Category:Steam Fairground

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index

One of the more exciting moments of 2015 was the donation of an almost complete steam-powered fairground set, which we think was built and assembled over a number of years from before World War One (and possibly before 1900) to the 1950s.

The set was in a loft before it came to us, and the donor remembers it being worked on in the 1950s.


A striking feature of the set is that most of its larger pieces are built exactly like real fairground rides, designed to be broken down into a large number of quite small numbered parts, so that (in a real fairground), the pieces could be easily handled and packed away quickly for stowage in the fair's transport vehicles, to be taken to a new site and reassembled.

This makes the set a rare three-dimensional record of Nineteenth Century fairground construction. We originally thought that parts of the set were so well made that they had to be from an established toy manufacturer – after conferring with an outside expert, it seems that the authentic jigsaw-like construction is just too fiddly and detailed for a commercial toymaker to want to bother with – we now think that the set was originally built by a fairground worker or engineer during the winter down-time, perhaps as an instructional model to show workers how the parts fitted together, or perhaps just for sheer pleasure. A fairground "fixer" who had supervised the original equipment being stripped down and reassembled many, many times, might have a sufficiently detailed mental picture of all the parts and connections in their head that they could build this sort of model, basically from memory.


Although the fairground model was originally built to be steam-powered, the most complex ride (the "scenic railway") has been retrofitted for electricity with a large "box" attached to the side of the central column, housing an electric motor. The original steam-boiler and central chimney is still the structural core of the ride.

Parts of the model have been modified over the years, with decorative Victorian "scrap-book" transfers varnished onto some of the buildings and vehicles.