Karl Bub founded this company in 1851 in Nüremberg,
Germany. As all the other toy manufacturers in Nüremberg, Karl Bub intended his company to produce
merry go-rounds, fountains, carts, horse-drawn street cars, fire engines, and other tin toys both
with, and without mechanical (clockwork) drive units. American toy train collectors are familiar with
the 'KBN' trademark, which stands for 'Karl Bub Nüremberg'. Bub made a superbly enameled and later
lithographed line of clockwork tin transportation toys including trains.
They started making floor trains that ran by clockwork in 1903. Track
based trains came two years later in 1905. Then in 1914 an electric train was added to the product line.
KBN never produced live steam locomotives. The very first trains consisted of 2-2-0 clockwork engines and
open end passenger cars. The first models of both passenger and freight cars were
of typical Nüremberg 4-wheel design. These early trains were made in gauge 1 and 'O' gauge. The factory was
located at Gostendorfer Hauptstrasse 48. Karl Bub's daughter Emma married Albert Huck who eventually
took over the management of KBN.
The early KBN products were very toy-like and were targeted for the lower end of the
market. Some clockwork trains only ran in forward and did not employ a brake. Windup keys were often
not removable. Locomotive wheels were made of pressed sheet metal. Bub was not offering a complete system,
but only train sets with an oval of track.
Bub trains never reached the quality of companies like Märklin which
was one of the most notable toy and model train manufacturers based in Germany. A partnership with
Issmayer and Carette allowed all three companies
to produce similar looking trains which often had only the logo that was different. Bub was one of
the first companies to produce die cast accessories for model trains. Many Bub toys reached the American
market via exclusive distributor F.A.O. Schwartz, New York City, during the 1920's-1930's.
Albert and Emma's son, Heinz started working in the family business at an early age
and proved to be a talented toy designer in his own right. In the early 1920's, Bub cataloged
electric outline locomotives, some of which had
clock-work mechanisms that were patterned after contemporary German and Swiss prototypes. From 1925 on,
Bub introduced steam locomotives patterned after the standard German Reichsbahn prototypes. This included
small 0-4-0's through 2-4-2's and Atlantics to big Pacifics in 'O' gauge. The largest clockwork
locomotive manufactured by Bub was a 0-6-0, which caused a legal issue with Bing, as
they claimed the clockwork was an unauthorized copy of their product.
Bub also made some very unique
animated operating accessories, such as an operating turntable that paused a special clockwork locomotive after it
arrived on the turntable, rotated the table 180 degrees and then restarted the clockwork locomotive. Another item
was an operating railway lodge and crossing that as a train arrived would, chime a bell, lower a crossing arm,
switch a semaphore, stop and pause the clockwork locomotive, and then restart the train. A unique animated train
was the clockwork driven 'Whatsamatter' or pop-out train in 'O' gauge. This set consisted of an 0-4-0 locomotive, 4 wheel
tender and one little 4-wheel passenger car. There was a slot in the locomotive cab roof. When a track-trip stopped
the train, the engineer's head appeared through the roof to see why the train was delayed. After a short interval,
the head disappeared, and the train moved on. Around 1910 Bub issued a two train set that included 2 clockwork locomotives,
2 tenders, 3 freight wagons and 2 passenger coaches, but only a single loop of track was provided. The trains were
designed to run simultaneously on the same loop of track and were both
controlled/started/stopped in a novel manner by dual trackside semaphore accessories spaced equidistant from each
other. Completely synchronized automatic operation was facilitated, and neither train ever caught up with or
collided with the other.
In 1932, as a result of rising import custom taxes in Great Britain, Bub and Tipp & Co.
opened a second factory at Aylesbury in the UK with the name KB-Toy factory. This was a move to retain the
British market and to bypass UK anti-German import restrictions. This facility operated up until the
outbreak of WWII. Bub acquired the tooling for Bing toy trains when Bing went
out of the model train business in 1932. Bing's table top 'OO' gauge railroad had been a big success with
consumers so Bub continued to manufacture the 'OO' gauge railway for about 2 years. Eventually the
Bing designed toy train system was replaced by a newly developed 'OO' gauge product, but again without
trains or track being inter-changeable, and only train sets with an oval of track were available.
Besides the dies, Bub used the toy sales organization of Bing,
a fact which explains why many of the later products sold had the combined trademarks of both companies.
Bub offered versions of its locomotives with removable pilots and single headlights in sets targeted at the
American Market. Some of the cars included in these sets were decorated with American road names. The
locomotives however were all adapted European body types. Not many
Bub products reached the U.S., so when they are discovered by collectors, they tend to be coveted quickly.
Bub had greater interest in the British market, than in the American market. Even
before the factory in England was established, there were several train sets issued in liveries of British
railway companies such as LNWR and GN. After the British Railway merger of 1923, LNER and LHS liveries
were issued. In 1934 Bub released an impressive series of lithographed 8-wheel freight cars.
The lithography treatment of the livery on these cars was not prototypical but used great colors, graphics
and stylings. Each car bore the name of a different city in Germany, but it is believed that these cars were
made for the US, British and Canadian markets as well.
Bub was able to keep manufacturing costs low during the depression era because
it utilized paper thin sheet metal. Bub restarted production of the Bing models in 1934 for the
German market but this in turn ceased at the outbreak of World War II. Models made from Bing's dies
appear in catalogs issued from the beginning of the 1930's and most are freight cars of the later Bing
types. During that time period it was fairly common for tinplate train manufacturers to copy each other's
designs, and the similarity of Bing, Fandor and Ives
freight and passenger cars in the Bub 'O' gauge lines is apparent. Albert Huck passed away in 1938, and Heinz
inherited the family toy business. The original Bub factory in Nüremberg was completely destroyed
during the war along with a large historical collection of Bub toys.
After 1945, in addition to continuing 'O' gauge trains manufacture,
a production of 2 rail DC trains in an 'S'
like gauge (1:64 scale running on 22.5 mm track) with tubular track was created,
but these train products could not compete with the upcoming trend of HO gauge and was a commercial
failure. Bub turned to producing cheap HO gauge trains, but customer demand was for realistic scale HO gauge
model railways. The company struggled to recapture its earlier successes by creating the popular BubMobil.
During the 1950´s the company made a strategic error by not switching its production from die cast and tinplate
to plastic, as was the practice held by other toy train manufacturers of the time. By the mid 1960´s Bub
was forced to completely cease production and cease operations. In 1964, the factory was located
at Elsnerstrasse 9, near the original one. There was a plan to convert to the manufacture of HO gauge
and N gauge locomotives with experimental vibrator motor drives designed by Heinz Huck, but the company
itself wound up closing its doors in 1966.
Bub trains and cars are hard to find and are highly collectible. Since the early
trains were made very cheaply, they were typically played with until they broke, and then were thrown
away by their owners. Complete sets of these trains rarely
appear on the market except at auction when an old established collection is being dispersed.
Catalogs issued by Bub are very rare because, in common with other Nüremberg manufacturers,
these were issued only to retailers.
In 2002 a new firm began producing HO and large scale trains under the Bub name.
There is no lineal
connection between the old Bub and the new Bub. The new products are manufactured in China, but the
company offices are located in Nüremberg. Their web site address is www.bub-toys.de.