A tin train for Christmas!

Last month, RMM reviewed Michael Foster’s fourth book in his British Toy Trains series and – just in time for Christmas – we have received copies of two of the previous titles, which together form the basis of a wonderful piece of seasonal nostalgia, writes Pete Kelly.   

I often believe that a person’s true character can be judged by the nature of his or her writing, for the way a piece is put together can radiate everything from inner warmth to icy-cold cynicism or rank arrogance – and having now read three of Michael’s joyfully-researched and richly-illustrated books, I place him unhesitatingly in the very first of these categories.

How quickly we allow the wide-eyed enthusiasm of childhood to become crushed beneath the ever-increasing burden of worldly cares. Have we completely forgotten the joy of lifting an ambitiously-illustrated box lid on Christmas morning to find a colourful tinplate clockwork train set nestling inside – and not resting until dad has pieced together the simple circle of track, wound up the engine, attached the wagons or short carriages and let it go?


Did we care one iota whether the little engine reflected every rivet, brake hanger, hand rail, lamp bracket and fire iron of the real thing? Of course not, because such toys fed our limitless imagination better than any expensive precision model ever could.

The colourful illustration on the lid of a c1951 box containing a Betal electric tank engine set, shows a young boy in a well-to-do home (note the TV set on the left) playing with his trains.

So instead of howling with smug laughter at their simplicity, let us embrace the spirit of Christmases past and appreciate what they meant to countless thousands of children, and the parents who often had to really scrimp and save to buy them.

And yes – those wonderful tin trains have had the last laugh, their true worth reflected in the prices they now command and the fact that they have been so eagerly sought by collectors, dealers and auctioneers for many years.


Michael himself is a devoted collector who has spent 30 years researching the smaller and more obscure British tin train toy manufacturers.

For the full article and to view more great images, see the December edition of Modelling – available now!

For a complete list of stockists and how to get your copy, visit: www.railwaymagazinemodelling.co.uk/distributors



Railway Reads

From the history of steam through to 21st century rail transport news, we have titles that cater for all rail enthusiasts. Covering diesels, modelling, steam and modern railways, check out our range of magazines and fantastic subscription offers.

Get The Railway Hub Weekly Round-up

Enter your e-mail address below and you will receive weekly rail news straight into your inbox...

You can unsubscribe at any time.

About the Author

Sam Hewitt

Let off some steam...