Gauge I and larger early Toy Trains: From the first tinplate carpet toy trains dating from the 1850s through to the superb German gauge I and larger (gauge II, III and IV) trains manufactured until the First World War, a period known as the Golden age of trains follow the history and evolution of the train in miniature. The largest country producing toy trains for the world during this period was Germany with such famous makers as Marklin, Bing, Carette and Schoenner to name but a few manufacturing superb trains that could be operated by live steam, clockwork mechanisms or electric, many of these creations where of sturdy construction and hand painted to the highest standard. These companies also produced a wide range of track accessories and buildings again to the highest standard and very desirable in today’s market place. English companies such as Steven’s Model Dockyard producing brass live steam engines and the famous Bassett-Lowke model company of Northampton which manufactured model and toy trains to rival any coming out of German are all very sought after by collectors today.
0 gauge, Hornby and the Inter-War years: Frank Hornby, perhaps the most famous of all names associated with toy trains produced his first 0 gauge train in 1920 and quickly became the most popular train manufacturer for children, throughout the boom times of the 1920s and 30s his trains could be found in all toy shops country wide offering famous locomotives such as the Flying Scotsman, Schools class Eton, Bramham Moor and culminating in the large 4-6-2 Princess Elizabeth locomotive introduced in 1937, as well as locomotives Hornby produced a large selection of rolling stock and track side buildings and accessories, other lesser known English manufactures include Exley, Bowman, Bonds and Leeds. As well as the German makers still exporting toy trains to England Bassett-Lowke continued to successfully produce quality trains, American companies such as Lionel although very popular in America had some success in England. During the late 1930s as many households became smaller the need was for smaller scale train sets and in 1938 Hornby Dublo was released to meet this demand.
Post-war years, HO/ OO gauge and smaller trains: Although Hornby and Bassett-Lowke continued to produce 0 gauge trains the most popular was now 00 (Dublo) gauge trains and Hornby in England, Trix in German and Trix Twin in England produced many wonderful train sets throughout the 1950s, Tri-ang (later Tri-ang Hornby) produced popular plastic bodied engine and rolling stock and throughout the 1960s/70s and 80s many companies have entered the toy and model train market place including Airfix, Bachmann, Lima, Mainline and Wrenn in England and Marklin, Fleischmann, Jouef, Rivarossi in Europe to name but a few. During the 1970s N gauge was introduced and is today very popular with collectors. In recent years there has been a resurgence for 0 gauge and in 1995 ACE trains started to reproduce classic Hornby trains and together with Bassett-Lowke 0 gauge collectors trains have a strong following at auction.