Category:Brighton Belle five-car set, 1930s (Bond's of Euston Road)
Brighton Belle five-car set, 1930s (Bond's of Euston Road)
The piece is an unfinished exhibition-grade commission piece, originally intended to be the prototype for a product line that never went into production. The museum considered the renovation and restoration of this "lost" piece to be a cultural obligation,
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 story of the "lost" Bonds Brighton Belle
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.
Current project status (January 2022)
The model's renovation is now almost completely finished – external and internal detailing is all finished, along with paintwork and replacement transfers, and the train's couplings have been re-engineered and improved to allow it to run safely on the museum's central layout (the train in this state was shown at the 2022 Train Running Day).
All that now remains to be done is fitting of the internal lighting system and finalising the associated wiring and switching.
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