Toy railway container, Hornby refrigerated meat container 'GWR FM 1908 Insul-Meat', 0-gauge, timber/paper, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1948-1954
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 propulsion. 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.
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 in Britain. 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 towers and signal boxes. They were exported from the Liverpool factory to all corners of the British Empire 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 distant from the traditional children's toy railways. Many of the original collectors have kept and added to their interwar childhood 0-gauge toy railway layouts with stations, tunnels, landscapes and rolling stock forming an historical diorama of twentieth century land transport.
The insulated meat container is one of the items of freight used with rolling stock made by Meccano Ltd from 1936 for their 0-gauge range of Hornby toy railways. These containers illustrate the move to containerisation of the British rail system which by the early 1930s were becoming wide spread. Although much smaller than today's containers, they carried a considerable capacity and served a number of purposes. The toy version produced by Hornby added considerable 'play' value to any railway set especially when used in conjunction with the Hornby toy platform crane. 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.
Marsh, Hugo, "Miller's Toys & Games Antiques Checklist", Reed International Books Limited, London, 1995.
Margaret Simpson, 20 August, 2007
Toy containers for carrying on flat trucks were introduced by Hornby in 1936. They could be bought separately or with a flat truck. The containers came in four different types, one for each railway company: furniture for LMS (London, Midland and Scottish Railway), goods for LNER (London and North Eastern Railway), refrigerated (referred to as insulated meat on the container) for GW and ventilated meat for SR (Southern Railway). After the Second World War they reappeared in 1948 with the LMS and NE containers remaining unchanged but the GW meat container in cream with a grey roof instead of white. The SR ventilated meat container in reddish brown placed the pre-War silver one. After nationalisation of the British railways containers with BR (British Rail) liveries appeared in 1954 for furniture and for insulated meat in 1955. These remained unchanged when teamed with the new No.50 flat trucks from 1957.
Graebe, Chris and Julie, "The Hornby Gauge 0 System", New Cavendish Books, London, 2002.
This toy railway container 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.