Vintage Toy Train Show

17th June 2012
Diamond Jubilee Celebration of
Tri-ang Railways

Photos of the day

Tri-ang Diamond Jubilee Celebration

Perin’s School Alresford
unday 17th June 2012

A report by Show Organiser, Bob Leggett

As I was organising the annual Festival of Toy Trains on June 16th, the thought occurred to me that with so many Tri-ang fans at the Saturday show it might be possible to celebrate sixty years of Tri-ang Railways on the Sunday, Those I mentioned it to immediately sounded enthusiastic and preparations took place for the day.

It was important to have a good cross section from the early days to the golden age of Super 4; I also wanted a large central layout to be the focal point of the show.

Les Martin agreed to do the plan for the Super 4 layout using the boards I have accumulated over the years and Dave White, Neil Bowsher, Steve Smith, Paul Rees and Dave Lyon were all willing to supply items and help build it.

Others collectors offered layouts and displays and several traders showed an interest despite the potential of low attendance as it was a specialist show.

I will now describe the layouts and displays.

Tony Blackman set the scene with a display showing how Tri-ang Railways was formed with Trackmaster and Rovex sets, he also used the authors Tri-ang shop display to show the early locos. Tony set up an oval of the very first type track with brass rails and was running a plunger Princess and the rare ‘British Railways’ Jintys, so rare there was a double header!!!! Tony also had the first type ’Rich Uncle’ set and a display  of Tri-ang and Hornby locos celebrating sixty years of the Queens reign.

Dave White set up a nice display of the short lived Tri-ang Wrenn range including a rare shop display. Dave also had various Tri-ang Girder bridge sets on show.

Dave and Dale Angell had an interesting selection of Tri-ang and Tri-ang Hornby wooden boxed maintenance sets and associated items.

Eric Large was operating his superb TT layout and really went to town with the Kays Golden set, blue and grey coaches and continental stock all running regularly during the day.

Neil Smith was flying the flag for Transcontinental and had a wonderful display of just about everything from the range with many variations. Neil also had an early shop card display (which he had also reproduced others from) and had two ovals of track to show off the stock.  It was hands to ears when the double motor single ended diesel was running!

On stage Nick Gillman with help from John Bruce was running a series 3 clockwork layout. Nick just loves playing trains and it was a real delight to see the clockwork running so well, in fact too well on occasions as there was absolute carnage when I was watching a Diesel shunter throw off it’s trucks as it sped round eventually landing on the cushion at one end, one of the trucks finished on the station platform. The 0-6-2’s were more serene and Nick confirmed they were the best runners.

Steve Smith had his Big Big running all weekend. It was set up on stage boards and just ran well all day without any interference apart from regular changing of stock.

Along one end of the stage Dave White had on display a fantastic range of boxed sets and accessories. The artwork on these boxes bring back many memories and was much admired.

The centre of the room was taken up by the huge Super 4 layout. The total length was 8.4 metres with width moving from 2.12 metres down to 1.84 metres. Les had set up five main railways lines of which two were high level and two separate Minic Motorway circuits. The trains ran superbly all day and the rail circuits only required one electric feed, such is the quality of Super 4 track. Stock changed during the day with several long trains of Car-tics, Oil tankers and coaches. It really was a layout to watch at ground level and several of us were spotted with heads low down on the table.

Apart from trains we had Pat Hammond with a great selection of early Tri-ang Toys such as Minic Push and go, Rovex vans, Tri-ang Games, Penguin build a town and several boats. On another table was an interesting selection of Tri-ang catalogues and leaflets. Dave Lyon swapped his Minic Motorway on the Saturday to a wonderful display of Tri-ang Lionel Science sets including the famous inventor series and Weather and plastic moulding sets. This was very popular as we believe they sold poorly in the UK and are rarely seen in such condition.

Tri-ang Traders included Andrew Kwasniewski, Neil Langley, Elaine’s Trains, Marcus Holmes(from New Zealand), Peter Berry, Cliff Maddocks, Tony Oakes and Richard Wallace who all reported good sales. Also Ron's Signs was busy on the stage making totem signs.

Four Marks Scouts provided the refreshments all day and also raised £140 from the raffle.

My thanks to everyone who helped make the day such an enjoyable event. Over 200 came to the show including many children for whom admission was free. It was very encouraging to see so the children enjoy the trains. All the visitors were given a commemorative badge and a set of stickers made for the Tri-ang container trucks.

If we are all around in ten years time we may do it again. For those who missed it, Les and fellow builders have agreed to re-create the layout at next years Festival of Toy Trains.


Bob Leggett


A little bit of history

Just before the Second World War, Meccano Ltd launched Hornby Dublo 3-rail trains to rival the Trix Twin H0 gauge system, which had been introduced in 1936.  After the war, Lines Bros. Ltd, a major British toy manufacturer, which used the brand name 'Tri-ang', saw a big future in model railways and were looking for a suitable model railway manufacturing company that they could buy.

Many small businesses formed after the war produced toys, and two, Rovex Plastics Ltd and Pyramid Toys marketed 00 gauge train sets. Rovex produced toys for Marks & Spencer, who had asked them to produce a train set they could sell during the lead up to Christmas in 1950.  The set contained a model of the LMS Pacific locomotive Princess Elizabeth, together with two coaches and an oval of track.  At the same time, Pyramid Toys produced a clockwork train set, with an 0-6-2 tank engine, several wagons and track.  It was sold under the Trackmaster brand.

Despite a few teething troubles experienced by Rovex, their train set was successful.  However, Rovex did not have the funds to expand and needed someone to invest in their company. 

Lines Bros. Ltd purchased Rovex Plastics Ltd and also the tooling for the Trackmaster train set and launched their own Tri-ang Railways system in May 1952.  The trains were manufactured by, Rovex Plastics Ltd in their factory at Richmond in South London.  With Lines Bros. money behind it, the range was quickly expanded with a 'Jinty' 0-6-0 tank engine, more wagons and a range of station buildings.  A improved track standard system was designed and a number of different train sets marketed. This colourful, realistic 2-rail system was cheaper than Hornby Dublo, yet reliable, and Tri-ang train sets sold well, along with all the add-on accessories.  Gradually, throughout the 1950s, Rovex undermined their competitors and Tri-ang became the leading brand.

The company had been renamed Rovex Scale Models Ltd and a brand new, highly efficient, factory built for it at Margate in 1954.  This was designed for mass-production and was instrumental in keeping down the cost of Tri-ang Railways. By then Rovex were expanding into the export market with their Transcontinental range and by 1957 they were selling a model railway system to the smaller 3mm scale called Tri-ang Railways TT

Meccano Ltd, with their Hornby Dublo system, tried to compete by launching a 2-rail track system in the late '50s and introduced some excellent plastic buildings. However, they continued to support 3-rail and profits from other toys sales such as Dinky Toys and Meccano construction sets were falling due to strong competition from Corgi Toys, Matchbox and Lego.  Eventually, in 1964, the management at Meccano Ltd invited Lines Bros. Ltd to take them over and they became part of the Lines Group of companies.

Production of Hornby Dublo had already ceased by then, but to keep the name Hornby alive, it was decided to rename the Tri-ang Railways system - Tri-ang Hornby.  Only two Hornby Dublo items joined the Tri-ang Hornby range, the terminus station and the AC electric locomotive, but they were soon dropped.

In 1971, Lines Bros. were themselves in difficulty and the group, once the largest toy manufacturers in the world, with over 40 subsidiaries, was broken up.  Rovex survived intact and was sold to Dunbee Combex Marx, another British toy maker, but they could not buy the Tri-ang name, as it was sold with one of the other companies.  So the Tri-ang Hornby system was renamed Hornby Railways and today it is known as just 'Hornby'. 

Not only is this the 60th Anniversary of the launch of Tri-ang Railways, but it is also the 40th anniversary of Hornby Railways - and Hornby have celebrated this by releasing a special edition of the last Tri-ang Hornby locomotive to be developed - Evening Star.

I hope you enjoy our tribute to Tri-ang Railways.