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Bruce Macdonald model train collection

At a glance

  • O gauge model trains
  • 30 manufacturers from Australia and New Zealand
  • 1930s to 1960s

Model trains

Ferris electric train set in its original box. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

A fine collection of O gauge trains

These O gauge model trains, collected by Bruce Macdonald, were made by more than 30 different manufacturers from across Australia and New Zealand between the 1930s and the 1960s. The O gauge was a popular choice for hobbyists and a number of manufacturers chose to specialise in that scale. The gauge of a train model is measured between the inside edges of the load-bearing rails, with O gauge generally measuring 32 millimetres, at a scale of 1:43.

Slideshow of model trains

Learn more about some of the model trains and scenery on show at the National Museum, with information on each manufacturer, from Bruce Macdonald’s 2005 book Spring, Spark and Steam: An Illustrated Guide to Australian Toy and Model Trains. Photos by George Serras, Jason McCarthy and Katie Shanahan.

Highlights from the Bruce Macdonald collection

Model train production in Australia

Following the Second World War, local manufacturers responded to shortages in imported products by creating quality toy and model trains for a growing market. During the 1950s and 60s, the Australian toy and scale model train industries prospered, creating products for children and serious collectors.

Australian manufacturers, including Ferris, O Gauge House, Maurlyn and Robilt, produced trains modelled primarily on New South Wales and Victorian rolling stock. While model trains of the 1930s and 40s were often made of wood or simple tin-plate, by the 1950s and 60s complicated and highly detailed pressed sheet metal trains that ran on electric tracks were being mass-produced.

A lifetime love of trains

Bruce Macdonald received his first train set at the age of five, the start of a lifetime love of trains. As an adult, he was involved in the restoration and conservation of historic full-sized steam-powered engines, including items in the Museum’s collection. During the 1970s, Macdonald returned to his interest in O gauge toys and models and spent decades collecting examples of the main Australian and New Zealand manufacturers.

A colour photograph of Bruce Macdonald with his train collection.
Bruce Macdonald with his train collection, 2005. Courtesy Bruce Macdonald.

A member of the Australian Railway Historical Society since 1943, Macdonald is one of Australia’s foremost authorities on industrial railways and steam power in both full-size and miniature forms.