Bassett-Lowke was a toy company, based in Northampton, England founded by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke
(1877 – 1953) in 1898 or 1899 that specialized in model railways, model boats and ships, and construction
sets. During its history, Bassett-Lowke offered trains in all gauges up to 15" and in all modes of power
(clockwork, steam, and electric). They were also well known for their ship models, some of which graced
the board rooms of the largest steamship companies of the time.
W. J. Bassett-Lowke was the son of a boiler-maker and a governess. He left school at thirteen.
He spent eighteen-months in an architect’s office, before joining his father in the family boiler making
business. In his early years he was apprenticed to his father's engineering firm, J.T.
Lowke & Sons. While he was interested in engineering models, his first love
remained models of railway locomotives, and marine (boat) types.
He took up the hobby of making model stationary steam engines. Realizing the impossibility for
the ordinary enthusiast of purchasing small parts, which he had made in his father’s workshops, he soon
began a small mail-order business. His father’s bookkeeper, H. F. R. Franklin, joined him in the project.
Bassett-Lowke initially started as a mail-order catalogue business and primarily remained so,
although it sometimes designed and even manufactured some of its own items. Helped by Percival Marshall,
W.J. Bassett-Lowke assembled a formidable pool of talent for his new business. The
first Catalogue was issued in 1899.
In 1900, new types of low-pressure, slide-valve steam engines were introduced,
along with the first gauge 1, high pressure steam locomotive. It was a model
of a Lancashire & Yorkshire inside cylinder type. Bassett-Lowke had been inspired by a visit to the
Paris Exhibition in 1900, where he made contact with German manufacturers, including
Stephan Bing. He developed a plan and deal to purchase German made and styled model trains painted in British livery.
These were initially mostly quite Germanic-looking models,
sometimes re-finished in British railway company livery, with B-L emphasizing that the models were
"in correct colors", perhaps to divert attention from the less-than-correct body shapes. However,
as the business grew, and B-L became a more and more important
client, and supplied further designs and feedback, their German suppliers got to produce more and
more faithful reproductions of British locos, carriages and wagons. The encounter with Stefan Bing at the Paris trade fair convinced both men that
there was a market for new model trains based on British locomotives (as opposed to the "continental-only"
designs initially being produced by German companies). W.J. then drew up a design based on the London and Northwest Railway 4-4-0
Black Prince locomotive, which Bing put into production as a live steam powered model. The success of this first locomotive encouraged W.J.
to source more German-made locomotives and rolling stock, from Bing, Georges Carette and
Märklin. Soon Bassett-Lowke began
manufacture in Northampton at the 16-20 Saint Andrews Street factory. In 1901 low-pressure steam models of the famous London and Northwest Railway Black Prince locomotives
in No. 3 (2½") gauge, were designed and produced by Bassett-Lowke. Mr. Henry Greenly was appointed Consulting Engineer
and designer in the company. The Midland Railway version of the Black Prince #2631 was a staple in the early Bassett-Lowke
range of products up until the outbreak of World War I. The Black Prince became so successful that the company's future was secure. Soon,
new models in gauge 2, 'O', and 1 gauge were added to the line.
At this time in history, miniature railways were
made for wealthy individuals and for exhibitions and resorts. The skilled model maker E. W.
Twining formed Twining Models Ltd., which produced high quality architectural models in partnership with
Bassett-Lowke Ltd. Bassett-Lowke was primarily a sales organization, contracting out the manufacture of models and parts
to other manufacturers, such as Twining Models, and Winteringham's. George Winteringham was
a model engineer and draughtsman who had designed some mass-producible model railway track as a result of being
dissatisfied with the tinplate track available at the time. Winteringham had invested in the equipment to make realistic
drawn metal rails and cast "chairs" for his own use, and then advertised the excess material in Model Engineer magazine,
where W.J. Bassett-Lowke noticed the advertisement and began to stock the track. W.J. used his persuasive powers to convince
George Winteringham to move to Northampton in 1902. He joined the company and ran a new Bassett-Lowke factory space,
Winteringham Ltd., aided by engineer J. Mackenzie. George Winteringham was the Managing Director, in
charge of design and special projects, and Scots engineer James Mackenzie was the Works Manager in charge of day-to-day production
issues, with the new company having a factory building on St. Andrews Street. Subsequently in 1902, the first B-L scale-rail track was produced, though
vast quantities of tubular tinplate track were also manufactured.
Winteringham became Bassett-Lowke Ltd.'s main general-purpose production site in Northampton, and although it was called upon to
produce larger and more specialized pieces from time to time, its main function was to be B-L's "factory", producing model railway track and other
"stock" items that wouldn't be appropriate for B-L's more specialized "artist's" model studios such as Twining Models. Bassett-Lowke did keep the manufacture
of ship models for display purposes entirely in-house. Bassett-Lowke produced trains in a variety of sizes, from 15" gauge live steam models to gauge 2,
gauge 1, and 'O' gauge.
In Bassett-Lowke’s early days, the company commissioned a lot of its products
from other manufacturers. Georges Carette struck up a working relationship
with Bassett-Lowke to supply models designed for the British market. The German based Carette later also made a good deal of
coaches and wagons for the English market. These were all very elegant and the reality was artistically interpreted.
Around 1904 George Carette created a gauge 1 model locomotive for Bassett-Lowke called The Lady of
the Lake. It was a simple, beautiful and a reliable example of workmanship from Germany. It was a
Ramsbottom 2-2-2 configuration with oscillating cylinders and an externally fired boiler. This is
commonly considered to be the first ever commercial semi-scale model mass-produced in the form of
an actual prototype. Later came gauge II and III equivalents, the Claud Hamilton and the Smith Compound.
In 1904, through a special commission funded by the Great Central Railway of Britain, Bing produced a 1 gauge clockwork
powered 4-4-0 Sir Alexander locomotive #1014 with a cream and brown coach for Bassett-Lowke to offer as a competition
prize for its customers. This type of subsidy enabled Bassett-Lowke to promote a whole new product line and strengthen
its partnership with Bing substantially. The model train was available both through Bassett-Lowke and from the Great Central
Railway. During 1904, the first 15" gauge passenger trains, designed by Henry Greenly,
were issued. Their first 15" gauge steam locomotive, test run on the Eaton Hall Railway in 1905 was the
Little Giant. Unlike other engines on the line it was a replica of main-line locos,
being built for a new public miniature railway at Blackpool. It was a quarter scale 4-4-2 Atlantic
tender engine, though not an exact copy of any particular prototype. This engine still
exists in private ownership. Also in 1904, a 3¼" gauge model of the Midland Railway 4-4-0 loco/tender,
constructed entirely of castings went into production. The Sultan of Turkey ordered a complete model railway for his
Palace in Constantinople. Not to be outdone, a special model of the latest type of Great Northern Railway locomotive was
ordered by the Duke of Zaragoza, Spain.
In 1905, Bassett-Lowke products included the first mass-produced stationary steam engines, and 2 gauge Great Northern
Atlantic type, high-pressured locomotives. Also this year, the first edition of the Model Railway Handbook,
and the Bassett-Lowke catalogue, now divided into three sections, were published. Section A was for model railways and
their equipment, Section B for engineering (engines, boilers, castings, and parts) and Section S for ships, yachts, boats,
and fittings. In 1906, a 2 gauge scale model electric
locomotive, a GNR prototype, with a single drive-wheel was introduced. A special model train done in silver, to
be used on the dining table of the East Indian Maharajah of Gwalior, was built. In 1907, a special, universal type
motor, usable for all gauges, up to 3½", bearing the 'Lowko' trademark, was added. A black clockwork gauge 1 model of an
LNWR 4-4-0 Precursor locomotive #513, with red and gold lining was made by Bing for Bassett-Lowke in 1907.
In 1908 Bing manufactured a green gauge 1 steam powered model of the old GWR County 3800 class 4-4-0 County of Northampton
loco #3410 for Bassett-Lowke. The company began making ‘waterline’ ship models in 1908. These types of
models, showing only the parts above the waterline, were used in wartime as training aids for the Navy
and Air Force. Yachts were also made to sail on boating lakes. Large shipping companies
commissioned models of their luxury liners to display in their offices. In 1908 Bassett-Lowke opened his
first London shop at 257 High Holborn, moving to larger space at number 112 opposite the Holborn Station of the Piccadilly Tube in 1910.
E.W. Hobbs, a well-known marine architect was
tasked with running the new showroom. Shortly thereafter, Hobbs then proceeded to churn out a range of ship and boat
designs for B-L, and introduced the company's waterline models range in 1913. Also in 1908, a special and
elaborate electric model railway in gauge 2 was built for the LNW Railway exhibit in the Franco-British
Exhibition at White
City in London. Bassett-Lowke made great use of trade shows, not only displaying their own goods, but often supplying
companies with models, too. Many 15” gauge railways were installed to carry visitors around exhibitions.
Usually the displays were of smaller gauge models and large tabletop systems. However, mail order
remained an important part of the business.
By 1909, Bassett-Lowke was making model railways in all gauges, including 'O', 1, 2, 2½", 3½", 7¼" and 15"
measurements. Retail showrooms were opened in Paris at 156 Rue de Rivoli, in Edinburg at 1 Frederick Street, and in Manchester
at 28 Corporation Street. Head offices were established in Northampton on Kingswell Street.
A green 0-4-4 clockwork gauge 1 model of the London and South Western Railway M7-Class tank locomotive
#109 was made by Bing for Bassett Lowke in 1909. In 1910, the Caledonian Railway gave an order for 30,000 clockwork 'O' gauge models in ¼" scale.
This became a sub-contract with Georges Carette to produce the well-finished
lithographed tinplate models of a Caledonian Railway locomotive and West Coast carriage, which were sold as
a marketing exercise in conjunction with the CR at bargain prices through stands at railway stations.
This effort boosted the public's appetite for model railways. Also in 1910, the firm was incorporated as
a limited company and a new line of ship models and fittings were introduced. In 1911, many special model locos were shipped to different parts of the
world. Another complete gauge 2 railway for electric operation was produced for the Glasgow (Scotland)
Exhibition, where the Great Northern, North Eastern and North British Railway Companies had this combined
display. Bing created a chunky green 0-4-4 clockwork 'O' gauge model of London and South Western Railway M7-Class
tank locomotive #109, for Bassett Lowke in 1911.
In 1912, the first European retail agency was opened in Paris, France. In 1912 W. J.
Bassett-Lowke, Robert Proctor-Mitchell and John Wills set up Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd.
(NGR) to promote and run 15-inch (380 mm) railways. An earlier company, Miniature Railways of Great Britain Ltd,
went into voluntary liquidation in 1912. NGR's first railway opened in 1912 at Luna Park in the Parc
des Eaux-Vives, Geneva, Switzerland. In Britain, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway was taken over by Bassett-Lowke,
converted to 15-inch (380 mm) gauge and re-opened in 1915. The class 30 4-4-2 Live Steam Locomotive 'Synolda' which was built by
Bassett-Lowke in 1912 is still running there today. The Fairbourne Railway followed
in 1916. In 1913-14, a special, 9½" gauge model railway was installed at the Children's
Welfare Exhibition, at Olympia. One of the primary suppliers of 2½" gauge (gauge 3) locomotives prior to 1913
was Carson & Co. (James Carson). Carson had built and supplied a 3 gauge #513 LNER 4-4-0 Precursor live steam locomotive and tender
model to Bassett-Lowke in 1910. In 1913, Bassett-Lowke acquired all of Carson’s tooling and continued
to make at least some of the Carson range for some time afterwards. This included the 4-6-0 'Experiment' live
The company produced its first architectural model in 1912, and in 1913 asked model
aero engineer and artist Ernest Twining to continue this business, via establishment of Twining Models Ltd., a separate
sub-contractor entity, not actually owned by Bassett-Lowke. In addition to creating the high quality glass-case models,
which were often marketed under Bassett-Lowke's name, Twining also
designed much of the company's distinctive Art Nouveau corporate artwork. In 1913 Bing issued a black 'O' gauge
0-6-0 clockwork model of LNWR locomotive #1269, with red lining, for Bassett-Lowke. These locomotives were
popularly referred to as the "Cauliflower Class".
In 1914, Bassett-Lowke produced only the second Pacific 4-6-2 (of any size) to be
built in Britain (the first was GWR 111 The Great Bear). This was the John Anthony, built for a private miniature
railway at Staughton Manor. It was never delivered, but after storage at Eaton Hall during World War I,
it was sold to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and renamed Colossus. It was scrapped in 1927.
Previously the Ravenglass and Eskdale had purchased another Bassett-Lowke 4-4-2 Atlantic, the Sans Pareil. In
smaller scales, the most popular models of the period 1899-1914 were the "Precursor" tank locomotive,
George the Fifth, Sydney, Deeley Compound, GNR "Atlantic" and Sir Sam Fay. Bing made a green electric gauge 2
model of the Great Central Railway Class 9N 4-6-2 Tank locomotive #160 for Bassett-Lowke in 1914 just before
the outbreak of the hostilities of war. Also in 1914, a brown clockwork 'O' gauge Midland Railway 4-4-0 990-Class
locomotive, #999, was made for Bassett-Lowke. At this time the company size was 180 employees.
The outbreak of World War I ended B-L's ability to import German trains, and increased the focus on
Winteringham and other UK suppliers. In the 1914-18 war Bassett-Lowke Ltd. made the gauges which tested
the standard parts of guns for the Ministry of Munitions. In 1919, following the War, new mass
production techniques were initiated in the enlarged plant facilities, devoted to the production
of smaller-gauge models. Many models were made for documenting prototypes, and
for historical displays in Museums. In 1920 a large quantity of model warships, airplanes, tanks, and highway vehicles
were produced. The model ship business boomed as shipping lines rebuilt their fleets to make up for war losses,
and wanted models of their newest builds, with B-L often being the default supplier. As a Frenchman living
in Germany, Georges Carette had found that he could no longer operate his business, and B-L acquired the
Carette tooling and designs and started to manufacture the equivalents of the earlier Carette
pieces in-house in the UK. Under James Mackenzie's supervision, Winteringham's focus was now diverted to
the manufacturing of completely mass-producible products and away from the individually-engineered pieces it
had been making. This change was important since anti-German sentiment had effectively broken the stranglehold
that B-L's suppliers Märklin and Bing had held on metal toy
production. Winteringham's had taken possession of George Carette's machine tools and plans, and now model trains that had
previously been made in Germany by Carette for Bassett-Lowke started to be made at Winteringham's, which also had
to "pick up the slack" and start manufacturing locomotives that could replace the ranges previously made for B-L by
Märklin and Bing.
In 1922, Bassett-Lowke introduced lithographed 'OO' gauge products from original
Bing designs. These were modeled after the prototypes of the big 4 railways of Britain. The company would also
provide a complete custom-build railway service for those with necessary funds; one such layout survives in
modified format at Bekonscot Model Village in England. In 1922 Bassett-Lowke contracted with the Leeds Model Company
to produce two 'O' gauge locomotives - a Great Western Churchward 4-4-0 County and a Pickersgill Class 72 Caledonian 4-4-0.
Also in 1922, branch offices were opened in Edinburgh, Scotland and New York City, NY.
Bing did continue to supply Basset-Lowke with well-made models and in 1922 a brown electric gauge 1 London,
Brighton and South Coast Railway 4-4-2 I2-class tank locomotive, numbered 11, was produced. An 'O' gauge version of this same
Tank Loco was issued in 1915, and it to bore the LBSCR livery and #11. Also in 1922 a black electric gauge 1 model LNWR 4-4-2
"Precursor Tank" locomotive, with red lining, a crest and "L&NWR" on the tank sides, and numbered 44, was made by Bing for
Bassett-Lowke. In 1923 Bing produced a 1 gauge two-tone green electric model of the Great Northern Railway's 0-6-2 N1 tank loco
#190 with green wheels and red and black underworks for Bassett-Lowke. Live steam models were still being built as well.
A brown gauge 1 steam-powered model of the Midland Railway's 4-4-2 tank locomotive #2178, with a white sign-strip above
the front buffers reading Tilbury was made by Bing for Bassett-Lowke circa 1926. Bing also manufactured a gauge 1 0-4-0
Standard Tank Locomotive numbered #112 in either electric, live steam or clockwork for Bassett-Lowke during the 1920's.
The loco was numbered #112 as a reference to the address of the Bassett-Lowke shop located at 112 High Holborn, London.
The '112' 0-4-0 Tank was available in six different railway company liveries, giving buyers a choice of black, red,
green or thanks to the Caledonian Railway - blue. Later, an 'O' gauge version was also made. This combination of six different
railway liveries, three drive types and two gauges meant that this locomotive was available in 36 different versions.
Bing for Bassett-Lowke #112 0-4-0 Tank Locos
In 1924 the smallest railway in the world was made for the Queen's Doll House; also several special ocean liners
and a 2½" gauge model of Canadian Pacific styling were produced. In 1925, a 7¼" gauge passenger-carrying
railway was built for the Wembley Exhibition, and called Treasure Island Railway. The late King George V and
Queen Mary enjoyed a ride on this train. A 1¼" scale model of a Southern Railway King Arthur class
locomotive was built for Sir Berkley Sheffield. A green gauge 1 steam-powered version of the "King Arthur" 4-6-0
N15-class locomotive ("Southern", number 453), was then mass produced by Bing for Bassett-Lowke, circa 1925.
In 1925, Bassett-Lowke celebrated a major milestone in the development
of his company when he marketed his very successful range of 'O' gauge 2-6-0 locomotives. The Bassett-Lowke
Moguls were a sign of what was to come from the company which hitherto had imported most of their models
from Continental manufacturers. They initially introduced a Hughes design utilized by the LMS, a
Gresley K3 for the LNER and a GWR class 43xx. These 2-6-0 locomotives were one of the most popular and successful
products that Bassett-Lowke ever made. Moguls were produced for over 3 decades in clockwork, electric, and live-steam
versions, but the steam ones are the most common. It was also offered in kit form at one time. The green 1 gauge
electric and steam driven model versions of the Mogul 2-6-0 K1-class locomotive with six-wheel tender carrying
LNER 33 markings was made in Northampton by Bassett-Lowke in 1927.
In 1926, a special 2" scale railway was made for the
Maharajah of Jodhpur in India. A ½" scale model of an LMS 4-4-0 compound locomotive was built
for Lord Louis Mountbatten. In 1928, several additional scale models in
1½" and 2" size were built, as well as a ¾" scale model of the Royal Scot was built for the LMS Railway.
At this time, Winteringham's now Managing Director James McKenzie decided to step down and his
assistant Robert Bindon Blood took over. Blood's initial projects included the first mass-produced 'O' gauge
models of the Royal Scot and Flying Scotsman locomotives in 1929 for both clockwork or AC/DC operation.
These were two of the most popular models ever made by Bassett-Lowke, and
utilized 4-6-0 and 4-6-2 wheel arrangements respectively. Earlier locomotive models had been 0-4-0, 0-6-0, 4-4-0, 4-4-2 Atlantic types,
along with the odd single-drivered 2-2-2, or 4-2-2 styles. By this point in its history, thousands of
Bassett-Lowke models had been shipped around the world, most from Northampton. Bing and Märklin models
were also stocked.
Bassett-Lowke Royal Scot Models
Bassett-Lowke Flying Scotsman Models
From 1930 to 1933, Bassett-Lowke received and filled an order from the Great
Western Railway for a highly detailed ¾" scale model of their King George V locomotive.
A huge model of the 'Empress of Britain', 21' long also was produced. The regular lines of 'O' and 1
gauge steam locomotives were enlarged to include five types in 'O' gauge, and an equal number in
1 gauge. These came in the liveries of the English 'Big 4' LMS, GWR, SR, and LNER Railway Companies.
In 1939 a special 2½" scale, and a 10¼" gauge model of the 'Royal Scot' was produced for Lord Downshire.
Previously, the largest such miniature had been one for 7¼" gauge operation. Other scale models
built by Bassett-Lowke in the 1930's included a 7¼" scale model of the underground railway
system, for the London Passenger Transport Board, a 1½" scale model of the first steam locomotive to carry
passengers on a public rail line in 1824 - the Robert Stephenson & Co.
Locomotion No.1, ½" scale models of the French Normandie and the British Queen Mary ocean liners,
and a miniature Graf Zeppelin. During this period the Edward Exley Ltd.
company supplied Bassett-Lowke with models. This included the finely detailed Exley 'O' gauge coaches, which
Bassett-Lowke marketed as their own ‘scale range’.
A 1:16 scale electrified display model of the Rhodesian
Railways 4-6-4 + 4-6-4 Beyer-Garratt locomotive #272 was built circa 1939 by Bassett-Lowke through a commission
from British locomotive builder Beyer-Peacock for the directors of Rhodesian Railways. The model was complete with
finely machined motion and running gear, full scale cab and back head fittings, fine pipework and external boiler
fittings, lamps, running board mounted jacks, buck-eye couplings etc., finished in RR black livery, sitting on a
show track display base. The model was completed but not shipped due to the outbreak of World War II. It was
subsequently sent to Beyer-Peacock's valve making subsidiary, Richard Garrett at Leiston, Suffolk, where it was
displayed until 1978, and later sold at a Christies auction.
Bassett-Lowke 6-coupled Tank engines
Bassett-Lowke 4-coupled Tank engines
In the 1930's, Bassett-Lowke distributed 'OO' gauge Trix models in
the United Kingdom under the brand name 'Twin Train Table Railway'. This was Bassett-Lowke's second foray into 'OO' gauge
products, having previously carried the slightly experimental Bing Tabletop Railway range starting in 1922.
Once again this would be a collaboration with Stefan Bing in the design and manufacture of this next-generation 'OO' range,
as Trix Limited was Stephan Bing's company, formed after his departure from Bing Werke in 1928.
The 1935 Trix Express range had Stefan Bing organizing the manufacture of the mechanisms and German body shapes, in Germany,
and B-L designing and building the UK-styled bodyshells, at Winteringham. They initially used German outline
models painted in British colors, but from 1937 onwards they made and sold relatively crude models of British
locomotives and rolling stock. This included Flying Scotsman, Princess Elizabeth, Coronation Scot, Hunt
and Schools Classes, and the LMS compound types. The new system cleverly exploited three-rail
track to allow independent control of two locomotives running on the same track at the same time.
The two outer rails were used as separate independent power feeds, and the centre rail served as the common AC supply.
When the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany made conditions intolerable for Stefan Bing to remain there, W. J. Bassett-Lowke helped Stefan and
his partner Siegfried Kahn to move to the UK. Bing & Kahn had previously formed a company in the UK to make construction sets.
W. J. persuaded them to now start manufacturing Trix Twin Railways at the Winteringham Ltd. site. The product lines of Trix Limited
and the original German Trix company then diverged, with the German made trains continuing to be sold under the name Trix Express.
The TTR range seems to have been a cause of friendly tension between Stefan and W.J. Bassett-Lowke, with both men trying to put their own
mark on the range. Trix included ideas and designs from both Trix Limited and Bassett-Lowke personnel, and for a while there appeared to be
some internal competition about naming. A catalogue from 1937 shows the TTR logo and name on almost every page inside the catalogue, but the
catalogue's cover instead announces "The Bassett-Lowke Twin Train Table Railway". This marked an odd period for TTR, with Stefan Bing being firm
that this was his Trix system, and W.J. advertising the sets as "Designed by Bassett-Lowke", apparently removing the Trix name wherever possible,
and helpfully explaining that "TTR" stood for "Twin Train Table Railway" (TTTR!). Stefan Bing began distributing production around to a number of other factories
to avoid concentrating too much power in the Northampton factory that was subject to influence by B-L. As a result, some trains show signs of having been
painted with the Trix name, and then overpainted with the B-L version of the TTR name. Bassett-Lowke promoted the TTR range quite heavily in advertising
and in their catalogues (as "theirs"), and in late 1939, their three-circle adverts promoting their three main "consumer" businesses - model ships,
'O' gauge trains and larger-gauge railways - gained a fourth circle for the 'OO' gauge Trix range.
In addition to the ships, 'OO' gauge trains, 'O' gauge trains, 1 gauge and larger trains/railways, B-L catalogues now also carried accessories, sets of castings
and plans to build your own locomotives and ships, static steam engines (from Stuart Turner and German companies),
and a selected range of items from other manufacturers, such as the Anchor Blocks company's metal construction system,
and Structo kit cars.
Bassett-Lowke Atlantic 4-4-2 Locomotives
In 1936 Bassett-Lowke manufactured an 'O' gauge model of the LNER 4-6-0 B17 Sandringham class
'Arsenal' locomotive running #2848. This locomotive's prototype was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley. 2848 was the first
of a number of B17 loco's to be named after British football (soccer) clubs and included a football on the nameplate.
The Sandringham class 4-6-0 locos were initially named after well known estates of the LNER system, but the second
series were named after well known football teams with each engine carrying the club's colors and a replica ball
on the driving splasher. The Bassett-Lowke model featured frame and body construction using Welsh tinned steel plate.
It was available in clockwork, DC electric and AC electric versions.
In the late 1930’s Bassett-Lowke sold a small number of Stanier type tank locomotives
with bodies that were made by Märklin. Today these models are very hard to come by.
In 1937-1938, Bassett-Lowke released an 'O' gauge model of the Great
Western Railway's King George V. The locomotive body and the tender were also manufactured by
Märklin, while the motor and wheels were made by Bassett-Lowke, Ltd. The
Bassett-Lowke Northampton shops followed up by making several improved 'O' gauge models, including
the Princess Royal, Princess Elizabeth, LNER Silver Link, LMS Coronation Scot, GWR's 2-6-2 tank loco,
LMS' 2-6-4 tank, and a Victory 4-6-0, LNER 4-6-0 Melton Hall, and an improved Royal Scot, with
smoke deflectors and a high-side 4,OOO-gallon tender. All locos were available in clockwork, or as
AC/DC electric powered models. These trains were made from soldered sheet metal, a distinct
feature of the company since they began. The locomotive frames as well as the bodies utilized steel plate. All locomotive
and tender wheels were made of turned cast iron. The center driving wheels on six-coupled locomotives always came
without flanges to facilitate better negotiation of narrower radius track curves. Clockwork mechanisms featured a
pattern controlled governor, reversing mechanism and hand brake. The brake could be activated from the cab or from the track.
DC electric powered locomotives featured a spur-driven permanent magnet motor with a tripolar armature and a bronze commutator,
wound to run on 8-10 volts. The AC electric locomotives featured a motor rated at 20 volts with tripolar armature, and a cab-
accessed reversing mechanism/lever. Trains were hand enamel painted, hand lined, hand numbered and lettered and finished
in prototypical livery colors and schemes.
Bassett-Lowke’s model of the bullet-nosed Pacific locomotive and tender,
‘The Coronation’, ranks among the rarest of all British toy trains. They produced their 'O' gauge
model of Coronation in 1937, as #6220, and it prominently appeared on the cover of their 'O' gauge
catalogues for 1937/38 in blue, and in 1939 the Duchess of Gloucester locomotive #6225 in maroon and gold
graced the cover. This model was also heavily promoted in those years' advertising materials
as their new "flagship" piece. These locomotive models were handmade and hand-finished and hand-painted,
including all the lettering. They also had factory numbers stamped into or scratched into their undersides,
presumably so that the builders could work on a few items at a time, and not confuse which parts had been
hand-tailored to fit which locos. It is believed that only around thirty of these locomotives were made.
The maroon and gold-striped 'O' gauge model of the streamlined, bullet-nosed 4-6-2 "Pacific" Coronation/Duchess
class LMS "Duchess of Gloucester" prototype locomotive #6225, was designed by Sir William Arthur Stanier, who was Chief
Mechanical Engineer of the London, Midland and Scottish (LMS) Railway in the 1930's. The actual locomotive was famous in
Britain for pulling the Art Deco styled bullet-train Coronation Scot from 1937 to 1939. Basset-Lowke recreated this
nine-car Coronation Scot streamlined train in 'O' gauge in Caledonian Railway livery blue with silver streamlining-stripes along the full 14 foot length,
using carriages built by Exley for Bassett-Lowke. Only very rarely does one
of the Basset-Lowke built Coronation models ever turn up for sale or at an auction. Thornaby toy specialists Vectis sold three
different examples in 2000 for £8500 each and another in 2006 for £5800. Wellers in Chertsey auctioned an original one in good
condition for £7800 in February 2013. Most of the surviving Coronation class models have been professionally restored.
Bassett-Lowke 4-6-0 Castle & King Class Locomotive Models
Around 1940 Trix Ltd. took control of Winteringham Ltd. and the name was changed to Precision Models.
During the 1939-45 war a great variety of work was done by Bassett-Lowke to
support the war effort. Many projects were of a highly critical, secret nature.
A method of training for aircraft recognition using mirrors was devised. They produced training models
of the sectional Inglis and later Bailey bridges. Perhaps the most important construction of this
nature was the model of the floating Mulberry harbour, which was used to land troops in Normandy in 1944.
Bassett-Lowke spent World War II producing lots of models as the war effort required new recruits to be trained
as quickly as possible, and it was now recognised that models of ships and aircraft made it easier to train recruits
in how to identify friendly and enemy aircraft and ships, or to find their way around ships or technical equipment.
Bassett-Lowke models were used to plan the D-Day landings, and to train operators to assemble the Mulberry Harbors
and other new equipment. Bassett-Lowke did continue to sell locomotive models from remaining pre-war
Bassett-Lowke Freight Wagons
In the post-war period of 1946-1965, train production at Bassett-Lowke was resumed,
but only in 'O' gauge. Other larger gauges were discontinued and the resale of the Trix 'OO' products was ended.
Prices were raised, as labor and material costs rose following the war. However, some fine models such as the LMS 4-6-2 Duchess of Montrose,
and GWR 4-6-0 Pendennis Castle were produced by B-L during this era.
Business trailed off in the late 1950's and even more so in the 1960's. Bassett-Lowke's fall was
mirrored by two of its U.S.
counterparts, the A. C. Gilbert Company and Lionel Corporation.
Bassett-Lowke's decline starting in the late 1950's can be blamed on at least
two factors: Sometimes
people would browse the firm's free catalogue and then buy similar or nearly identical items elsewhere
at a lower price, but also consumer interest in technical toys in general began to decline in the hobby market.
After W.J.’s death in 1953 the company continued to make high-quality ship and industrial models.
However, the 1960's were also to bring their problems, and in 1964 the company ceased its retail sales
and sold its shops, including the famous one at High Holborn in London, to Beatties. The original
Bassett-Lowke went out of business in 1965. The Bassett-Lowke
and Franklin families sold their shares in 1967.
In 1966 the company was acquired by Messrs. Riley and Derry. An effort was made to revive the model railway
business around 1969 by Ivan Rutherford Scott, Allen L. Levy and Roland H. Fuller. In the late 1980's
Nigel Turner, a Northampton businessman bought the business and the company was based next to his business
of Turner's Musical Merry-Go-Round, near Wootton, Northampton. In 1993 the name was revived for a while with
short-run white metal models. These included a Burrell
Type Traction Engine, Clayton Undertype Steam Wagon, Burrell Type Steam Roller, and London 'B' Type bus.
Bassett-Lowke 4-6-2 Pacific Class Locomotive Models
The brand name was acquired by Corgi in 1996. This acquisition now enabled Corgi to link their car model and toy company with live steam,
clockwork and electric 'O' gauge trains. Manufacturing was moved from Northampton to Leicester England.
Corgi re-launched the railway locomotive products in 1999 to commemorate the original company's 100th year.
Under the Bassett-Lowke brand name, Corgi continued to produce a range of 'O' gauge locomotives that were individually made
from sheet metal using soldered construction and that reflected those made in a bygone era. The company
produced a limited number of each livery style and moved onto the next item in a planned sequence. Every limited edition
model was individually numbered and fitted with a commemorative engraved brass plate.
Company literature stated that "Those involved in the production of Bassett-Lowke trains have a passion and knowledge of
trains and their aim is to produce a good value and quality product". These products were made with wheel
standards that facilitated reliable running on most commercially available 'O' gauge track systems.
The recommended smallest radius being 36". Locomotives were manufactured in either spirit fired live steam or electric motor powered.
They featured realistic detail, including sprung buffers and operating headlights. The live steam locomotives had operating whistles.
The electric powered locos were fitted with a smoke generator which meant that with a few drops of smoke oil down the chimney the
loco would produce what looked like steam from the smokestack. All electric locos ran on 12 to 14 volts DC and were switchable between 2 and 3 rail
operation. An interesting side note to the Corgi aspect of Bassett-Lowke - in the mid-1930's, W.J had provided Philip Ullmann
and Arthur Katz, 2 refugees from the Nazi regime in Germany, with space at the Winteringham factory facilities. Ulmann and Katz had
worked at Tipp & Co. in Germany and were experienced in simple metal toy production. They soon established Mettoy in the UK, with
their initial manufacturing space established for them in the Winteringham plant. Mettoy eventually established themselves
in the production of die-cast model cars, in a new factory, under the Corgi name.
Bassett-Lowke 4-4-0 Compound Locomotive Models
Key competitors to Bassett-Lowke were Hornby and
Exley. Hornby acquired Bassett-Lowke when it purchased Corgi in 2008.
With that acquisition, Hornby added to its ownership of a group of historic European model
railroad firms that now included Bassett-Lowke, Electrotren, Lima,
Rivarossi, Jouef, and Arnold.
Production for all firms, except Bassett-Lowke, was moved to China. Hornby has plans for future
development of Bassett-Lowke products but no public announcements have been made. For a brief period
Bassett-Lowke tinplate freight cars and class 20 diesel locos were being made by ETS in the Czech Republic.
A few new Bassett-Lowke models appeared
in the Hornby catalogs starting in 2009, but these were remaining Corgi stock. Offerings included a small Peckett 0-4-0T industrial
steam tank loco produced in two versions, one named “Wenman” and one named “Joseph” in honor of Wenman J. Bassett-Lowke. Also produced of heavy
sheet-metal construction were 2 Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge steam outline locomotives in limited runs. They were a class
J39 0-6-0 with a 6-wheel tender in a British Railways paint scheme, and a Patriot Class
4-6-0 in British Rail green named “E. Tootal Broadhurst”. The very small production runs were 130 and 180 units respectively.
Bassett-Lowke Passenger Coaches
Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke was the son of Joseph Tom Lowke. Tom Lowke’s stepfather, Absalom Bassett,
had established a boiler making business in Kingswell Street, Northampton, in 1859. Tom Lowke continued the
business, and when he married he gave his two sons, Wenman and Harold, the middle name of ‘Bassett’ in
honor of his stepfather. W. J. himself married Florence Jane Jones, the daughter of Charles Jones,
one of the founders of the Crockett and Jones shoe manufactory, still in business today. W. J. Bassett-Lowke
was an early member of the Design and Industries Association, established in 1915 to encourage good
design in all aspects of manufacture. Bassett-Lowke was very interested in travel, in planes, ships and
trains. He was also intrigued by ingenious gadgets, and delighted in the mechanical toys that he bought
on his frequent trips to the European continent in his younger days. Although Bassett-Lowke left school
at thirteen, he absorbed many new ideas from his travelling and contact with people from all walks of life.
He went on fact-finding missions to Germany and Holland. He was also keen to ensure that the outside world
appreciated the benefits of Northampton. In 1932, he was instrumental in producing a film showing
Northampton’s history and current attractions. Despite his incessant travel, Bassett-Lowke never
thought of leaving Northampton. He was a member of many societies, including the Rotary Club, of which
he was a founder. W. J. Bassett-Lowke took a keen interest in the affairs of his native town. He served 22
years on the Town Council, to which he was first elected in 1930. His work on the Council gave him great
opportunity to influence the future of Northampton. He was also a founder Director of the Northampton Repertory Theatre in 1926.
At the time of his death on October 21, 1953 he was 76 years old.
Because of the premium nature and quality construction methods utilized in Bassett-Lowke's toy train models, they tended to be well preserved,
and many examples of older product survive today. They are highly collectible and sell for high prices at auctions. In 2011
a Bassett-Lowke 12v DC electric powered LNER ‘Silver Link’ sold at auction for £11,000.
Bassett-Lowke Miscellaneous Motive Power
Bassett-Lowke Collector's Society website