British Toy Trains

 British Toy Trains, Books 1 to 5 by Michael D. Foster

Michael Foster needs no introduction to the world of book writing on the subject of model trains. His first book on the history of Hornby-Dublo was first published in 1980 by New Cavendish Books, which stayed in print until 2012 and it is believed to be the most popular model railway book ever published. The print finally stopping in 2012, after 32 years, 50,000 copies and is still the definitive work on Dublo.

The books Michael has now written are a five-part series, and the subject matter is all about tinplate O gauge manufactured in the UK from 1872 to 1972.  Michael has been researching the subject for over the last 30 years and the depth is staggering to say the least. There is though, no detail reference on Hornby, Bassett Lowke or the likes of Leeds; books have already been published on these brands, and are only mentioned in context. This new series of books are an in-depth study of the tinplate toy trains sold, for most part, cheaply. This was via such famous stores as Marks and Spencers or Woolworths (UK), from 1919 – 1959 when in their mainstay.  The first of the books, covers the smaller companies such as Palitoy and Chad Valley. This book deals with each of the company’s history and then goes on to a detailed analysis of the tinplate trains themselves. This same format is throughout the entire series. There is extensive catalogue, trade and newsprint about each of the company’s studied. This is not only a book about toy tinplate trains, it is UK social history as well. The second book continues on with other smaller brands such as British Marx and A Wells Co. Ltd. One of the great aspects of these books is the readability of them all. The narrative style of writing is of a story line nature and as such is very easy not to put down, while reading. Some books of this calibre are series of facts, these are not, you could spend many hours reading if just slightly interested in the subject.

The third and fourth books covers the Brimtoy company which is over two volumes. If Brimtoy is what is collected, then these two volumes are a must. The volumes are full of colour photos of the trains, detailed variations, and are a delight to view at leisure. The colour richness of tinplate within the graphics is really highlighted which is the great charm of tinplate. This aspect of the books was done by Michael Fosters collaborator Michael Bows, a tin toy collector, artist and writer, which is obvious with the very fine presentation.

The final book 5 in the series is on Mettoy Ltd and has only just been printed weeks ago in December 2018. Of the five books this is my favourite, as the association of Mettoy and the Corgie cars was something we all had as children in the 1960’s and 1970’s, ‘The ones with the windows’.  The section on the A4 locos is very interesting, there is even a ‘Commonwealth of Australia’ A4 along with many other named A4’s. Mettoy was probably the biggest of the toy train tinplate manufacturers, located in Swansea, South Wales and was even larger than Meccano Ltd. The main character behind the company was a Mr. Arthur Katz (A.K.), who would always admit he was a ‘Toyman first” and a ‘Business man second’. Under his leadership the company prospered greatly in the 1950’s and 60’s employing up to some 3500 people. In the early days before Mettoy’s great expansion there is a lovely story; each morning A.K. would greet each worker at the factory door and knew every employee by name….

At the end of the day these books are a reference work on any of the brands covered by Michael. The print runs seem to be limited and it would not be expected they will continue on a print run of 32 years. As such they are a worthwhile addition to the tinplate collection and the books will be certainly be collected themselves as reference works. 

The books are of a A4 landscape format, bound with a soft cover. The length of the books do vary, the range is from 130 to 210 depending on the title. Details of the individual books are below.

Book 1, Whitanco I Burnett I Chad Valley I Palitoy I Astra  I DMCT – Limited supply  

Book 2, Dunham, White & Betal I British Marx I A Wells & Co Ltd.

Book 3, Brimtoy Ltd & Wells-Brimtoy Ltd. 1914-1945 

Book 4, Wells-Brimtoy Ltd. 1946-1991 I & ‘One Hit Wonders’ 

Book 5, Mettoy Ltd.  

If you interested in any of the books, please contact via email on the home page of this MKN Digital website. Emails will be forwarded to Michael Foster.

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