Toy electric locomotive, Hornby No.1 HV Metropolitan locomotive, metal, 0-gauge, electrically operated, made by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, c.1927
This toy electric locomotive, made in about 1927, was 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, 28 November, 2007
Meccano Ltd released the high voltage (HV) Metropolitan locomotive and two carriages in 1925 as the 'Hornby Electric Train'. It was Hornby's first electric train to be sold and was said to have been their first true-to-type version of an actual locomotive. In the first model, the No.1 Metropolitan high voltage (HV), the wheels were not coupled and the electric motor was fitted with reduction gearing. The locomotive was connected directly to mains power and understandably was withdrawn from the home market in 1926. It was replaced in the same year by the 4-volt low voltage (LV) No.2 Metropolitan locomotive intended for use with accumulators instead of mains power. Also released in 1926 was the clockwork (C) No.3 Metropolitan locomotive which did not have the electric lights on the front and rear ends as the electric ones did.
In 1927 the No.1 Metropolitan was released again and from the following year all Metropolitan locomotives had diecast alloy wheels instead of cast-iron ones. Also from 1928, the No.3 Metropolitan locomotives were referred to as HV, LV, and C, instead of Nos 1, 2 and 3 respectively. In 1929 the LV locomotive was changed from a 4 to a 6-volt mechanism with protruding brush caps which necessitated a large cut out in the side of the locomotive. By the early 1930s the clockwork Metropolitan locomotive was being fitted with the No.2 Special mechanism which saw the keyhole move up into the centre of the panelling. From 1934 the LV Metropolitan locomotive, by now referred to as the E36, was fitted with flat sided brush holders. The last development was in 1938 to 1939 period when 20-volt automatic reverse motors were fitted to the locomotives now termed, the E120. These were sold as an alterative to the E36. All versions of Metropolitan trains were not sold after 1939.
Graebe, Chris and Julie, "The Hornby Gauge 0 System", New Cavendish Books, London, 2002 .
This toy electric 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.