VB was created in 1946 by Messr. Jacques-Antoine Vollon and Messr. Albert Brun. Established at 5 avenue de la Republique in Paris, France, remarkably during a short period of
only 14 years they produced an incredibly large, diverse and high-quality range of HO scale model railways representing the Fench prototypes of the era. The firm's
motto was "la grande marque des petits trains", which translates to the great brand of small trains.
Long before the creation of VB, Brun and Vollon collaborated and filed 7 patents. The first one dates to 1942, when Mr. Brun
presented a loop wagon coupling system, coupled to the elastic suspension of the wagon. An improvement was proposed in May 1945 with the addition of a vertical
piece, allowing the hook to be opened via a vertical element. Another request for improvement was proposed by Mr. Vollon in October 1945.
In 1947 the track patent was filed. It was a unique design composed of a wire mesh and the inclusion of plastic for the sleepers (signature Vollon). Patent issue 5 from
1949 was for catenary posts with forks lashed into the track. Number 6 from 1950 detailed the addition of a shoe under the car coupling that allowed the uncoupling
using an electromagnet (so-called unhitching rail). Number 7 also from 1950 detailed switching tracks by an electromagnet, or manually (Vollon). Before the creation
of VB, Mr. Brun's productions were limited to chassis. His clients were Messrs. Rossi and Lottiaux, and perhaps others. Brun chassis have been
found under the Pélican, SMCF and Baby Train wagons of that era.
In 1947 the company began to produce a series of HO scale freight wagon models, with a newly developed type finish, hand-made in presspahn, wood and brass.
Presspahn is a kind of dense cardboard that could be formed and stamped. Metal was used for the car frames. Everything was hand assembled in small quantities by
caretakers, people in the neighborhood and students of the school of fine arts. Car inscription lettering and identification was all applied by hand using transfers,
plate stamps, paints and brushes. These early cars came with either bogies or 2 axles. The finished products were distributed and sold primarily in France, but
some made their way to Switzerland and Italy. Count Antonio Giansanti Coluzzi, founder of Fulgurex in Lausanne, Switzerland was the official
reseller of VB products there.
In the early 1950's, VB developed a complete 3-rail sand ballasted track system that was very realistic for the time with large radius curves. Over time the
track system evolved and eventually the middle rail was changed into a series of studs appearing in the center of each sleeper. VB track was made so that it was
interchangeable with track made by other manufacturers. Märklin purchased the VB patent for the 3-rail studded HO track system and adopted
it as its own HO track system.
VB only issued 3 main types of power units during its years of production. In 1955, the first electric powered locomotive, the BB 9001 was issued. The loco
body was made of zamac, a post-war alloy consisting of Zinc, Aluminum, Magnesium and Copper pressure cast and block cut. Later in 1957 a BB 9200 electric
loco followed. The wheels on the locos were equipped with rubber tires mounted on 2 bogies with 2 axles. The gears were made of nylon to reduce the resonance
and minimize noise. In 1960 a CC 060 DB Diesel loco featuring a polystyrene plastic body was added to the line. The electric models came equipped with working catenary
and could operate from overhead power. The early VB locomotives were powered by a 5 pole permanent magnet motor running on 12 volt DC current. Later models
had a 20 volt motor. Locos could be acquired for 2-rail or 3-rail operation, or with either a single or dual motor configuration. The locomotives were also
availble equipped with an inverter to control power to small MS4 bulb type lights on the front and back.
In 1956 a new 'Industrial Series'
line of freight wagons made entirely out of zamac metal were launched. Initially freight wagons were issued with functioning spring pads in the bogies, however these were
eliminated over time to reduce costs. The use of the die-cast material for car bodies facilitated adding a greater amount of details to the trains, such as rivets.
At the height of manufacturing VB was producing 83 unique freight car pieces.
In 1958 VB issued a Z 5100 Budd self propelled electric motor coach and an accompanying dummy trailer. The bodies were made of injected plastic and painted to appear
as if they were made of stainless steel. At around this time the French SNCF railway was running actual stainless steel Budd passenger cars that they had imported
from America. VB followed up in 1958 by issuing a set of HO scale passenger wagons with polystyrene plastic bodies. 1959 saw the introduction of kits for sale that
had a separate body and chasis that the hobbyist could assemble themselves. This same year saw the introduction of 2-rail HO track.
At the end of 1960, VB passed under the control of the English firm Tri-ang owned by the Lines Bros. The acquisition was
completed in 10 days. The VB trains were cataloged
and sold as an HO line for Tri-ang in England, alongside other non-VB originated English equipment.
Tri-ang built a factory in Calais and planned to launch a complete range of French trains in the 1/120 scale running on a 12 mm track. This simultaneous launch of their TT
scale trains in France was a failure, and Tri-ang abandoned VB to eventually acquire Hornby.
The VB brand all but disappeared from the marketplace for a while.
Daniel Lejeune, a train enthusiast and photographer acquired the VB stocks and tooling around 1962 from Lines Bros. The company was established in a new location
at rue de l'agent Bailly in Paris. Lejuene issued a new version of the BB Electric locomotive as the 9211 and a set of plastic
passenger cars with a stainless steel appearance. The BB 9211 was available with 1 or 2 motors. The Lejeune establishment also continued the manufacture of
the self-propelled Z5100 Budd cars, with the addition of an intermediate trailer. The power units were available in 2-rail or 3-rail. The company continued
manufacturing through the end of the 1960's, but the rebirth was short lived, as Lejeune sufferd from heart
health problems and all activity was ceased by 1972.
VB models have become rare and highly sought after, and thus expensive. VB locomotives are easily identified by the presence of the VB logo embossed in the undersides
of the frames. While not as well known in other countries, VB has quite a dedicated following in France.