Toy railway wagon, Hornby No.1 side tipping wagon, 'Sir Robt. McAlpine & Sons London Public Works Contractors', 0-gauge, metal, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1939-1941
This toy railway tipping wagon, made between 1939 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
Curator, Science & Industry
Hornby first released the side tipping wagon in 1923 and it was finished in grey with red lining and the wording 'Tilting Wagon', later changed to 'Tipping Wagon'. By 1924 gold transfers were added to the tipper section with 'Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, London'. In 1925 use of the 'Tipping Wagon' transfer was discontinued. Two years later, the colour of the wagon changed from grey to blue in 1927 with the same McAlpine transfer and lining. In 1929 new transfers were added to the tipping wagon with the wording 'Robert Hudson Ltd, Leeds, Light Railway Engineers'. However, the McAlpine ones were discontinued in 1930. The colour of the tipping wagon changed again from a blue to a yellow tipper on a light blue base in 1933. With the introduction of the MO version of the tipping wagon in 1935 the standard tipping wagon was referred to as the No.1 tipping wagon.
In 1938 the Robert Hudson transfers were replaced with new McAlpine ones with the changed wording 'Sir Robt. McAlpine & Sons, London. Public Works Contractors'. The base of this was also altered from blue to black in 1939. After the effects of the Second World War production resumed in 1948 and the No.1 side tipping wagon was released in a buff colour on a black base. In about 1956 the tipper was changed from buff to green but the transfers remained the same.
In 1957 the No.50 side tipping wagon, with the dummy brake handle, replaced the No.1 side tipping wagon. New transfers were produced with the wording 'Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd. Civil Engineering Contractors'. The No.50 side tipping wagon was available until 1969.
Graebe, Chris and Julie, "The Hornby Gauge 0 System", New Cavendish Books, London, 2002.
This toy railway wagon 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.