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
Image Gallery Page Navigation
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South Australian Railways ‘52 series’ clockwork locomotive with tender and two passenger cars, made from steel by Ron Titchener and associates, Melbourne, in about 1952.
Box cover from South Australian Railways ‘52 series’ clockwork locomotive set, by Ron Titchener and associates, Melbourne, in about 1952.
New South Wales Railways ‘52 series’ clockwork electric locomotive with tender, made from steel by Ron Titchener and associates, Melbourne, in about 1949.
Scorpion Model Engineering Products
Steam locomotive, made from pressed and cast metals by Ted Wallis and Ted Peell, Sydney, in about 1947.
After working together as employees of the Amalgamated Wireless Company (AWA) in Sydney, Ted Wallis and Ted Peell (the ‘two Teds’) began toys using the trade name of Scorpion in 1944. Wallis and Peell manufactured several small engines suitable for driving small models, followed by a vertical donkey engine. By 1946, Scorpion had outgrown Peell’s garage and both men resigned from AWA to work in their toy business full time. They worked to develop a range of steam models, including locomotives, with an accompanying range of goods wagons, a horizontal stationary engine and a steam motor truck.
Scorpion Model Engineering Products
Vertical steam donkey engine, made from cast iron and brass metals by Ted Wallis and Ted Peell, Sydney, in about 1946.
Titchener Model Co.
Victorian Railways narrow-gauge locomotive, made from pressed and cast metals by Ron Titchener, Melbourne, in about 1952.
The founder of Robilt Products, Ron Titchener, left that company in 1952 and began independently producing accessories for O and HO gauge products. Titchener also manufactured several locomotives for limited production and high quality scale models for Museum Victoria and the Railway Centenary exhibition in 1954.
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.