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Raylo (pronounced "Rail-O") occupies an odd place in model railway history and in the history of Meccano Ltd and Hornby trains.

Patented by Frank Hornby in 1910, Raylo wasn't a true model railway system but a railway "game". The Raylo set consisted of a stamped single-piece tinplate "layout" with embossed track and a single clockwork locomotive. The track formed two staggered, skewed and overlapping loops that crossed over each other in deliberately-confusing ways, with operating points that diverted the loco into one of four sidings in the centre of the layout. The object of the game was to operate the pointsreal-time to avoid the loco being sent into the sidings, and to see how long one could keep the loco circling.

The points were operated bya set of levers at one side of the layout, which also had a small rectangular cutout to hold the loco when the game was not being used.


Although Raylo was patented in 1910, and the parts seem to have been acquired in about 1912, it doesn't seem to have been actually on sale to the public until around 1914. This only gave it a small window of opportunity to get established before the outbreak of World War One (1914-18).

The heavy clockwork Raylo locomotives, with a roughly one-inch rail spacing, seem to have been made especially for the system by Märklin, who then produced their own derivative train sets based on the design, under the name "Lilliput", with the sub-"gauge 0" format being referred to as "00" (although what we now think of as "00-gauge" is actually around half the size ofgauge 0, giving around ~16.5mm, rather than Raylo's ~25mm).

The end of Raylo

Raylo didn't return after the war.

There are a number of possible reasons for this: Meccano Ltd's relationship with Märklin had "gone bad" during WW1 as Frank Hornby had made the tactical mistake of setting up a German offshoot of Meccano Ltd just before the outbreak of the War, which resulted in the subsidiary company's right to manufacture and sell Meccano in Germany being transferred to Märklin, who then continued to make theor own version of Meccano after WW1, to the disgust of Meccano Ltd. A little way into WW1, metal toymaking was replaced by the manufacturing of metal war materials, and after WW1, with the effective monopoly to German toymakers over the model railway industry broken, Hornby set out to make and promote his own "proper" gauge 0 model railway system, rather than a toy.

It's also possible that the Raylo system simply wasn't that great a product.

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