My First Railway, The Red Railway?

My very first railway was a push-along engine on this magnificently red tracked plastic layout with bridges and buffers and probably a turntable in bright primary colours.

It was known simply in the family as “The Red Railway”.

I could not remember who made this – it was ‘old’ and playworn by the time I played with it in the early 1970s, having gone through several members of the family in the mid 1960s.

Being rapidly set up on table or floor it must have featured in many wargames with small Airfix soldiers, as there were open freight wagons that you could put your figures inside. Instant armoured train!

I have a vague memory of playing with the tiny Airfix British Commandos and this railway system.

No fiddle or fuss, no electric, no batteries. Simple.

Once I had finished gaming with it in the 1980s, it went on to further use by young nieces in the 1990s. I lost track of it after that, but after thirty years family service, it probably ended up in a charity shop. It might still be in use somewhere!

As I had no surviving childhood photos of this railway system, I thought an internet search would turn up a photograph or two of this railway and eventually a maker’s name.

The railway it appears was made by British toy firms Mettoy / Playcraft of London, Northampton and Fforestfach, Swansea.

Image source: eBay source finalcapri280

Further eBay and internet research reveals some half remembered details – the covered bridge, the funny ‘pieces of eight’ track connectors, reversable track, the level crossing …

… the covered bridge type engine shed, the points and the turntable.

Oddly I don’t recall a station or platform or buildings, until I spotted these on Worthpoint

A glimpse and memory of a station building and platform, along with signal box.

A further eBay search revealed a boxed example! Playcraft Junior Railway Set B 9521

By the time I encountered this family railway such a box was long gone. It all came out of and went back into a normal cardboard box.

Looking at these internet pictures again of my first railway system brings back very strong tactile memories of assembling buildings, connecting track and changing points levers.

One eBay listing reveals a still bagged unopened covered bridge type engine shed 9538 with faded header …

and usefully a listing of different “low priced accessory packs” that could be bought in 1970.

Some more interesting 1970s packaging or repackaging from Child Guidance Toys. I could easily have been that boy!

Contacts of Set D

… and small details of the turntable levers – I remember these and the strong bright red green yellow blue plastics.

Other versions or makers include Toltoys and Child Guidance Toys (USA, very worthy sounding)

Translated into the language of the American Railroad – caboose, car barn, bumpers, yoke and switch with track in handy silver grey.

Here’s what it all cost (UK trade prices) per trade box in April 1975 (blurry detail from eBay source)

5 Junior Railway box sets appear to have been sold (L9520 to L9524, Sets A to E) and intriguingly L9580 a Battery Operated Electric Train that I don’t remember …

Alarmingly the track for my “Red Railway” also came in yellow in a Dick Bruna Sunny Farm version.

The RM Railway Modelling Web features a section on these toy railways and a possible glimpse of the battery powered locomotive?

We now know a supposed railway “gauge” for my first Red Railway of 1 1/4″ track gauge.

The Dick Bruna Sunny Farm Railway and buildings …

The Mettoy Playcraft Junior Railway appears to have been a 1960s plastic ancestor of the now widespread Swedish wooden Brio Railway (1958 onwards) and its various wooden spinoffs.

Anyway that was my First “Red Railway” which overlapped for a short while with small Airfix toy soldier game scenarios …

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 22 March 2023


Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

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