Model Railway History

Model Railways have been around almost as long as Railways. No doubt in the early days of the railways back in the early 19th Century, many fathers made something that resembled a loco or carrage for their children. The first commercial models where called Birmingham Dripplers, from these to the latest Locos we look at the complete history of Model Railways


For there is be a model there has to be an original. Railways have been around for several centuries, there is evidence that wagonways where in Greece as early at 600 BC and certainly in Britain as early as the 1600s. The first steam railway as a goods line was the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the first passenger railway the Liverpool and Manchester in 1829. By 1840 Railways where a familiar sight through most of Britain.

It is highly likely that between 600BC and 1825 that there would have been quite a number of carpenters living near to wagon ways that took a block of wood added wheels then joined 2 or more of these together for their children. However that aside model railway proper started with carpet trains around 1840 called Birmingham Dribblers, basicly a steam boiler, but it was not until the late part of that century that movement in the form of clockwork and later electric motors made things more proctical.

Birmingham Dribler

A Birmingham Dribbler one of the first Model Trains


Clockwork Locomotives

In addition to the Birmingham Dribbles mentioned above, many early toy trains were promotional items used by the early railroads. many people had a fascination with railroads at the time, railways where at the cutting end of technology, for the first time in his history man had the capability to build a self propelled vehicle. To capitalize on this fascination many craftsmen started carving trains out of wood which were pulled by a string across the ground. However this would get boring after a while.

Early Clockwork Loco

An Early Ives Clockwork Floor Running Loco

Clockworks, or wind-up toys, have actually been around since the 1500s, The first clockwork train produced in the U.S. was a tinplate model introduced by George W. Brown & Co. in 1856 closely followed by the Ives Toy Co in the United States and German clockmakers. These trains where self-propelled by using spring-wound motors (clockworks) that powered them across the floor.