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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New South Wales Railways ‘American’ style end-platform first class car, made with wood and metal components by Arthur Trimingham, Sydney, in about 1940.
Arthur Trimingham (1880-1956) was a meticulous model maker, active in the Sydney Model Railway Society from the late 1930s. He made models of suburban coaches used on the New South Wales system, never producing for the retail market, but selling only to fellow enthusiasts and on commission.
New South Wales Railways first class car, made from laminated cedar by Horace Parker, Sydney, in about 1937.
From 1937, for a short time, Horace Parker operated a part-time business in Sydney making to private order items modelled on New South Wales Railways coaching stock based on photos or blueprints.
Queensland Railways steam locomotive, made from pressed and cast metals by Victor Models in the 1930s.
Little information is available about this manufacturer, with few product examples and records surviving. Various steam engine models were available through distributors, including EG Page and Co and Walther and Stevenson Ltd of Sydney, but the product origins are unknown.
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.