The Collection - The Disease

Dear Marjorie - My husband is 46 years old and spends most of his time playing with toy trains. He doesn't pay any attention to me these days.

Dear M - You have my deepest sympathy! Unfortunately, this condition is well known and is usually terminal. Very few people ever fully recover. However, you can turn this situation to your advantage! Trainaholics are so oblivious to their surroundings that you can bring as many men back to the house as you want - your man will never know!

Whatever you do though, don't get rid of your train fanatic - they are notoriously good at paying the bills! Blessings

When I first read this letter in a women's magazine I was shocked, devastated, mortified........

It took me a while to comprehend the truth in these words, but I am determined to 'clean up' my act.

No more trains!

The disease started .......... continue reading my incredibly boring history


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hornby Dublo - The Alternative Story

Hornby Dublo finally quit the 3-rail system in March of 1964. It ceased train production altogether in December of the same year. In May of the following year Hornby Dublo merged with Tri-ang……and that, doctor, is about the time that I lost interest in history.

The Hornby Dublo system was designed to bring the scale of train models down from the clunky ‘O’ guage, that took up the entire sitting room floor and made grandad say some funny words when he stood on it, to a more manageable and versatile level. It was pricey stuff at the time, but the quality - oh! … I mean FEEL that quality sir – none of your cheap Telford steel in there!

’OO’ scale worked out at 1:76.8 or 5/32nd inches to the foot in old money. This meant that the locomotives would fit in a pocket. The 1:43 ‘O’ guage was too large even for the voluminous pockets in my school trousers!

The Hornby Dublo system was designed by Donald Smith, Ernest Lee and Ronald Wyborn who had the enviable job of playing with trains all day long, or so I’m told and the creation shone like another diamond in the already famous Meccano crown.


Get Paid To Submit Photos To The Internet!


Meccano put it all together in their Liverpool factory until 1964 when they lost interest in railways and pulled the plug on Dublo. Right up to this day they have kept secret the supplier of those lovely cardboard boxes that have become more sought after than the contents. That is the zenith of marketing! Hornby even started a Dublo members club called The Hornby Railway Company, just so they could flood computers with tempting emails. Errrr…. Maybe they didn’t have email then. How did we ever manage without email? Oh…and the Binns Road factory in Liverpool, where Hornby Dublo was made, was demolished in 1980, but thankfully all the employees got out before the demolition ball started swinging.

Of course, Meccano were the masters of marketing back in ‘the olden days’. Even in 1938 they produced a monthly magazine telling people all the wonderful things they could do with Meccano. However, they possessed the imaginations of goldfish compared to what has been done with the little bits of coloured tin since then:

Mad Meccano Scientist Video

In the September issue of Meccano Magazine in 1938, Hornby Dublo made its grand debut. It was a hit.

A Few Friends Gather To Celebrate Hornby Dublo - 1938


12 Hour Cure For Yeast Infection


The range was continually developed and enhanced and the Dublo line blossomed until 1942, when wartime demand for metal to lob at Hitler meant that toy trains took a back seat. Fortunately, Hitler faked his death in a bonfire party outside his mansion in 1945 (also known as a bunker for some reason) and possibly escaped to California and the underground world of Telos. I think its more likely that he was offered a job with one of the giant financial corporations where he received billions of dollars in bonuses for stimulating ‘re-build’ economies around the world. Sensibility eventually returned, the war ended and the more important business of making kiddies toy trains recommenced in 1947.

During this down period, the factory produced items for ‘war use’. Rumour has it that miniature spy trains and dinky toys with built-in cameras were dropped over Germany to gather intelligence. Curious job that, because there is no such thing as intelligence in war.

Did you wince when you read that?

Back to the story – The original rolling stock were made entirely from metal, a mixture of casting, printed tinplate and enameled tin (mostly roofing on wagons and coaches) ….. yawwwwn!. Even the wheels and axles were metal which made a terrific racket designed to add authenticity and annoy the hell out of your granny. They continued with the heavy-metal culture all the way from 1938 until ’57.

The chassis of the rolling stock were diecast using a substance called ‘Mazac’ – presumably an acronym for something entirely useful. Even wheels were made from Mazac until 1950, when a noisier version made from sintered iron was discovered. Mazac caused a few problems though and developed some serious structural defects when the quality controller discovered Prozac, fell asleep on the job, spilled his coffee into the crucible and a large batch of parts passed through that later fell apart due to inter-crystalline corrosion. This was pretty unimportant though and I shouldn’t dwell on one tiny little hiccough when today’s car makers can make bigger cock-ups and then ask the government to bail them out to the tune of billions of dollars. Aaahh!..sorry – I’m off on another rant.

Safe to say Mazac and the quality controller saw it through to the end days of Hornby Dublo production. The rest of it was sold off to the water companies to put in drinking water. ‘Good for health’ said the report. They bought it, just like they buy the rest of the toxic junk that the ‘pharmaceuticals’ say is good for human health. Pah!

In 1950 they decided to beef up the locomotives with a new heavy duty chassis and Alnico magnets instead of the horseshoe type. They also took notice of parental complaints that they couldn’t hear the damned radio when the trains were running. Suppressors were fitted to the motors and the neighbours also stopped banging on the wall.

In 1958, here it comes… PLASTIC – totally chewable parts. The wheels and couplings were the first to fall victim, quickly followed by the bodywork of most of the rolling stock. From late 1960 onwards, coaches had plastic roofs that buckled in the sun and a few coaches even had the full plastic surgery job. For some reason, the tank wagons were always made from printed tin and diecast.

Hornby Dublo appeared to grow tired of trains after the war though and never really re-entered the spirit of the business. Tri-ang bought the tools and had a go at flogging the stuff for a little while from 1965 before passing the baton and the remaining stock to Wrenn in 1968. They couldn’t flog it either (or they didn’t want to!) Wrenn was more interested in making toy trains so small that they would fit into the new miniature houses that became so popular when house prices took off with a bigger impact on the economy than the entire Second World War.

I’m getting awfully political here and I feel my blood pressure rising….SIGH. I read that somewhere – sighing helps to reduce blood pressure….. but don’t believe EVERYTHING you read!

1959 saw the introduction of the Hornby Dublo 2-rail system. This only lasted for 6 years though, before it was palmed off on to Tri-ang. The 3-rail stuff continued to be produced up until 1964, but by then they were using plastic and, well, the rest is history.

The Hornby Dublo buildings were interesting. From 1938 until 1941 the buildings were all wooden. Can you imagine that happening today?

In 1960 the new range of plastic buildings was introduced and I have to say that they survived my leaking roof better than wood and paper. In 1950 they also had a go at casting aluminium into stations and signal boxes. Now then, I would like all Americans to try this word as it is written.

Phonetically and all together now A L U M I N I U M

Did you notice the second ‘I’ in the word? PRONOUNCE IT THEN! If it was meant to be ALUMINUM it would have been spelled like that! It’s Latinium – like barium, atrium, conium and euphonium!

Right, who else can I ‘pick-on’? 

The funny thing is, well actually it’s not so funny, but…Frank Hornby never received a single penny from Hornby Dublo or the later Hornby trains sets that carried his name. Mr Hornby died, even before the drawings of the first chuffer made it to his desk. It was in a meeting in 1937 about new products that the idea of shrinking the ‘O’ guage to ‘OO’ was first mooted. Frank died the previous year. However, he was exceedingly rich when he went though, Meccano was a success beyond dreams.

The ‘Dublo’ part came from George Jones, a commercial director with the company, who presumably, spent some time in Texas at the same school that trained and released George Bush Jr. upon society.

The 3-rail system was quite an innovation. The base was the usual printed tin with resinous wafers of Paxolin or ‘Pax’ board as it’s known in the trade, insulating the center rails. With the exception of its debut year (1938) all the rails were nickel plated brass. If you have any track with cardboard insulation and plated steel rail, that was due to the Korean war, which created a shortage of materials in 1951. Another war disrupting the serious business of model trains? Can God ever get over the crass stupidity of mankind?

Here’s something interesting – get a copy of the Hornby Dublo 1957 catalogue, because Dad’s grown an extra finger! Once again it’s funny how the collectors of paper and cardboard will pay more for a 1957 catalogue than they will for a 1954 catalogue.

More boring data:

A full straight track is 11½ inches long. You would need 1,317,130,435 sections of track to make it to the moon on an average day.

In 1940 the points were made with a plain grey painted base and no-one knows why. Prior to that date they had printed bases like the rest of the track. Answers on a postcard please.

Standard curves were made to provide a 15” radius circle.
In 1940 the larger radius curve of 17¼ inches was created so that two tracks could run parallel around the curve.

I hope you enjoyed this potted plant history of The Dublo empire. If you have any comments to make about my political agenda, please keep them to yourself.

Ok – let’s get back into the box to see what else we can find to stimulate you with…..and don’t say this isn’t riveting stuff – YOU are still reading it! 

1 comment:

  1. Oh I just loved it.
    Yes I know, you were told that when you left school you should take up journalism. Yes, I know you wanted to be a butcher, and like me, you would not take any notice.
    I guess like me now, you look back on life, and realising what a wretched affair it is, the joy in one's childhood must be relived.
    Well that makes it all appear rather sane.