Toy railway van, Hornby 'Fyffes Bananas' private owner's van, 0-gauge, metal, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1931-1933
This toy railway 'Fyffes Bananas' van, made between 1931 and 1933, is one of the charming 'private owner' rolling stock items built by Meccano Ltd for their 0-gauge range of Hornby toy train layouts. 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, 3 December 2007
On full-size railways a private owner's wagon or van was provided for, or by, a particular customer of the railway, at the customer's expense. It was used exclusively for their traffic and labelled with the user's name. The first toy Hornby private owner's van was the 'Colman's Mustard' van released in the 1923 to 1924 period. It was constructed in the Meccano style 'nut and bolt' system and featured charming transfers and hinged doors. This was followed in the 1924 to 1925 period by the Seccotine van, Carr's biscuit van, Crawford's biscuit van and Jacob's biscuit van, each with a white roof. The biscuit van roofs were changed to match the body colours in 1925. Tabbed body construction was introduced for all vans in 1927 and automatic couplings in 1931.
The Fyffes banana van was introduced in 1931 with a green underframe and cream roof. Later that year all the van bodies were made with sliding doors instead of the hinged ones. However, it was found that the transfers for the Seccotine and biscuit vans were unsuitable for this design and from 1933 the hinged doors were reinstated for these vans.
In 1932 the Cadbury's chocolate van was introduced with hinged doors. Changes in some of the colours occurred in 1933. The Carr's and Cadbury's vans (with a green underframe instead of black) both appeared in a lighter blue. The Fyffes van changed from a green underframe to red with a red roof, and the Seccotine van had a new red roof. After the manufacture of new transfers, in 1935 all the vans were fitted with sliding doors, and the Cadbury's van underframe went back to being black. The Seccotine van was removed from the range in 1935 and the Fyffes banana vans had new transfers of a darker blue. In 1938 the lettering font changed on the Cadbury's van from serif to block and the Crawford's van transfers now read 'by Appointment to the late King George V'.
The Palethorpe's sausage van was introduced in 1938 with a grey roof and black underframe. The following year the Fyffe's banana van changed from a red underframe to a black one. There were no private owner vans in this series made after the Second World War.
Graebe, Chris and Julie, "The Hornby Gauge 0 System", New Cavendish Books, London, 2002
Jackson, Alan A., "The Railway Dictionary: An A-Z of Railway Terminology", Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, Gloucestershire, England, 1992.
This toy railway van 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.