Category:Hugar Railways

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index
Toy Brands and Manufacturers

Hugar Railways

1939 -     

Hugar are thought to have produced their model train set in around ~1939 or later, and the Brookes book mentions them as apparently having been available for sale in at least one toyshop in 1943.

The train doesn't feature in any of the company's 1938 or 1939 adverts in Meccano Magazine, suggesting that it's unlikely to have appeared any earier than later 1939.

The genesis of the Hugar Train

The idea that this set appeared during wartime or with the outbreak of World War Two makes sense. Hugar had previously specialised in making larger model buildings, some of which were aimed at the gauge 0 model railway layouts, but in ~1939 had also started selling a fairly complete range of 00-scale ~1:76 buildings to supplement the 00-gauge sets that had been launched in quick succession by Trix (Trix Twin Railway), Marklin, and Meccano Ltd. (Hornby Dublo) between 1935 and 1938.

In 1939, Hugar had also branched out into making a range of model boat kits powered by electric motors, so they were now dealing with electric motor and wiring.

With the outbreak of war, wartime restrictions on metal supply for nonessentials such as toys would have shut down the production of Hornby Dublo and Trix sets, and made it impossible to import any more the Marklin sets from Germany, leaving a gap in the market for an enthusiastic maker of wooden toys to produce a wooden-bodied 00-gauge train. Merco and Hamblings already sold glossy lithographic printed sheets with reproduction of carriage sides for people who wanted to make their own carriages cheaply in gauge 0, and in the 1930s, Southern Railway had started electrifying their lines and introducing electric trains (Electrical Multiple Units, or "EMU"s), with the shape of the driver cabs being not too different from the shape of a normal carriage.


The Southern Railway were the first British railway of any size to embark on a serious electrification program, which started in the 1930s. This was made feasible for the Southern by the comparatively large amount of passenger traffic and the comparatively small distances involved in Southern's "triangle" of territory, from London to the South Coast, and along the southern coastline.

Electric trains also didn't have the complicated and high-profile drive couplings of steam locomotives, and Merco and Hamblings produced sets of papers allowing people to make models of complete Southern Railway electric trains, using wood. The Leeds Model Company produced a range of paper-sided railway carriages, and Bond's also sold gauge 0 models of the Southern Railway's electric Brighton Belle with wooden bodies, proving that there was a market for wooden electric trains with paper lithography. The Southern Railway's public relations department made a very big deal of the electrification programme, and managed to turn the disruptions associated with the engineering work into positive publicity.

Hugar's Epsom location made them very aware of the Southern's electrification programme, and since they already sold quite a range of 00-scale buildings for model railways, the idea of also being able to sell the model railways themselves must have seemed very attractive.

Railway buildings

Hugar's railway stations also tended to have signage (e.g. "Epsom") and posters (e.g. advertising the idea of taking holidays in Brighton) that tended to suggest that they were Southern stations, making their use with Southern Railway's electric trains quite natural.


The Hugar track was made of wooden base sections with grooves cut in them, into which were set long aluminium strips with a simple rectangular cross-section, to act as the rails. There doesn't seem to have been any attempt to round the rail-strip "corners" to give them a more realistic rail profile, or to match the curved profile of the wheels, and this may have made it more difficult to get a good consistent electrical contact between the curved face of the wheel and the sharp edge of the track, possibly contributing to the Hugar train's reputation for not working particularly well.

As well as straights and curves, Hugar managed to produce sets of points and level crossings for the system.

Further reading

The Hugar Train and its variations and accessories, and many of the Hugar Railway accessory buildings are described and prolifically photographed in

  • Paul Brookes, The Illustrated History of Hugar Models (Paul Brookes, 2014), ISBN 9780956187925
    • Chapter 4: 1938 00-gauge buildings", pages 65-100.
    • Chapter 10: The Southern Electric Train Set c. 1939-1943, pages 161-170.

External links

Pages in category ‘Hugar Railways’

The following 2 pages are in this category, out of 2 total.