Toy steam locomotive, Hornby No.2 Special Tank Locomotive 'LNER 1784' type 4-4-2, clockwork operated, 0-gauge, metal, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1932-1941
This toy steam locomotive, made between 1932 and 1941, is one of the items of rolling stock built by Meccano Ltd for their 0-gauge range of Hornby toy trains. The Hornby toy trains and accessories are a microcosm of railway social and technological history in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century.
Trains were the first form of modern transport to be reproduced as toys. Wooden pull-along trains were available in Britain from the 1840s, not long after the commercial introduction of full-size railways. By the 1870s the wooden toy train was replaced with tin-plate locomotives, hauling carriages, which were often powered by clockwork or steam. The German toy manufacturers dominated the world market at this time. The First World War broke this monopoly and the rise of patriotism in Britain saw an emphasis on local toy production there.
The scene was set for the English inventor of Meccano, Frank Hornby, to market his 0-gauge trains in 1920. Hornby trains became the most comprehensive ever produced. The series developed into finely-detailed locomotives, as well as commercial vans, wagons and tankers together with a range of accessories including stations, goods sheds, signals, crossings, water tanks and signal boxes. They were exported from the Liverpool factory to many countries including Australia, Canada, Egypt, New Zealand, Rhodesia and South Africa. In Australia, Hornby trains of the four major British railway companies became as familiar to boys as Australian rolling stock.
Two years after Frank Hornby's death in 1936 Meccano Ltd introduced the smaller Hornby Dublo (00-gauge) table top trains which were more affordable and convenient than the 0-gauge. This gauge became the most popular type of toy trains for the next 50 years. From the late 1950s no further effort was devoted to 0-gauge trains and by the 1960s their popularity had diminished. Today model railway production is aimed at adult collectors and is increasingly removed from the traditional children's toy trains. Many of the original collectors have kept and added to their interwar childhood 0-gauge toy train layouts with stations, tunnels, landscapes and rolling stock forming a historical diorama of twentieth century land transport.
Marsh, Hugo, "Miller's Toys & Games Antiques Checklist", Reed International Books Limited, London, 1995
Margaret Simpson, 26 October, 2007
Hornby No.2 Special Tank Locomotives appeared in 1929 and replaced the No.2 Tank Locomotive of 4-4-4 wheel configuration. The usual seven liveries were available: the LMS red locomotive '2323' (passenger), LMS black '6781' (goods), LNER green '6' (passenger), LNER black '5154' (goods), GW green '4703', SR green 'B329' (passenger) and SR black 'E492' (goods). The passenger GW '4703' was distinguished from the goods version by a copper capped chimney. By 1930 front and rear lamp brackets had been added and the LMS passenger locomotive changed from its number from '2323' to '2180' and the GW from '4703' to '2221'. Also in 1930 the No.2 Electric Tank Locomotive was introduced fitted with a 6-volt mechanism and black driving wheels.
The front buffers of the locomotives were lowered from 1931 and the back bunker was redesigned. In 1932 the green LNER locomotive changed its number from '6' to '1784'. From 1933 the 20-volt LST2/20 Electric Tank Locomotive became available. Also in that year the green SR locomotive changed from 'B329' to '2329' and the black SR from 'E492' to '492'. In 1934 the electric locomotives were renamed the 'E26' and 'E220' Special Tank Locomotives and updated mechanisms were fitted. Generally the electric locomotives were closer to the ground than the clockwork ones.
In 1935 the green SR number was changed again from '2329' to '2091' and the red LMS from '2323' to '6954'. The transfer on the GW locomotives was changed from carrying the wording 'Great Western' to the monogram 'GWR' and from 1936 the LNER locomotives were a darker green. Also in 1936 the wheels on the locomotives were changed to Mazac and push-fit wheels added from 1937. Matt finish versions of the No.2 and E220 Special Tank Locomotives appeared in 1939.
After the Second World War production resumed at Meccano in 1948 and the designs for the clockwork locomotives were updated and reissued as the Type 1101 Tank Locomotives in the liveries of the four railway companies.
Graebe, Chris and Julie, "The Hornby Gauge 0 System", New Cavendish Books, London, 2002
This toy steam locomotive is part of a large collection purchased by the Museum in 1985 from the tin toy collector, Ken Finlayson. As a boy, Finlayson admired steam trains but never owned a train set. As an adult he began collecting Hornby model trains, and his interest spread to other toy trains and tin toys. He increased 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 neglected on the 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 tin-plate 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 throughout most of the twentieth century, including ones made here by Boomaroo, Wyn-toy, Cyclops, Ferris and Robilt. These Australian toys were usually built from heavy-gauge pressed steel rather than thin tin plate, making them sturdy enough for rough treatment in Australian backyards and sandpits.