Toy railway truck with cable drum, Hornby 'SR 39010' flat truck with 'B.I. Cables' cable drum, 0-gauge, metal/wood, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, 1939-1941
This toy railway truck with cable drum, made between 1939 and 1941, is one of the items of goods 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, 14 November, 2007
Flat trucks were introduced to the Hornby 0-gauge range in 1934 and were finished in light grey for the LMS (London, Midland & Scottish Railway), NE (London & North Eastern Railway) and GW (Great Western Railway) versions and brown for the SR (Southern Railway) one. The railway company initials appeared in white on the sides.
Flat trucks with cable drum loads attached also appeared in 1934. The first drums were made with printed labels for 'BI Cables' and thin black bands and black-stained wood. This changed in 1936 to green-stained drums. In 1937 labels with 'Liverpool Cables' and two Liver birds on each side appeared with the green-stained drums. The following year saw the addition of 'Regd Trade Mark' to the printed labels under the birds.
In the 1939 to 1941 period the cable drums reverted back to 'BI Cables' with broad straps and rivets on the outside and the drum was no longer stained. After the Second World War cable drums with 'Liverpool Cables' and the 'LEC' trademark appeared in place of the pre-war Liver birds. Single cords securing the load replaced the double cords in 1949. From this time flat trucks were finished in enamelled brown for the SR and LMS, dark grey for GW, and a bauxite colour for the NE. British Rail liveries replaced the pre-nationalisation ones in 1954 but the cable drums were unchanged. In 1956 the trucks were referred to as low-sided wagons and the No.50 low-sided wagon was available from 1957 until the late 1960s with a dummy brake lever on each side. The cable load on these was secured with thread rather than string.
Graebe, Chris and Julie, The Hornby Gauge 0 System, New Cavendish Books, London, 2002.
This toy railway truck with cable drum 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.