Trix Twin   :     Model History in Pictures

© Copyright 2011  Garry Lefevre all rights reserved

 

The formative years – 1900 to 1935 !!

 About the people who made Trix Express and Trix Twin

 

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A fateful Meeting

 

Most collectors believe the story of Trix Express began on Sunday 3rd March 1935 when a new 00 gauge model railway system was first presented to the World at the Leipzig Trade Fair at the “Petershof” in the Grimaischen Street by the Vereinigte Spielwaren-Fabriken.  ( See also http://www.trix-twin.co.uk/hist1.htm ) But the complete story goes back far earlier. The concept and development took place not just in Germany but also in England.  To get to this point lay a long period of development starting with a fateful meeting in Paris in 1900 between Stephan Bing from Nürenberg in Germany and W J Bassett-Lowke, (known as Whynne) from Northampton in England.

 

 

 

Stephan Bing was part of a family business - Gebrüder Bing, which for some years was one of Germany’s leading toy manufacturers.  Soon after he met Bassett-Lowke he started making English outline 0 gauge and larger trains for the English market. These were clockwork, live steam and electric.  The first was a 4-4-0 GWR locomotive which went on sale in 1904.

Stephan Bing and Wife.jpg

Stephan Bing with his wife in the 1930s

 

 

 

 

 

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W. J .Bassett-Lowke aged 70

1877 - 1953

In 1900 Bassett-Lowke was a young man who had spotted an opportunity in the model railway market.  Most trains were clockwork or live steam with only a few electric.  In England there was a wide range of models all needing different spare parts.  Enthusiasts would sometimes have to search shops to find the right part to fix their engine.  Whynne realised if he stocked all the main parts and sold them through a mail order catalogue he would supply a demand throughout the UK.  

 

As he developed his company specialising in a model railway mail order business he began to sell complete locomotives from different manufacturers.  Over the future years he manufactured very little himself but bought products from various factories designed for his specific market needs.  He developed a network of contacts and companies with interconnecting business interests all in the model business. In addition to model railways he marketed, model ships, aeroplanes and special architectural models.  His company grew to one of the largest model companies in the United Kingdom.

 

 

 

The First English Models

 

Stephan Bing was not the only one, George Carette, a Frenchman living in Nürenburg also made stock for Bassett-Lowke up to the beginning of the First World War.   Märklin also made English outline locomotives in both 0 gauge and gauge 1 often with three variations, live steam, clockwork and electric.  The first English Märklin locomotive was sold through Bassett Lowke in 1903 and the last in 1937.  All these products were packed into Bassett-Lowke boxes to be sold to the public with no reference to the original manufacturer’s name.  Although sometimes the box stated “Partly Foreign made”.  The only part made in England was sometimes the box !   These models are much sort after by collectors such as members of the Bassett-Lowke Society.  More about the Society on their website  : http://www.bassettlowkesociety.org.uk/

 

 

Of the three major German suppliers, the closest relationship was between Stephen Bing and Whynne Bassett-Lowke. The two men were life long friends.  The relationship was never as close with Märklin who insisted on selling direct to other English companies such as Gamages in London.  Whilst George Carette went out of business in 1916.

 

The First 00 Gauge trains

 

s scale.jpg

Märklin’s   “00”   1912 train

 

For the period from 1900 to the late 1930’s England was the World’s largest market for model railways.  From about 1910 several manufacturers had started to experiment with smaller trains than Gauge 0.  In 1912 Märklin made  a set they claimed was 00, but the scale was 1/55 not 1 /87.5 of HO, it was more like S scale. The track had a width of 26 mm.  This was shown in their catalogues up to 1928/9.  It used mains electricity without a transformer with just a recommended light bulb in circuit to reduce the power !!  Clearly it was a dangerous model and was banned in Germany in 1928. One of the difficulties was to get an electric motor small enough for 00 gauge. 

 

 

Bing creates the first 00 trains

 

In 1920 Bassett-Lowke persuaded Bing to develop a smaller sized train: “ Bings Table Railway” in 00. This explains why most of the items were English outline.  The first were clockwork but latter electric.  It is not my intention to go into the history of these trains here, but only to show the link to the development of Trix Express and then to Trix Twin.  More can be read in Jeff Carpenter’s book in English or Peter Berg’s book in German on the subject.  These little trains were the first 00 massed produced model railways, although there were many other smaller manufacturers, none really gained any noticeable market share.

 

Bings Table railway.jpg

Bings Table railway 2.jpg

See also

http://www.tischeisenbahn.de/

 

 

 

 

Bing leaves Gebr. Bing and buys into a new Company

 

Stephan Bing came from an old family of toy manufacturers of Nürenberg going back to 1838.  In 1927 he left the company founded by his family and a short time latter bought into the Vereinigte Spielwaren-Fabriken Andreas Förtner &J.Haffner’s Nachf.GMBH to produce a range of toys including a Trix construction toy.  The company at this time did not make any trains.  The connection with Bassett Lowke may have ended there but for the success of this product in England.  To meet sales demand mainly from Woolworths local manufacturing was needed.  Bing turned to an English company Winteringham Ltd, of Northampton who were closely associated with Bassett-Lowke Ltd.  Later as we shall see it was this company that made Trix Twin items in England.  

 

 

Franz and Stephen Bing.jpg

Franz with his father Stephan Bing on a train in Germany in 1936

 

In 1932 Trix Ltd was founded in London. Franz Bing, Stephan‘s son was sent to England to manage the company. The purpose  was to organise and control local production and marketing of the construction toy.  At that time there were no plans to re-enter the model railway business

 

 

 

W J Bassett-Lowke’s connection to Trix

 

Bassett-Lowke’s relationship to the new Trix Company both then and in subsequent years was as a friend and adviser and latter customer for their trains.  He was never a shareholder.  However to establish the Trix company he was asked to be one of the two first directors as under English law at least one director had to be resident in England.  At that time none of the German directors had yet taken up residence in England.  A few months latter Franz Bing moved to London.  The second director was Leo Gross an Austrian living in England and agent for the original Bing company.  Julius Stein, a German living in England, was the first company secretary, a position he held until 1957.  The company was owned 100% by the German company, Vereinigte Spielwaren-Fabriken Andreas Förtner &J.Haffner’s Nachf.GMBH.  The shares of the German company were owned 74% by Stephan Bing and 26% by H. Oppenheim, a German banker.

 

 

Following the Wall Street crash and a subsequent change of ownership the company making the original Bings Table Railway went bust in 1932.  A gap now existed in the market for 00 gauge trains.

 

 

 

Bing persuaded to make a new electric HO train – Trix Express

 

In the 1930’s Stephan Bing regularly visited England.  On Sundays he used to enjoy sailing on the Thames near Maidenhead.  On one such visit in 1933 he told his English friend that Whynne was trying to persuade him to go back into making model railways that Bassett-Lowke could sell in England.    These new trains should build on the success of Bings Table Railway but be brought up to date with the latest technological improvements.

 

 

Kahn 3.jpg

Siegfried Kahn

 

From the very beginning of the design stage the key persons were Whynne Bassett-Lowke in England looking at the marketing possibilities, Siegfried Kahn (a brilliant engineer), Oswald Fisher ( the engineer behind the Bings Table railway) and Stephan Bing with his knowledge of the German toy market in trains.   A lesser part was played by Henry Greenly an associate of Bassett Lowke who designed the first wooden Trix Express buildings.

Greenly.jpg

Henry Greenly

 

 

On the 28th November 1934 a patent application in Germany for twin control of two locomotives on the same track was made in the name of the company and Siegfried Kahn.   No inventor was named, probably due to the fact that Kahn was Jewish and could not therefore be legally named as inventor.  However a year latter in Britain a similar patent was applied for naming Kahn as inventor.  Indeed Kahn was the named inventor on many British patents of Trix items with the last that of the Trix Twin elevator conveyor in 1954.

 

 

Prototypes shown to Bassett-Lowke

 

At the end of 1934 Kahn visited Bassett-Lowke in England to show him the prototypes.  These were not well received.  Bassett-Lowke did not like the coarse wheeled  0-4-0 which he saw as too toy like.  The English market was dominated by adults who wanted more realistic models with scale wheels.  But Kahn would not hear any criticism, insisting that the market would be for children.  Whynne hesitated to import any to the English market.  To persuade him Stephan Bing offered Bassett Lowke a 10% discount if he would promote and import them into England.  This was very unusual as prices were generally very tightly controlled by Trix, with the manufacturer selling at the same prices to all retailers and also setting precise sales prices to the public.  Whynne agreed to try them for the Xmas 1935 market providing some minor changes were made to the colours of some items.  Yet all was well, for as at Leipzig in March 1935 the models when shown in England in the autumn were a run away success and all stocks sold out well before Xmas. The public demand was such that Bassett-Lowke took advertisements promising more stocks would be on the way in early 1936.

 

Contrary to views in some places Bassett Lowke never had exclusive import rights for the English market.  Trix Express trains were sold from Germany direct to major retailers such as Hamleys, ( still to this day in Regent Street, London), and Harrods to name just a few.

 

 

The first models

 

What were these sensational new trains?   At Leipzig the items displayed were pre-production prototypes, some of which were changed before going into production.  For example the bogie coaches had 3 small windows cut into each end, but not in the final version. 

 

Mitropa.jpg

Reichsbahn coach.jpg

 

 

The track base was not black, but multi-coloured similar to some made for an exhibition in the early 1950’s.  The method of connecting power to the track was also different. There was only one locomotive, a black 0-4-0 with tender used in both the passenger and goods set.  Additional coaches and goods wagons were also shown.  There was a full range of accessories, buildings, signals, milestones, a telegraph pole and level crossing signs.  Not all of these were imported into Britain in 1935.    More about these early models can be see at http://www.trix-twin.co.uk/show30s.html

 

 

 

The first imports for the British market.

 

To promote the trains in England, Whynne persuaded Trix to repaint the loco green and to modify the coaches to a lighter green, described in the catalogue as “correct Southern Railway Green”.  The loco did not have “Southern Railway” on the tender as you would expect but “Trix Express” although the picture in the catalogue shows it as “Twin Train”, both versions have the number 5391. 

 

2 G Passnger set.jpg

On all the tenders you can see underneath the word “Trix” the word ”Twin” so it was clearly overwritten at the factory.  Yet the word “Express” has not been over written.  Trade photographs exist showing the loco with “Twin Express” on the tender, clearly a last minute change.  The Passenger set had the number 11/2

 

More about the early models at http://www.trix-twin.co.uk/hist1.htm

 

 

 

 

What name to use for Trix in England  ?

 

A battle was clearly going on over the name. Whynne was a marketing expert and wanted a name instantly recognised for its main selling points, e.g. two trains to fit on a table which other 0 gauge trains could not do.

 

 

Bassett-Lowke insisted on using the name “ Twin Train” and even “Twin Train Table Railway”. Advertisements had either the first of these names or the latter as in the English catalogue.  Bassett-Lowke even employed two ladies to stick new labels over the Trix Express ones !  

 

This picture shows Whynne at the controls of the first Trix layout in Leipzig in 1935

Bassett Lowke.2.jpg

 

 

To add to the confusion, Hamleys in London’s Regent Street issued their own 1935 Xmas catalogue selling Trix Express trains.  Even after Trix Ltd introduced the name “Trix Twin” in 1936 to sell to the English market, the Bassett-Lowke shops and catalogues continued to use the “Twin Train” label until 1939.

 

The above battle over the name illustrates perfectly the relationship between Whynne and Stephen.  Bassett Lowke wanted to exercise control over all aspects of marketing, pricing and even design of the trains.  Whereas Bing wanted to remain in control of design, manufacturing, pricing and to have the right to choose his own name for his own products.  But he needed Bassett-Lowke to market these trains in England.  A whole series of agreements and practices developed between them only made possible because of their friendship.  A few examples follow.

 

 

 

The first Trix Express Wooden station buildings  ( designed in England !)

 

In the 1934 period prior to the launch in 1935 of Trix Express trains, either Bing or Kahn saw the Bassett- Lowke suburban station made in 1932 at the suggestion of London Underground in 0 gauge. They asked if they could copy it. 

 

12 Original Bassett Lowke 0 gauge station from 1932 used by Trix Express in 1935.jpg

1932 Bassett-Lowke 0 gauge station

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1935 Trix Express “Trixstadt”  HO station

 

Note :  even the blue line under the roof has been copied !

 

 

Hence the first wooden station (Trixstadt) and island platform were direct copies of items designed by Henry Greenly, an independent consultant and designer for Bassett-Lowke.  Latter Greenly designed more buildings just for Trix.

 

Many new models were made in the early days and can be read about at :

http://www.trix-twin.co.uk/TTRbuildings.htm

 

 

1936 – The year of destiny for Trix in England

 

The success of the Trix Express trains in England led to a decision to design and manufacture the trains in England.  The English name chosen was Trix Twin.  As written above a company - Trix Ltd, ( wholly owned by the German company) had already been established in England in 1932 to manufacture and sell the construction toy. This company was now the basis for the English train business.  In early 1936 Franz Bing was joined on the board by his father Stephan, Siegfried Kahn, Hermann Oppenheim and Jack Davis Somper.  Oppenheim was a banker from Frankfurt who was also invested in the German company in which his bank held 26 % of the shares with the remainder (74%) held by Stephan Bing.  J D Somper was a toy manufacturer with good connections with Barclays Bank who was to advise the new company on the English market and financial arrangements.  He acted rather like a non-executive director would today.  In the past he had advised Bassett-Lowke.

 

 

1937 - The first scale appearance of a Trix locomotive

 

Another example is the development of the Southern Railway Portsmouth motorised coach. This led on to the Trix Express diesel flyer (20/58). 

 

 

Portsmouth 2.JPG

 

Already in 1936 as Bing and Kahn were launching English outline 0-4-0s Bassett Lowke was planning more scale like models.  In the summer of 1936 he was contacted by the chief publicity officer of Southern Railway – C. Graesmann – who saw the advertising possibilities of a model of the new motorised coach they were about to introduce following the electrification of the railway between London and the south coast. 

 

Whynne Bassett-Lowke asked Ernst Twining to design the Trix Portsmouth locomotive for him.  It was launched on the English market in February 1937

 

 

 

 

E. Twining was  apprenticed as an electrrical engineer. He also attended Art college which led him to become a designer and professional model builder. His brother had been apprenticed to Henry Greenly which led to their company – Twining Models Ltd – doing sub-contract work for both Greenly and Bassett-Lowke. He had a life long interest in model railways as an enthusiast, author and designer.

Unusualy he was both an artist and engineer.  He is also famous for many stained glass windows in churches.

 Twining 2.jpg

Ernest Twining

1875 - 1956

 

.

 

Siegfried Kahn had the idea for the Manyways buildings and asked Ernest Twining to design them for Trix Ltd.

 

 

 

Made almost entirely by Trix Express in Nürenberg, only the Portsmouth’s body was lithographed in England on tin plate sheets. These were sent to Germany where they were cut and pressed into shape for mounting on the chassis.  This was done to insure a colour match with the coaches made in England.   These models were then marketed as Bassett-Lowke Twin Train with the label on the box just stating a product by Trix. 

 

Some time latter, in 1938, an agreement was reached where the Portsmouth and other “scale” models would be marketed jointly with labels stating both “Designed by Bassett-Lowke” and “TTR Trix Twin Railway”.  Labels printed without reference to Bassett-Lowke refer to models commissioned by the Trix Company not by Bassett-Lowke

 

 

 

 

 

 

33 Label on Portsmouth green box 1937.jpg

coach label.jpg

Label goods.jpg

 

 

Basset- Lowke received a royalty from Trix for these designs of 5% of the sales price.   Both types of models were mainly designed by Henry Greenly with the Portsmouth and the Manyways buildings being the big exception, these were designed by E Twining.

 

Trix Express enthusiasts will note the similarity of the Portsmouth with the diesel flyer (20/58), particularly the way the motor is mounted on a swivel platform.  The contact shaft on the Portsmouth is the earlier “butter fly” type not the latter gear type as it did not exist when the Portsmouth was made.  This is further proof which came first. Another are advertisements in the press.  I have one for the Portsmouth from March 1937 following its introduction at the BIF trade show in February of that year.  It was available in the shops from April 1937.

 

Although this practice started in 1937 formal agreement to pay Bassett-Lowke a royalty for the design was only agreed in 1938.  Such was their friendship that only an informal agreement existed up to then.

 

 

 

 

1938 : the forced break with Trix Express

 

In summary the above was the structure with minor changes until 1938 when the Nazi authorities in Germany forced the sale of the German company to Ernst Voelk, the President of the Chamber of Trade in Nürenburg and owner of the Distler, an old local toy manufacturer.  With a great deal of difficulty the Bings and Kahn left Germany and took up permanent residence England.  Part of the agreement was that the English company would pay a licence fee to the German company as well as guarantying a minimum amount of purchases from Germany.  This was met by buying some track and the motors etc for use in the English stock.   Financing the English company without any further support from the previous German parent was a challenge.   Previously J Somper had helped.  He now decided to withdraw all his support when they most needed it.  However at about the same time the other shareholder in the German company Oppenheim also left Germany and arrived in England.  He had extensive City contacts and soon a small bank offered support.  Later this bank became S G Warburg.

 

Production stepped up in England

 

Siegfried Kahn was particularly concerned to keep as much control with Trix Ltd as possible by dividing the production over a number of companies. Arrangements were made for Winteringham in Northampton to assemble the range from parts made by different firms.  From Germany complete Trix Express locomotives were imported the bodies taken off, the wheels painted black and English bodies mounted.  These bodies were cast by Metal Castings Ltd of Worcester and painted by Winteringham.  The tenders were made by John Dale Ltd of London which explains why the colour match with the locos is not exact.  The same firm printed the tinplate sheets for the coaches and goods wagons, these were sent to Winteringham who added the wheels, axles and couplings from Germany.  The goods wagon chassis too were entirely Trix Express but the coach ones were made by Winteringham.

 

Workers.jpg

Trix Workers assembling locos in Northampton

 

On the manufacturing side, Siegfried Kahn was determined to make the Trix Company as independent as possible.  Both Trix and Bassett-Lowke subcontracted work to Winteringham Ltd, a company based in Northampton.  Kahn insisted on staff being separately assigned to work just on Trix products.  On one visit to the factory he saw some staff working on a product he did not recognise.  Discovering it was for Bassett-Lowke, he instantly dismissed them.

 

One further member of the new team to mention is Lilli Bing.  Up to 1939 she had been working in Brussels marketing Trix products.  She now came to England and took up a role in marketing in England a position she held until long after the war.  She married and became Lilli Sommer.  She became a director of the company after the death of her father, Stephan Bing on 19 April 1940.

 

One oddity of the Trix way of doing business is the way they treated their retailers.  Maybe this was a normal practice in those days but would be odd.  These were referred to as agents never as shopkeepers.  Although they would place orders with the Trix Company Bing decided what to send them.  They may or may not get their order but might get something quite different which Bing thought they should sell instead !!

 

 

  Research for the above by Garry Lefevre

 

More about the history of Trix models and their development can be seen on other pages on this web site.  It is my intention to continually add to this information.

 

 

 

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