Thursday 31 December 2020

Modelling Manufacturer Mystery (2)

 So Who Was Mettoy Playcraft?

Mettoy Company Ltd. was founded in the UK in the early 1930s by Philipp Ullmann and Arthur Katz, who had both been part of the Nuremburg toy industry community, until the rise of the Nazi Party forced them to leave Germany.

The Mettoy name was registered in 1932, and the company commenced making traditional Nuremburg-style tinplate lithographed toys (with or without clockwork motors) in 1934, at a site in Northampton.

As with most toy manufacturers, production switched to war work during World War Two, and Mettoy Company’s wartime work focused on pressed steel products such as canisters and ammunition boxes, which forced the company to look at new processes and techniques, and move beyond their original "comfort zone" of Nuremberg-style printed tinplate.

Towards the end of the War, Mettoy started planning a major new factory in Fforestfach, Swansea, Wales, with work starting in 1948, and the factory being opened in 1949 by George VI.

After the success of Mettoy, Katz founded Playcraft Toys Ltd. as a separate company in 1949 to explore manufacturing of plastic toys. By 1956, Playcraft were advertising their main range as being "Painting by Numbers", "Picture Carving" and "Playtown Building Kits".

Playtown was a range of plastic clip-together kits that included the walls, roofs, doors, windows and signage needed to make a variety of town buildings.

Playcraft went on (in around 1961) to distribute a range of inexpensive mostly-plastic HO-scale model railways and pieces, with manufacture subcontracted to the French company Jouef.
The two companies were subsequently merged.

All Playcraft Railways models were to Jouef's HO scale of 3.5 mm to the foot, so noticeably smaller than a UK model of a comparable piece of rolling stock.

Most of the train models were simply French wagons and coaches labelled as if they were British, There was a UK brake van ...
... a couple of UK coaches ...
... and a mineral wagon ...
... but fbb's bogie tank wagon was definitely not from This Sceptred Isle!
For your modest money you get a French wagon with a "Shell" paper label stuck on ...
... plus a UK style safety and contents notice also as a sticky label.
Underneath the model is "owned" by Playcrtaft ...
... but manufactured by Jouef. For their UK market, Playcraft fitted their rolling stock with Peco style couplings.
fbb's four wheeled tank wagon is so equipped; but, look at what recently arrived!
The bogie wagon had a variant of the Triang "hook and bar" coupling. A peruse of pictures on-line suggests that these weird non-standard fitments appeared on a whole range of Playcraft stuff ...
... but also the same vehicle appears with Peco at each end.
Even their only genuine UK loco is offered with both at different times.
Maybe it is a date thing. This catalogue illustration from the very early days of Playcraft Railway (1961) clearly shows the "Triang" type.
If any one "out there" can explain what happened coupling-wise, please contact your inquisitive author at:-

One thing does seem clear from on-line evidence; the little kiddies "toy" range has an even wierder system of uni-directional hooks and bars ...
... hook on one end of the wagon, bar on the other - nice and easy for the little ones to get wrong!

And, in case you wondered, Jouef in Europe sold the same bogie tank wagon as recently acquired by fbb with "continental" coupling add French labels.
The wagon is a model of a French prototype, fotr which fbb could find no pictures, but it has a passing similarity to a USA version.
And this is a Kleinbahn model of a French bogie tanker.

Also : Arriving Yesterday ...
A rare and usually laughably expensive Hornby Dublo bogie tank wagon produced just before threcompany went phut.
One sold recently at auction for £140!! fbb paid a smidgen under £40 post free using his Christmas spending money - of which he received £00.00 this year.

Beautiful Snow ...
If you can just look at it! Less so if you have to drive through it and even less so if you have passengers to care for.

Electric trains and snow don't always go together. Here a First South Western Railway 444 ...
... leaves Farnombe sparktacularly in Monday's snow.

And Farewell ...
The original Heathrow Express units are being withdrawn and replaced by more "normal" trains. In what seem a crackpot decision, these not too old trains are going for scrap. Whilst during the present unprecedented circumstances there are plenty of seats on plenty of trains, you would have thought they might have been of use somewhere on the network.

Now here's an idea. Vivarail could fit steam engines burning environmentally acceptable biomass and use them on quiet branches. It has been done before.
But now we have Brexit done, fbb celebrates by moving briefly into Europe.

Remembering JFK's 1963 memorable "I am a jam doughnut" speech ...
... tomorrow fbb takes his readers to Berlin.

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Modelling Manufacturer Mystery (1)

 Corgi Versus Dinky

By modern standards, Corgi Toys Routemaster Bus was a fairly crude model. But it was much, much better than the Dinky Toys traditional double deck bus of the time,
Dinky finally caught up ...
... but Corgi continued to improve ...
... with shiny silvered wheels and a paper sticker for the destination blind and advert panels.

Today an OO gauge Routemaster is produced by EFE and is a vastly superior model - AND it has recently been re-tooled ...
... with even more detail where there was none before!

It seems unlikely that many of today's diecast model vehicles will be whizzed around dirt roads in thr back garden as were those of a chubby little fbb, Mind you, Neighbour Keith Bonham's collection of lorries, tractors and trailers were only enjoyed on his bedroom floor. Loaded and unloaded with tiny bundles of cut-short matchsticks, Keith ran a busy haulage business from a cardboard warehouse under the bed. fbb was seethingly jealous, aged 9.

The opinion on the street was that Corgis were superior to Dinkys ...

... even after Dinky bucked their ideas up. Dinky failed first, however, with the collapse of Meccano Ltd in 1963.

So where did Corgi come from?

Mettoy Playcraft Ltd was the name of a range of toys manufactured in Northampton and Fforestfach Swansea, between the 1930s and 1980s. The Mettoy (Metal Toy) company was founded in 1933 by German émigré Philip Ullmann and was later joined by South African-born German Arthur Katz who had previously worked for Ulmann at his toy company Tipp and Co of Nuremberg. The firm made a variety of lithographed metal wind-up toys.

Both Jewish, they moved to Britain following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. The firm is most famous for its line of die-cast toy motor vehicles of their Corgi Toys branch created in 1956.

The company was sold in 1984 with the assets of the company transferred to Corgi Toys but it folded shortly after.

The Playcraft side of the company came to fbb's notice as he was firstly researching and then amassing a collection of OO gauge tank wagons. It appeared that Playcraft offered two such, one four-wheeled ...

... and one with bogies.
Bogie tank wagons with two big filler caps have been popular models over the years ...
... even with three fillers!
But only the Playcraft version was readily available for OO gauge track; in 1963 it cost 5/6 (five shilling and six pence - 27½ pence).

Photos of real life versions are rare but, inevitably, there is an on-line enthusiast who has documented every wagon from the TW, TWF and TWX classes ...

... all of which were owned or operated by Victorian Railways.
In case the superfluity of festive fare has dulled our readers' usually alert brain cells, that is NOT as in railways from the time of Queen Victoria but trains operated by the state railways of Victoria, Australia.

But when fbb spotted a Playcraft bogie tank wagon on offer on EBay at a modest price (sadly slightly marred by rip-off postage charges) ...

... fbb just had to press the "buy now" button and excitedly await its arrival.

The model duly arrived but it did spark a certain amount of mystery and confusion.

Tomorrow's blog will reveal all; possibly with too much post festive excitement!

Red Arrow Revolutionary Re-Routeing

Red Arrow 500 was the first of what was intended to be THE bus for central London. (see also bendibus.) At a flat fare of a tanner (6d, 2½p) with slot machines and turnstiles, the concept was designed to speed boarding, simplify fares and be super smashing and swizzy for the bustling metropolis.

Sadly, the ticket machines were unreliable, the turnstliles were slow and eventually the Red Arrows (of which there were many) became normal buses. By the time the tanner had inflated to 20p, the bosses decided that the 500 should morph into a shoppers bus as well as a commuter short hop.

There was a leaflet (remember them?) and a map ...
... and, according to said leaflet, the 500 stopped INSIDE some of the Oxford Street clothes shops!
Maybe not, eh? 

You could also buy a Dinky Toy Red Arrow bus.
You could own one today for about £80. DOUBLE OUCH!

 Next Mini-Blog : Thursday 31st December