre-War ones. More were added so that the range included various cars, an ambulance, London taxi, fire engine, single deck Green Line bus and a double deck London Transport bus. Commercial vans, and articulated trucks hauling cable drums, logs, barrels and cases, were also available together with agricultural vehicles including tractors and traction engines.
In 1947 Tri-ang began using plastic for some parts, with the result that more authentic vehicles and named makes were portrayed including Riley, Austin, Morris Minor and Hillman Minx. A second series, "Series II", appeared in the 1950s with more cars featuring American styling together with military vehicles including an armoured car, a Jeep and a Sherman tank. By this time over 70 models were available in the Minic range.
In the 1950s Tri-ang replaced the clockwork mechanisms with friction drive in a new range called "Push and Go" while Minic Motorways were introduced in 1963 and Minic Ships in 1959. Also in 1959 Tri-ang moved into the production of diecast toy cars with their Spot On series in 1:42 scale, following makers like Matchbox and Corgi. Production of both the Minic and Spot On models probably declined after Lines Bros purchased Meccano Ltd in 1964 and concentrated on making Meccano's die-cast Dinky Toys instead.
Tin-plate Minic toy vehicles are significant as they filled a gap between the larger more expensive tin-plate models and the early die-cast vehicles made in the Dinky range. They are a fascinating reminder of the design of late 1930s and 1940s British cars, commercial vehicles and trucks on British roads, and were ideal toy road vehicles to accompany Hornby 0-gauge train sets.
This toy Green Line bus represents the Green Line coach services which operated from London to the Home Counties. It began in 1930 and three years later had become part of London Transport's County Bus division which provided services throughout London's country area.
Curator, Science & Industry
The Lines family had been involved with the toy industry from about 1850. Their first factory was said to have been based at Bagnidge Wells, near Kings Cross in London. The firm made wooden toys, specialising in wooden horses. In 1876 G. & J. Lines was formed by George and Joseph Lines and in 1910 the thistle trade mark was adopted. In 1913 the firm moved to the Down Lane, Tottenham, in North London and the Thistle Works was opened with its own private railway sidings. The firm of G. & J. Lines continued until the death of Joseph Lines in 1931.
In 1919 a separate firm, Lines Bros, was formed by three of Joseph Line's four sons, William, Walter and Arthur. The Lines brothers had worked in their father's firm since leaving school and after the First World War returned home and established their own company. One of the directors of the Board was the civil engineer, Sir Ralph Freeman, co-designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Lines brothers initially set up their factory in Ormside Street, on the Old Kent Road in South London, in 1921, but in 1924 moved their 533 staff to a new factory in Morden Road, Merton, in South London, near Wimbledon. At this time they registered their brand name as Tri-ang Toys, and adopted the familiar triangular logo of three lines (for the three Lines brothers) forming a triangle and hence the trade mark, Tri-ang. The factory was called the Tri-ang Works.
The firm quickly went from strength to strength producing a wide range of toys including bicycles, scooters, dolls, prams, pedal cars, ride-on toys, dolls houses, tin plate clockwork toys and model boats and aircraft. Some of their brand names used included Minic, Pennybrix, Pedigree, Arkitex, Tri-ang, Spot-on, Arrow, FROG and Wrenn.
Lines Bros went on to establish numerous subsidiary toy making firms, purchased companies and established other factories in Britain and Commonwealth countries around the world. In 1931 they bought the famous London toy store, Hamleys, registered Pedigree as a subsidiary doll-making firm, and established International Model Aircrafts Ltd which produced the FROG (flies right off the ground) flying model aircraft. They became a public company in 1933 and went on to purchase the Unity Cycle Co. in Birmingham and made children's tricycles and bicycles. They set up factories at Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in 1945 and Belfast in Northern Ireland, in 1946, which made soft toys. In the same year they purchased the New Zealand firm Joy Toys Ltd and in 1947 established a Canadian company with the trademark of a thistle. A half ownership in the well-known Sydney firm of Cyclops was undertaken in 1951 with a complete take over of Cyclops & Lines Bros (Australia) Ltd occurring in 1955. Further inroads into the Australian toy manufacturing scene occurred the following year when Lines Bros Ltd acquired the local plastics firm Moldex Ltd, enabling the Australian production of Pedigree dolls and Tri-ang model railways.
In the meantime back in England, Lines Bros had taken over Rovex Plastic Ltd for model train production at a factory in Margate, in Kent. More prams were added to the firm in 1957 with the take over the Simpson Fawcett company in 1957 and Scalextric in 1958. By this time Lines Bros Ltd claimed to be the largest toy manufacturer in the world with the fashion doll Sindy appearing in 1962 as a rival to Barbie, and Meccano Ltd, makers of Hornby trains and Dinky Toys, acquired in 1964. Lines Bros Ltd collapsed in 1971 due to unsuccessful overseas business and hesitant demand in Britain.
Production of Minic toy vehicles, which had begun by Tri-ang in 1935, resumed after the Second World War with the vehicles quite similar to pre-War models. However, there a number of ways of distinguishing pre-War models from post-war ones. The majority of pre-war toys had a Shell petrol can on the nearside running board and this feature was omitted after the War. Also, the front wings were rounded on pre-War vehicles and flared in post-War. A luggage rack was fitted to the rear of many of the toys before the War and this was replaced after the War with a number plate. The pre-War cars, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Daimler, had working headlights, while the post-War ones did not. With regard to the commercial vehicles, these were divided into fixed and articulated vehicles. The fixed body pre-War commercial vehicles had long bonnets and these were replaced post-War by a forward control cab. The post-War articulated models had a more streamlined look than before the War. These were referred to in Minic catalogues as the "Minic mechanical horse". Sometimes unusual colour combinations of Minic vehicles are extant today. These are said to have originated from the Lines Bros factory in New Zealand.
This toy bus is part of a large collection of toys purchased in 1985 from the remarkable tin toy collector Ken Finlayson. As a boy Finlayson admired steam trains but never owned a model train. As an adult he began collecting Hornby model trains, and his interest spread to other model trains and tin toys. He developed his collection at auctions, swap meets and market stalls, and through his connections with toy dealers and other serious collectors. Some toys were simply found sitting on the neglected shelves of remote country newsagencies, brand new and never opened.
Finlayson's knowledge and love of toys brought him a collection of nearly 2000 items, including highly collectable tinplate toys manufactured by respected names such as Carette, Bing, Marklin and Lehmann, as well as a variety of other German, English and Japanese makers. The Finlayson collection contains every type of transport toy - cars, trucks, tractors, fire engines, buses, motorcycles, aeroplanes, ships and trains,- as well as novelty toys, robots, kitchen toys and Meccano sets. It represents the type of toys that were available in Australia in the twentieth century, including ones made in this country by Boomaroo, Wyn-toy, Cyclops, Ferris and Robilt. These Australian toys were usually built from heavy gauge pressed steel rather than thin tinplate, making them sturdy enough for rough treatment in Australian backyards and sandpits.