Category:1930s Dinky Toys

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When the Hornby Modelled Miniatures range was relaunched in early 1934 as Dinky Toys, it was with a big investment in design and advertising.


The new "Meccano Dinky Toys" initially led with the Meccano name as a reassuring "known" umbrella brand, but as it soon became well-enough known to be marketed independently, transitioning from "MECCANO Dinky Toys", to "DINKY TOYS by Meccano", to just "Dinky Toys".

Initial problems with MAZAK

After the very first pieces (such as the first version of the delivery vans), casting was switched from lead to "MAZAC", a tougher and lighter metal alloy better suited to standing up to harsher treatment (which was especially important if thin parts of the moulding were to be holding wheel axles in place). The experimental nature of these new casting processes led to some severe production problems, where stresses and strains frozen into the castings caused some models to warp and twist over time, with some falling apart before they even reached the shops (the current theory is that some of this variation in the MAZAC mix properties was due to workers throwing scrap metal into the vats). These teething problems were eventually resolved, but it's not unusual to find that some of the oldest, long and thin pieces from the period (such as the ships) have warped and broken up over the years ("banana-ing"), creating more of a price premium for nicely-cast unwarped versions of some of the more damage-prone pieces.

On the other hand, the difficulty of moving to these new casting techniques (and setting aside the tried and tested lead-casting methods) meant that better-established and more conservative metal toy casting companies such as W. Britain) tended to stay with lead, and with pieces with no moving parts, and as a result, Dinky had the British diecast metal vehicles"market pretty much to itself during this period.

Speedy expansion

The speed at which the range expanded can be seen from the advertising - initially "150 models", then "250 models", and "300 models" shortly thereafter.


The 1930s Dinky range seemed to be designed to include a bit of everything: Passengers and famyard animal figures for gauge 0 model railways, waterline ships, aeroplanes, under-size (for gauge 0) cars, and even small tabletop "floor toy" toy trains.

As the range icreased in sized, it incorprorated more road vehicles, a garage and pertol station, petrol station pumps, postboxes, a small double decker bus and tram, and AA/RAC/Police figures, motorcyclists and their huts (and a police box).

There was also a brief foray into Dinky Toys Dollhouse Furniture, to go with a leatherboard collapsable "[[Dolly Varden]" dollhouse, but this doesn't seem to have been a huge success, partly because of Meccano Ltd's odd decision not to use a standard 1:12 or 1:16 dollhouse scale.

As the Second World War loomed in 1939, the Dinky range developed a range of army vehicles in drab green, which expanded during 1940.

1934 promotional text:

Meccano Dinky Toys are rapidly establishing themselves as firm favourites with boys and girls. They are in big demand because they are the most attractive models in miniature ever produced. New items are constantly being added to the series to increase the fun and fascination. One of the latest of these is No. 50, comprising a fine selection of Ships of the British Navy.

Then there are Aeroplanes, Train sets, Motor cars, Motor Vans, Railwaymen, a fine Racing Car and many others. These splendid toys may be purchased either separately or in complete sets, at the prices shown. Ask your dealer to show you the full range.

— , Meccano Ltd., , Meccano Magazine, , June 1934

1934 Meccano Magazine article:

Collecting Meccano Dinky Toys

A New and Fascinating Hobby

THERE is a peculiar fascination about miniature reproductions of familiar things. We pay little attention to the normal full-sized objects to be seen every day in our strects and elsewhere, but a miniature reproduction of one of them immediately attracts our notice, and most of us feel a desire to possess it!

Some years ago a set of platform accessories — luggage and truck, milk cans and truck, seats, and automatic machines – was introduced with the object of making Hornby Station platforms more realistic. This proved immediately popular, but Hornby RaiIway owners were not satisfied. They demanded miniature railwaymen and passengers to give "life" to the platforms, and in response to this demand two further sets of figures were produced, one consisting of station staff and the other of typical passengers. Miniature train sets followed, each made up of a locomotive and two or three coaches or goods vehicles.

The requirements of railway enthusiasts were thus fairly well provided for, but nothing had been done for those whose interests lay in other directions. We were repeatedly asked for other miniatures, mainly of motor cars, aeroplanes and ships; and finally it was decided to introduce a comprehensive series of models under the general title of Dinky Toys. This series met with an enthusiastic welcome, and it bas been rapidly extended until it now includes well over one hundred items, with many others in active preparation.

The Dinky Toys form the most attractive set of miniatures in existence. They are well designed and beautifully finished in colour, and they include the utmost amount of detail possible in such tiny reproductions. All of them form delightful ornaments for table or mantelpiece, especially if arranged in sets. In addition many of them can be used with striking effect in Hornby Railway layouts, to which they add a remarkable touch of realism. This is especially the case with layouts incorporating some of the Countryside Sections. Horses, cattle and sheep can be placed in the fields, and pedestrians and motor vehicles of various types distributed at suitable points along the roads. The effects that can be produced in this manner are quite extraordinary, and the general scheme can be varied almost indefinitely.

With a few exceptions all the Dinky Toys are arrangcd in sets, but every item can be purchased separately. One of these sets, or even a single mode!, forms an ideal Christmas present.

The train sets, of which there are four, have already been mentioned, Set No. 17 consists of a locomotive and tender, coach and guard's van, and Set No. 20 of a tank locomotive, two coaches and guard's van. For those who prefer goods trains there are Sets No. 18, consisting of a tank locomotive and three open wagons, and No. 19, comprising a tank locomotive, an open wagon, a petrol tank wagon and a lumber wagon. By purchasing additional coaches or wagons these trains can be increased to quite impressive proportions, and as all the items are to the same scale the trains can be rearranged and made up in any way desired.

Motor car enthusiasts are particularly well catered for. Set No. 24 alone includes seven different types of up-to-date private cars, ranging from a sports two-seater to a handsome limousine, together with a splendid model of a typical ambulance. All these vehicles are fitted with rubber tyres and silver-plated radiators. Then there is Set No. 25, which provides an equally attractive collection of commercial vehicles. There are six of these, an open wagon, a flat truck, a covered van, a petrol tank wagon, a market gardener's van, and a tipping wagon that actually tips!

Another interesting model is the Racing Car (No. 23). This is a realistic little model of a typical modern speed car. It is fitted with rubber tyres and is obtainable in a variety of attractive colours. Even more striking is the "Airfiow" Saloon (No. 32). This is an exceptionally handsome mode!, which demonstrates excellently the principles of streamlining. It is fitted with rubber tyres, silver-plated radiator and bumpers, and is obtainable in various colours. Still another very attractive vehicle is the "Holland Coachcraft" van (No. 31). This is a model of one of the most modernistic commercial vehicles now on the road. Turning now to aeroplanes, we find six splendid models in Set No. 60. The largest of these is a realistic reproduction of an Imperial Airways liner, which gives a good idea of the massive proportions and handsome appearance of these machines. Smaller but equally attractive are the models of a D.H. "Leopard Moth," a Percival "Gull," a low wing monoplane, and a General "Monospar." Finally there is a delightful little model of a Cierva "Autogiro." This tiny model, with its revolving vanes, has proved exceptionally popular, which shows clearly not only the high quality of the model, but also the widespread interest that is now being taken in this type of aeroplane.

One of the outstanding events of 1934 was the launch of the giant Cunard White Star Liner "Queen Mary" on 26th September. This ship has attracted more attention than any other vessel built for many years, and therefore it is fitting that a special model should be included in the Dinky Toys series. This model (No. 52) is designed to a scale of 150 ft. to 1 in., and is nearly 7 in. in length. It contains a surprising amount of intricate detail work, particularly in the boat deck and the superstructure generally. It is finished in correct colours and shows how the real "Queen Mary" will appear when she is completed and ready for her maiden voyage in the early part of 1936. Then, everyone hopes, she will recover for Great Britain the much coveted "Blue Riband" of the Atlantic.

Set No. 51 includes six liners of world-wide fame. There is Nord-deutscher Lloyd "Europa," and the Italian liner "Rex," which at present holds the Atlantic record with a crossing between Gibraltar and New York made in four days 13 hours. Coming now to British ships, there is the C.P.R. "Empress of Britain," the P. & O. "Strathaird," the Furness Withy "Queen of Bermuda" and the Cunard White Star "Britannic."

All these ships are what are known as "waterline" models; that is to say, they represent the vessel as she appears in the water when loaded down to her normal level. It is impossible to convey in words any adequate impression of the daintiness of these models. They include every detail for which room could be found, and they are beautifully finished in correct colours.

All boys are interested in warships, and Set No. 50 provides a set of ships of the British Navy ranging from battleships to submarines. Heading the Set are the mighty battle cruiser "Hood" and the battleship "Nelson." Then there are three typical cruisers, "Effingham," "York" and "Delhi," and two destroyers of the "Broke" and "Amazon" classes respectively. Smallest of all are models of submarines of the "X" and "K" classes. All these warships are painted in battleship grey, with a dull matt finish that gives a strikingly realistic

appearance. Keen boys will appreciate the fact that the gun turrets on the cruisers and battleships, although so small, will actually swivel!

The Dinky Toy ships are just the thing for giving the finishing touches to models of harbours and docks. Large models of this nature are very popular just now with Meccano Clubs, and they look astonishingly realistic with one or two Dinky Toy liners at the quayside. The effect is enhanced by a small fleet of warships lying at anchor in the "roadstead."

From this necessarily brief survey it will be evident that the Meccano Dinky Toys provide ail the material for a fascinating collecting hobby. The range of subjects is an great as to provide ample variety, and as many of the models can be obtained in several different colours, there is scope for an extensive collection of outstanding interest. The Dinky Toys that are now in preparation will be announced in the pages of the "M.M." immediately they are available, and collectors should keep a sharp look-out for details.

In next month's "MM." we hope to include an article describing in detail how Meccano Dinky Toys can be put to use in the fascinating hobby of table-top photography. This hobby consists of arranging on a table miniature scenes, composed of tiny models and scrap material of all kinds. These scenes are then photographed, and the results appear as though they were quaint reproductions of real scenes. A great deal of the fun in this kind of photography lies in making use of the simplest of household articles to produce realistic effects, and in next month's article we shall describe some of the unlimited possibilities in this direction.

One difficulty in the past has been that the household material available has usually been seriously deficient in models small enough to be used for the purpose. This problem is now solved by the appearance of the Dinky Toys. The motor cars and wagons lend themselves perfectly to the production of realistic road scenes; the trains provide the necessary railway material, and the ships make it possible to produce harbour or coastal scenes in great detail. The aeroplanes, too, can be made to play an important part, and in the article special reference will be made to their employment.

No doubt keen and enthusiastic readers will discover other interesting uses for the Dinky Toys, and we should be glad to receive descriptions and if possible photographs of any such schemes.

— , -, , Meccano Magazine, , December 1934


The early Dinky packaging inherited the emphasis on sets from the Modelled Miniatures ranges, where pieces were typically organised into numbered sets of six, with the pieces within a set distinguished with a letter, so for instance, Dinky Set No.2 was a set of six farmyard animals (2a-2f), in a cardboard box, but if you wanted to buy a pig (2c) separately, you didn't get a box.

Dinky extended this even to models that didn't obviously form simple sets - if you wanted to buy a standard-sized Dinky car, the retailer would buy them in boxed packs of six, and you'd be sold your individual car "loose".


The range produced in the 1930s tends to be referred to as the "prewar" Dinky range, and since only a few new sets were issued in 1940-45, these tend to be lumped together with the 1930s "prewar" sets – even though they were technically produced during the war, they can be considered the "stragglers" of the 1930s range, appearing just before World War Two (1939-1945) finally shut down production.

See also:

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