George the Fifth locomotive 2663 (Meccano Ltd / Hornby No.00 / Hornby M3)
Meccano Ltd's Tin Printed Clockwork Trains (~1920) were initially announced in three versions, with three colours of paintwork corresponding to the London and North Western Railway, the Midland Railway and the Great North Western Railway. The train then became "The George V Train", and then in ~1925 after the merging of the company's Zulu and Hornby train lines, was listed in the first (1925) Hornby Book of Trains as the No.00 loco. The following year, the loco became the "M3" loco, with the design of the M3 loco being progressively modified and then totally replaced a few years later.
When Meccano Ltd. started producing gauge 0 trains after World War One, they initially produced two types - "The Hornby Clockwork Train", an original glossy stove-enamelled design that could be disassembled into Meccano-compatible parts (and was the forerunner of the main Hornby range), and a cheaper, less-loved and more conventional tinprinted train, which sources tend to refer to as being "based on a German design".
In this context, "based on" seems to be a slight understatement in that the Tin Printed Train corresponds so recognisably to a Bing design that one's first reaction when seeing one of these locos is to think that it's a Bing loco, and then, after seeing the marque, to wonder whether Bing might have actually made it for Hornby. The only recognisable difference between this loco and images of the corresponding Bing product seems to be the front boiler-plate piece, a separate piece of pressed tin which was more elaborate on the Bing version, and had a pressed embossed MLDL logo on the Meccano Ltd. version.
This also probably goes some way to explaining why, when the two train ranges were launched, that the original enamelled loco was proudly announced as "The Hornby Clockwork Train", and the tinprinted clockwork range were described, perhaps a little more dismissively, as "Tin Printed Clockwork Trains", without the Hornby name obviously attached.
What makes the LNWR version of the loco look even more Germanic is the choice of locomotive - when Marklin and Bing were selling model locomotives into the UK market through Bassett-Lowke, one of the most popular sets of liveries chosen to make the German locos look more anglicised was ... George the Fifth. As a result, it's only really the MLDL embossing on the front of the loco (and the supporting documentary existence of the Hornby version in contemporary literature) that makes it obvious that this isn't a German piece.
Evolution of the Tin Printed Trains
The illustration supplied circa 1920 for the "Tin Printed" range shows the GNR version, and although the paintwork doesn't seem to correspond to the "George" (with regard to lining) this may simply be due to the fact that the lithography is supposed to represent a loco from a different railway company.
The "George" version does appear in the very first Hornby Book of Trains (1925), where it gets the top two-thirds of page 34, and a colour illustration and is referred to as the No.00 Train Set, L.N.W.R (2663), with alternative liveries shown on the previous page. Histories of the company say that Meccano Ltd had to resort to serious discounting to clear their stocks of the Tin Printed Trains, and this seems to be borne out by the fact that while the TPT was first advertised as costing 22/6 for the full set, by 1925 the "No.00" had dropped to 10/6, although by this time, the loco's innards contained a cheaper non-reversing motor.
Individual pricings show that the loco price dropped from 14/ to 6/6, the tender price dropped from 2/ to 1/, and the carriages which were listed at 2/ each in around 1920 were only 1/ in 1925.
From here on, the loco continued to change slightly as some of its parts disappeared and were replaced or updated. In 1926, the "No.00" loco was renamed the "'M3" ("M Series No.3"), which had the same distinctive cutouts over the wheels, but was no longer shown as having a front coupling, and in 1928, the loco design was phased out altogether - the "new" M3 loco being a simplified version of the Hornby No.0 .
Links and references
- (1920?) Meccano Ltd catalogue/list
- The Hornby Book of Trains (1925)
- The Magic Carpet (circa ~1925)
- Ian Harrison with Pat Hammond Hornby - The Official Illustrated History (Harper-Collins 2002) pages 20-22 ISBN 000715173X
- Chris and Julie Graebe The Hornby Gauge 0 System (The Hornby Companion Series Vol.5) pages 253-256 ISBN 0904568350