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Footplate, the home of model railway in Kidderminster has been alive and kicking for 10 years now. Model Railways have an interesting history from the Birmingham Dribbler to the modern models of today. Frank Hornby was granted his patent for a construction kit in the early 1900s and he soon put the invention into production under the name Mechanics Made Easy. Meccano production continued during the First World War and Hornby took the opportunity to introduce toy trains in 1920.
Hornby Trains were an instant success and the company was quick to introduce more engines and accessories.
Production stopped during the Second World War (1939 - 1945) but Hornby Dublo soon reappeared once the war was over, although without a clockwork range.
1947: The four tank 0-6-2 goods sets reappear just in time for Christmas trade, with the new "Peco" coupling.
1948: The loco "Duchess of Atholl" with LMS coaches appear, in boxed sets only, having been advertised in 1939 but never produced. 1950: Improved, heavier, loco chassis introduced, with powerful new "Alnico" magnet replacing the Horseshoe type, and radio interference suppressor fitted. 1957: Plastic wheels and axles start to appear on rolling stock, as a prelude to introduction of a 2-rail system. 1959: 2-rail system officially announced, though full supplies were not available until Autumn. The "Hornby-Dublo Book of Trains" announced, by far the most lavish publication on the subject of Meccano Ltd. 1960: New ring-field motor for "Castle" and class 8F 2-8-0 locos, but not applied to any earlier models.
1960: Super-detail coaches, nearer to scale length than previous models, with plastic roof and body ends but retaining printed tinplate sides and steel underframes.
1961: The 3-rail steam loco models are re-vamped with some improvements and mainly new identities. The new owners announce the end of the 3-rail system, but allow some 2-rail manufacture to continue, including a new model of the A.C.
December 1964: Actual end of Hornby-Dublo production, with the infamous track-cleaning wagon, believed to be the smallest production run in Hornby-Dublo. Rovex Plastics Ltd was founded in 1946 by Alexander Venetzian who made toys for Marks & Spencer.
Demand for the new models was so great that in 1951 Rovex bought the tools of a goods train set made by Pyramid Toys Ltd. The range gradually expanded with the LMS Jinty 0-6-0 tank engine, a range of station buildings and a guards van and other wagons by 1953.
There were now 25 locomotives in the range and an extensive range of British and Transcontinental rolling stock.
Much of this growth was at the expense of other manufacturers including and the two main rival systems, Trix and Hornby-Dublo.. By this time, production of Hornby-Dublo had already ceased but there were large stocks to clear. This was presented at the time as an amalgamation of the two systems but the only additions this brought to the Tri-ang system were the E3000 Electric Locomotive (after extensive modification) and, for a brief period, the terminus station kit.
The 1970s saw new challenges come from Airfix and Palitoy who both launched model railway systems that offered finer scale models.
In 1980 DCM were in trouble and Hornby Hobbies Ltd., as it was now called, became an independent company through a management buyout, with the help of venture capital. Changes taking place on British Railways brought new liveries thus offering more subjects to model. Hornby Hobbies now has its models made by Sanda Kan in China and has substantially upgraded its range.
Bassett-Lowke set up by W J Bassett Lowke in Northampton was both a sales organisation and a manufacturer.
Their first 15-inch gauge steam locomotive, in 1905 was Little Giantand test run on the Eaton Hall Railway. In 1914, Bassett-Lowke produced only the second Pacific 4-6-2 of any size to be built in Britain (the first being the GWR's 111 The Great Bear).
In the 1920s, W J Bassett-Lowke recognised that the larger gauges could not be accomodated in the houses then being built and introduced 00 gauge products that were initially based on Bing products and with design input from Henry Greenly. In 1964 the company ceased its retail sales and sold its shops, including the famous one at High Holborn in London, to Beatties.

The brand name was in 1996 acquired by Corgi, which has now linked it with live steam and electric 0 gauge locomotives.
Because of the premium nature of Bassett-Lowke's models, they tend to be well preserved, and many examples survive today.
Most of the history of the rise and fall of Bassett Lowke is covered in The Bassett Lowke Story by Roland Fuller - with additional material by Dudley Dimmock - New Cavendish Books 1984 However this book concentrates on the model railway aspects of the company's business and does not cover in any depth all its many other model activities. G & R Wrenn also had a sideline reselling Lima N scale models into the United Kingdom under the name 'Wrenn Micro-models'. In 1992 the company was put up for sale by George Wrenn but the company ultimately closed down without a buyer being found. Dapol made little use of the Wrenn material, selling a few wagons and reusing some of the designs in N gauge. Hornby Trains were powered by a high quality clockwork motor, made of metal pressings held together by Meccano nuts and bolts and ?0? In 1925 the first Hornby electric train was produced, operating from a mains supply of 100-250 volts. This was approximately half the size of the 0 gauge system except that the locomotives had cast metal bodies, not pressed metal, and the buildings were made of wood.
The four private companies were represented previously, although from 1952 only LMS tank locos and goods sets were available. A new system of 4-figure catalogue numbers introduced previous reference numbers were changed at least 3 times, and only printed in a public catalogue the previous year. It is revealed that although 3-rail components will continue to be available, boxed 3-rail sets are discontinued.
In view of subsequent Company history, production was small, hence these models are scarce and relatively valuable.
Venetzian was asked to produce an electric train set based on the LMS express locomotive 'Princess Elizabeth'.
Ltd, that traded under the name 'Tri-ang', wanted to get into model railway market and in 1951 bought Rovex Plastics Ltd. By 1956 there were 10 locomotives available and a good range of rolling stock and lineside buildings and other trackside items. That year another new track system called Super 4 was introduced and along with it an extensive new series of station buildings. New scale length coaches were added; there was an overhead catenary system, locomotives had Magnadhesion and smoke and the famous railway artist, Terence Cuneo, was engaged to show how you could 'weather' your Tri-ang models as well s paintings for the catalogue front covers.
The former had already changed hands twice and in 1964, Meccano Ltd, the manufacturers of Hornby-Dublo invited Lines Bros. Under public pressure it was agreed to retain the Hornby name by renaming Tri-ang Railways, 'Tri-ang Hornby'. In October 1986, Hornby Group plc was floated on the Unlisted Securities Market and became a public company.
The demand for higher standards of modelling lead to a number of models being retooled and a search for ways to improve printing on models. Competition comes from Bachmann, using upgraded Mainline tools as well as new quality tooling, and from Lima who have concentrated on the lucrative modern image market. The Company justifiably retains the position it has held for the last 40 years as Britain's leading model railway system. The model railway and model train items were frequently contractedto other manufacturers, such as Twining Models, and Wintringham's also of Northampton and latterly individual makers sich as Beeson and Hunt. Unlike other engines on the line it was a replica of main-line locos, being built for a new public miniature railway at Blackpool.
This was the John Anthony, built for J E P Howey a racing driver who ran a private miniature railway at Staughton Manor.
Bassett Lowke himself had failed to put in place a succession plan and once he became ill and died , the company really lost its way and failed to innovate. Lines Bros Ltd (operating as Tri-ang) bought up the Hornby Dublo line after the collapse of the Meccano Ltd empire and a year later bought a controlling share in G & R Wrenn. Wrenn bought itself free from the receiver and traded under the name 'Wrenn Railways' for some time thereafter, primarily selling mostly die-cast products from the former 'Hornby Dublo' line. Although they traded from 1972 to 1992 and kept a huge following they did little new manufacture beyond new liveries and numbering for the models they made plus the introduction of Royal Scot and a Merchant Navy class locomotives.
In 2001 Dapol sold the name and most of the original tools and equipment to three collectors who have since released a small number of collectable items. Such was the success of the company, Frank Hornby had to regularly move his factory to new and larger premises.

By 1929, Hornby had evolved a much safer system and electric models worked from a six volt DC source. Both clockwork and electric sets were available before the Second World War, although these were limited to Sir Nigel Gresley, an LNER A4 Class Pacific, and an LNER Class N2 tank locomotive in the liveries of the ?Big Four? The familiar blue boxes also changed to red for all items associated with 2-rail operation. A new model of "West Country" 4-6-2 locos "Barnstaple" for 2-rail and "Dorchester" for 3-rail, is destined to be the last steam engine in the main system. As an effort to increase business, a low quality "starter" set is introduced, with non-standard contents, marketed as a new range.
The train set was delivered in time for Christmas 1950 but financial limitations prevented further development. The trains were marketed as Tri-ang Railways and the Company renamed Rovex Scale Models Ltd. By now both the GMR (Airfix) and Mainline (Palitoy) systems had ceased to be produced and this led to a new player, Dapol, entering the field and Lima getting a stronger toehold. In 1996, Hornby Hobbies purchased a number of tools from Dapol including several formerly used for the Airfix GMR system. Hornby Hobbies recognises the important collectors' market and has established the Hornby Collectors Club and a chain of Collectors Centres.
It was a quarter scale 4-4-2 Atlantic tender engine, though not an exact copy of any particular prototype. It was never delivered, but after storage at Eaton Hall during World War I, was sold to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and renamed Colossus. Also people would sometimes browse the firm's catalogue and then buy similar or nearly identical items elsewhere at a lower price.
In 1966 the company was acquired by Messrs Riley and Derry, and in the late 1980s by Nigel Turner, a Northampton businessman. Wrenn were given the old Hornby Dublo moulds and continued to produce these models under the Wrenn name as well as acting as the distributor for the remaining unsold Dublo stocks.
Although they obtained rights to many of the Hornby Dublo models, they did not acquire the Hornby brandname. Some other moulds which had been modified and improved by Dapol for the wagons manufactured at the Dapol plant remained in Dapol hands and have been used to make commemorative special releases for the Wrenn collectors club.
A belated attempt is also made to simplify wiring for 2-rail points - the "Simplec type with insulated frog. Ltd were under pressure to get into N gauge but chose instead to import the Lima system which they marketed through G&R Wrenn Ltd. Consumer interest in technical toys in general began to decline in the late 1950s and Gauge O (Bassett Lowke's principal modelling scale) fell out of favour..
Around the same time the Wrenn car racing system?which competed with Lines Bros.-owned Scalextric?disappeared. Lines Bros had obtained this name as a result of buying up Hornby Dublo and used it as part of the name 'Tri-ang Hornby'.
Unfortunately, many of these materials?including many Wrenn company records, were later destroyed in a fire at Dapol. The profitable Rovex Tri-ang Ltd was for a brief period called Pocket Money Toys Ltd and then sold as Rovex Ltd, with its factories at Margate and Canterbury, to Dunbee Combex Marx Ltd. Previously the Ravenglass and Eskdale had purchased another Bassett Lowke Atlantic, the Sans Pareil. These included a Burrell Type Traction Engine, Clayton Undertype Steam Wagon, Burrell Type Steam Roller, and London 'B' Type bus.
In 1968 Wrenn took on the same role with TT as it had with Dublo, and the 'Wrenn Table Top' name was used to sell off the remaining stocks of the abandoned Tri-ang 'TT' 3 mm scale models.
At this point, George Wrenn bought out G&R Wrenn Ltd and renamed its system Wrenn Railways. The name Tri-ang had been sold with one of the other companies and so a new name was required for the Tri-ang Hornby system.

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