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Charles Rossignol 'CR' Trains

History

Rossignol Clockwork Floor Train CR #400 ‘Ouest’, 0-6-0 six-coupled flangeless wheels gold lustre lacquered tinplate and open cab, cast buffer heads, circa 1890s CR was a highly successful French toy company established in Paris, founded by Charles Rossignol in 1868. CR produced painted and lithographed tin clockwork toys such as 'O' and 1 gauge floor trains and trolleys, trains that ran on tracks, a series of motor cars, coaches and busses, trucks, planes, robots and boats. CR introduced a very popular range of Paris buses in the 1920's and continued production until they ceased business in 1962.

Rossignol 'O' gauge tinplate litho clockwork set with #206 4-2-0 Loco, 4-wheel tender, Grands Express Europeens Coach circa 1905Early floor trains and vehicles were assembled of hand cut tinplate parts that were shaped and soldered together then hand painted and lacquered. Wheels were made of cast iron. The clockwork locomotive front wheels were flangeless and could be turned and locked inward so that the mechanical vehicles would run in a circle on the floor. The early floor trains were made in 65mm gauge. Eventually new production techniques such as the lithographic process, metal stamping press machines and the tab and slot assembly method were implemented. Charles Rossignol was not just a toy maker, but he was also an innovative inventor. He filed 10 patents, including one in 1889 that became his trademark. The assembly of tinplate toys using pre-cut tabs and slots in the metal was a Rossignol original idea. This simple technique, that eliminated the soldering process was eventually adopted by almost all toy manufacturers worldwide. These newer manufacturing processes enabled reduction of labor costs and elimintation of harmful paint fumes from the workplace. The new processes also enabled greater levels of detail to be printed onto the trains and toys. Later clockwork floor trains were also built in 28mm, 33mm and 35mm gauges.

Rossignol Clockwork Floor Train 0-6-0 loco cr #400 and #401 tender circa 1920 The first clockwork powered trains that ran on track were introduced in 1905 in the form of a 4-2-0 steam outline loco and 4-wheel tender #210. The production of French outline clockwork 'O' gauge trains that ran on track began following World War I. This was an effort to fill the gap left by the Germans. In a fashion taken by a number of other toy manufacturers like Meccano Ltd. in the UK, CR took the opportunity to move into producing 'O' gauge model trains and train sets after German dominance of the market was broken by the War, and by post-war German economics and widespread anti-German sentiment. Just as the "Golden Period" of the German manufacturers is considered to be the time when their pieces still had a slightly artistic and surreal "toylike" element (before they got "too good" at producing literal scale models of trains), the Rossignol model railway pieces that are of the most interest to collectors are the very early items, which had a strong distinctive character and identity that became a little more subdued in later pieces. CR was based in Paris at 110 Avenue of the Republic. In the 1930's CR produced toy trains and sets modelled after the Bugatti rail cars that ran on the French and Italian rail roads at that time. Train sets were packaged in beautifully illustrated cardboard boxes. Rossignol trains were very toy-like and whimsical, not scale-like or prototypical of the real trains of the times. The company later produced electric trains during the years 1928 to 1939.

Rossignol 'O' gauge tinplate litho clockwork steam loco 0-2-0 CR #7-300 and CR #7-301 4-wheel tender At a very superficial glance some Rossignol pieces can look a little like early Bing tinplate (due to the common use of lithographed tinplate technology), but on a second look, the choice of color schemes and the use of emphasized pinched contours give many Rossignol 'O' gauge streamlined Train 'Eclair' with clockwork motor circa 1950's Rossignol pieces a very different and very "Parisian" style, slightly reminiscent of period French cartoon work, or the sketches of UK cartoonist Ronald Searle (who was British but very influenced by French art). Another, rather more obvious "giveaway" is that CR pieces were often models of French vehicles. Rossignol lithographed pieces tend to be marked "CR", either as a logo or as simple text. The CR logo has the letters C and R entwined around each other.

While there is a lot of intricate detail in these toys that appeals to collectors, the Rossignol models of French busses are the most highly-prized. Charles Jacques Rossignol was born in Neufchef in 1839 and died in Paris in 1889 at the age of 50. The company was run by Rossignol's son starting in 1888. In 1930 the company name changed to Roitel, Rossignol & Cie. The company produced toys for 94 years before closing its doors permanently in 1962.

Rossignol 'O' gauge tinplate litho clockwork #260 Trolley circa 1912 Rossignol 'O' gauge tinplate litho clockwork Streetcar #7884 Rossignol CR 'O' Gauge #700 Etat 0-4-0 Double Cab Diesel Locomotive

Link to French web site dedicated to Charles Rossignol C.R. Trains

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