TRI-ANG RAILWAYS - Raymond's visit to the Margate Factory
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BILDA-BRIX - The Aussie 1950s Construction Outfit

Page upgraded 11th September, 2016

bc Thank you for your e-mail requesting my story. So where do I begin?

Considering we are talking more than 50 years ago, some of the events may not be too accurate. However, here we go!

I remember being given a present of a Tri-ang Train set in the early fifties. It was a Princess Loco which for me just went round and round on a track. It came with a controller and a very large box housing a battery.

I do not know what happened to this set and presumably it just disappeared.

Some time later, when I was aged about 6 or 7, my father bought me a Trix train set. He told me that it had cost him 50 which was a fortune in those days.

Whilst it gave me much pleasure, my mother insisted that I use the train set in the shed in our garden. However, I was terrified of spiders and having seen one in the shed I refused to enter and consequently my father sold the Trix train set.

I can recall from the age of four, always spending several holidays a year in Margate and when I was aged 7, I do recall purchasing a Tri-ang Railways Catalogue. It was beautiful. It was in colour and cost 6 old pence.

I decided that I wanted to build my own train set.

My first purchase was the Platform steps which cost two shillings and sixpence. Thereafter, subject to pocket money, I began by acquiring such items as the Waiting Room, Ticket Office, Platforms etc. but no trains at this time.

I then began to purchase Wagons commencing with R10, R11, R12 etc.

Some time later, I began purchasing the British Rail coaches, but still no trains. I was fascinated by the innovations that the Catalogue showed me and therefore I purchased an electric turntable set, a girder bridge for 10 shillings and sixpence and the Inclined Piers.

Such was my enthusiasm in collecting these items that I particularly remember that for my eighth birthday, my mother took me to a well known London Store called Hamleys which was owned by Lines Brothers who owned Tri-ang.

Apart from buying the Royal Mail coach set (I still had no track nor trains), it was my first visit to the store and on the first floor there was a very large circular railway, Tri-ang of course, and I was spellbound just watching the trains go round and round.

From the age of 8 to 11 years of age, I must have collected every line side accessory and every UK coach and wagon but still no track or trains.

Prior to 1957 we lived out in the wilds and consequently there were no toy shops nearby. However thereafter we moved to a North London Suburb and I was exhilarated to find that there was a toy shop nearby whom sold Tri-ang Railways, and the collection that they held was fantastic.

I started buying tracks and began with their large radius track since having looked through the Catalogues, I had made up my mind that I would have at least two ovals in parallel linked with points.

It took me a year before I had the right size of layout and then I felt that the time was right to purchase my first locomotive.

Looking through the catalogue at the time and taking into account the affordability and preference, I purchased a green Southern Region Railway Car (I have forgotten the number) but one of the reasons why I purchased this particular item was that it had a ‘V’ at the front of the train and it had a light!

So, I had track, buildings, coaches, wagons, line side accessories and my first train but nothing to power it!

Thankfully, an uncle treated me to some money and I bought a controller and soon after a Tri-ang Transformer.

I was on the way!

For some years I had been drooling over each addition of the Tri-ang catalogues and at the age of 13, I wrote to Tri-ang in Margate and asked if it was possible to visit their factory. The invitation came back immediately and just to get their letter was one of the happiest days of my life! This was in 1958. I had a relative who also possessed a Tri-ang Train set and when I boasted to him that I was visiting the factory, he pleaded with me to come with and I pretended that the invitation was only available to special people!

However, I would see what I could do!

In due course we left at 7.00a.m to go to Margate from a London Station and although knowing that the journey would take 2.5 hours and that our visit had been arranged for 3.p.m, we were so excited that we had to get to Margate and quickly!

We arrived in Margate at 10.30a.m and such was our excitement that we could think of nothing else except visiting the factory. To pass the time away my relative took a bus just to view the factory from the outside and when he returned it was then my turn.

After several hours of eating, drinking and sitting on benches, the momentous occasion arose.

I would estimate that there were about 20 people. We were met at the door and the person explained that he would show us around the factory so we could see how the products were made.

Unfortunately, time has made some of the event a blur but I particularly remember being shown an injection moulding machine which produced various train models, and the trains came out of the machine with a plastic piece attached. It was explained to us that this odd piece was trimmed off and put back into the machine. We then moved on to the Paint shop where people were spraying coaches. Around this time Tri-ang had in their range silver grey Transcontinental coaches. However, in the 1958 edition, they offered a colour scheme of either red or blue.

We were shown how they masked the coach and did the spraying. Around the edges of the factory were numerous offices which appeared to be top secret, however when looking through the windows the person escorting us explained that these people were designers and engineers which were essential to the future of the company.

After about an hour, I remember sitting in the canteen of the factory and being offered orange squash and biscuits.

I left the factory that day determined to build an even larger railway than I had previously envisaged, consequently between 1958 and 1961 my father had built for me a large base board which must have been 12ft by 9ft especially for my train set.

I purchased more rails and eventually owned up to 8 locomotives, but I can only remember a British 0-6-0, a Black Princess, a Transcontinental Diesel, a Double-Ended Diesel with pantograph, a Pacific 462 Locomotive and my original Southern Region Railway Car..

Being one for gadgets, I bought the Grain Hopper set, the Transcontinental Snow Plough and a full Catenary system.

Around 1960, I decided that the original Tri-ang track was looking outdated and consequently I sold the track for 200, so it gives you an idea of how much track I had.

This was replaced with Peco Track, since it offered you the facility of bending rails to your desired shape. 

My enthusiasm lasted until early 1962 when I began to get interested in girls and decided that I no longer wanted a train set and consequently I sold the whole lot including the base board for 200.

When I think back, I was stupid. I named my price and the purchaser agreed immediately.

Some of my collection had not even been used. For example, I even acquired electric railway crossings for the UK and Transcontinental series.

Whilst I regret my rash decision to sell, I cannot thank Tri-ang Railways enough for the pleasure they gave me over my young formative years.

I was very saddened when the company changed it’s name to Tri-ang Hornby and then to Hornby, when production was eventually moved to China. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn when visiting a Train Show last year that ‘Tri-ang’ are still in business under a different name and the concept is still the same.

I have not examined in detail the products that are now being offered since I do not have the same interest as before,.However, I have noticed that the prices have increased enormously.

Last but not least, I did visit the factory again in 1959, but cannot remember the visit in great detail.

Just remembered. Trix had a showroom in London which I visited once with my cousin who was into Trix trains.

Once a year, we would visit a store in London called Gamages which would feature an O Gauge layout on Lionel trains but the prices and the size of the room required!

From a business point of view I have to visit Margate occasionally, and therefore make a pilgrimage just to stand outside the former factory and reminisce one of the happiest times of my life. #


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