Category:Brighton Belle five-car set, 1930s (Bond's of Euston Road)
Brighton Belle five-car set, 1930s (Bond's of Euston Road)
|Arch Three , Area 1 |
1930s Model Railway Layout
The piece is an unfinished exhibition-grade commission piece, originally intended to be the prototype for a product line that never went into production.
While other models exist of the Brighton Belle that were made before World War Two, (usually made from wood by the Leeds Model Company), so far we have come across no evidence of any other tinplate-construction model being made by Bond's or any other manufacturer in the pre-war years, as either a working or exhibition piece.
This is a unique and historically important item by museum and collectors' standards, and will be fascinating to a range of enthusiasts and railway and model railway historians. When completed as originally intended, it will be a near-perfect copy of the Brighton Belle as seen through the eyes of contemporary 1930s model engineers.
The model's origins
The model is believed to have been commissioned from Bond's in 1937 by an officer serving in the British Army. The model would have been researched and priced on the basis that the research and development and tooling that went into producing the first model would then have been reused for a following production run, with the initial model used as an assembly and testing prototype. The physical superstructure of the prototype model was completed before the war, but with the outbreak of hostilities, the prototype was put into storage.
While the exact reason for the prototype not being finished and delivered to the client is not known, it seems likely that this was in some way due to the war - it's quite possible that the client didn't survive the conflict, or if they did, may have had some higher priorities in the financial and social upheaval that followed the war than chasing up the completion and delivery of a very expensive custom-engineered model train.
Nothing certain is known of the model's history after WW2, until it was discovered in John Procter's Brighton shop in the late 1960s, a place well-known for attracting rarities and oddities. It is evident that after the War, the largely-completed, part-painted and probably only test-run set was sold off, with someone at Bond's probably having decided to cut their losses and get rid of the set in its unfinished form.
The prototype is made from specially pre-formed and soldered parts, with the quality of workmanship and the constructional design being exceptionally high, to the exhibition-grade standards that Bonds were known for on their more expensive models.
Although the set's physical bodyshells and wheeling are complete, there is evidence that a subsequent owner attempted to complete the set's cosmetics with an "amateurishly enthusiastic" paint-job. There is also evidence that the originally-planned single power bogie arrangement was not sufficient, and that provision for adding a second power bogie (in the second power car) was attempted, somewhat crudely.
Current state (as of mid-2015)
- The five-car set has been completely disassembled, ready for stripping back to the original metal and repainting.
- A second matching power bogie has been sourced – also made pre-war by Bond's – which is a "twin" of the single bogie that was originally built into the set. This has been fully serviced and made ready for fitting.
- Most of the interior fittings – tables, chairs and lamps – are ready, but need to be adjusted to fit.
- Authentic original pre-war Bonds transfers have been sourced and obtained, and will either be applied directly to the model after painting, or duplicated by a specialist if the transfer substrate material turns out to be too badly aged.
- The set will be professionally painted and lined, with livery expertly matched to the original 1930s paintwork of the real Brighton Belle.
- Most of the interior furnishings were missing, with some crude replacements – the original surviving pieces have been used as references for the recreation of the missing pieces, in conjunction with the blueprints for the actual Brighton Belle.
- It is evident that, being a pre-production prototype, some final engineering work will be required to make this a fully-finished, reliable, and smoothly-running exhibition-grade model. This will include reengineered power bogie housing mounts and the development of a coupling system which will respond gracefully to the track points on the museum's 1930s model railway layout.
- Such "pre-service" final development work and "engineering polish" would normally have been carried out by Bond's before delivery to their client as part of the commission, but will now need to be carried out by the museum's specialist workshops.
The museum anniversary
2016 will be museum's 25th anniversary, and is also expected to herald the reappearance of the real Brighton Belle on Britain's railway system, thanks to the painstaking restoration work carried out by the 5BEL Trust. This convergence of dates makes the arrival of the restored Bond model in 2016 especially resonant, as it both represents the museum's mission to safeguard, protect and present toy-and modelmaking history, and evokes the 5BEL Trust's restoration project, giving an opportunity for people to see a restored 1930s model of the restored 1930s train, with the spirit, style and sophistication of the original.
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