Bruce Macdonald's 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.
Highlights from the collection
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.
Slideshow of model trains
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Ferris Bros Pty Ltd
New South Wales Railways C30 class tank locomotive, made with pressed and cast metals by Ferris Bros Pty Ltd in about 1955.
This was a prototype model which was shelved in 1955 as demand for O gauge products waned.
New South Wales Railways 35 class ‘Caves Express’ locomotive made of pressed and cast metals by Frank Fitzgerald, Sydney, in about 1935.
Beginning a small business in collaboration with Eric Jeanerette, from 1935, Frank Fitzgerald made O gauge New South Wales locomotives and coaches to special order. The ‘Caves Express’ was a passenger service that operated between Sydney and Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains, from 1929 to 1942. The three 35 class locomotives which operated on the service were replaced by larger, more powerful 36 class locos from 1936.
New South Wales Railways 35 class ‘Caves Express’ locomotive with tender and passenger cars, made of pressed and cast metals by Frank Fitzgerald, Sydney, in about 1935.
From left: Electrically driven and push along locomotives made with pressed and cast metals by Eric Hallmen in about 1945.
Eric Hallmen worked mainly in association with Gordon McCredie, but also produced a number of products independently. The push along loco features four McCredie coach wheels, while the electrically driven loco was made with a Scale Models Pty mechanism.
New South Wales Railways ‘LCH’ coal hopper wagon, 1930s, made of pressed and cast metals.
During the 1930s, Bruce Macdonald created a number of models based on historic New South Wales Railways rolling stock.
Maurlyn Manufacturing Pty Ltd
Box cover from a New South Wales Railways ‘Silver Chief’ clockwork locomotive, tender, passenger cars and track set, by Maurlyn Manufacturing Pty Ltd, Sydney, in about 1948.
Beginning operations as ‘Maurlyn Toys’ in Waterloo, an industrial suburb of Sydney, during 1941, it is believed that the company name was formed by combining the names of its owners, Maurice and Pauline ‘Lyn’ Gold. In 1948, the company moved to Redfern and began making toy trains modelled on New South Wales and Victorian rolling stock. The first was a pressed aluminium clockwork train set based on the Victorian Railways Spirit of Progress, which Maurlyn marketed as the ‘Silver Chief’. During the early 1950s, Maurlyn expanded its range to include various freight wagons and cars, other versions of the ‘Silver Chief’ and a series modelled on the New South Wales Railways C38 class locomotive. Maurlyn was placed into receivership in 1954, but recovered from its financial difficulties by 1957 and later chose to abandon toy manufacturing and pursue other product lines.
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. About 155 pieces of rolling stock and scenery from the Macdonald collection are on show at the National Museum.
Bruce Macdonald's model trains are currently on show in the Hall at the National Museum of Australia.