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Minature table railway - Miniature table railway

Miniature table railway

  • Object:

    Minature table railway

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1924 (manufactured)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gebrüder Bing (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lithographed tin plate

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John and Pat Clark

  • Museum number:

    B.92:1 to 12-2004

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Toy trains have been popular since the birth of the railway. Children’s toys often reflect what is familiar around them and transport has always been popular form of toys for boys. From horses and carts to carriages trains, cars and planes, each has seen great periods of popularity as they have been developed and designed in the real world. Trains were initially produced as toys for children in the early half of the nineteenth century but it was quite quickly established that there was also a market for adult collectors.

The first complete system of trains was released by Marklin in 1891. You could now buy extra parts to build a system as big or as small as you wished. This was a great development for toy companies as it meant that parents could buy for various occasions and some children could afford small parts with their pocket money.

This tabletop set was made by Bing a German company for the British market. As there was ill feeling towards German toys at the time it was marked as just 'Foreign made'. This new size scale was not particularly popular and was quite clunky compared to other versions at the time.

Physical description

The train set does not fit in its box, therefore some of the pieces are additional. The buffer, tailer and the turntable as well as some of the length of track have been added to the set. They are all made by the same manufacturer.

Place of Origin

Germany (manufactured)


1924 (manufactured)


Gebrüder Bing (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Lithographed tin plate

Object history note

In 1919 W. J. Bassett-Lowke's lifelong friend Stephan Bing had become managing director of Bing-Werke AG, and the following year Bassett-Lowke asked Bing to produce a new 'table-top' toy railway to approximately half the scale of Gauge-0 for Bassett-Lowke to market in Britain. The actual design of the table top railway system was the work of Henry Greenly, in collaboration with Oswald Fischer of Bing.
It is important to grasp that Henry Greenly was not a model-maker but a professional engineer who had made his career in miniature railways and model engineering. When Bassett-Lowke produced a live-steam engine or Greenly published a design in the Model Engineer, the principal requirement was that it worked well, not that it be an exact scale replica of a full-sized locomotive. Consequently many of Greenly's designs were more or less freelance, and when we reach his largest locos, for 15" gauge, it is difficult to say whether we are dealing with a freelance model or an independent prototype design.
Greenly seems to have carried this approach over to the design of the Table Top Railway, for which he specified wheels 5mm wide running on 5/8" tinplate track - that is track half the width of Gauge-0. The new system was far smaller than any working toy train hitherto produced and the grotesque wheel profile adopted was presumably cautious engineering intended to ensure that the new system worked reliably in the hands of children. The trains were stamped 'Foreign-made' and marketed under the Bassett-Lowke brand to avoid anti-German feeling. Publicity began in the autumn of 1922, and the first sets were available in the weeks before Christmas.
The Table Top Railway, forerunner of the world's most popular sizes of model railway, was only a moderate success. An electric version (centre three-rail with trip reverser) appeared in 1924, in which year Bing released the system under their own name in Germany, but although it was copied by JEP in France (under the name Mignon using a gauge of 16.5mm), and one or two Nuremberg toymakers, the range did not develop, and it does not seem to have made inroads into the market for Gauge-0. In August 1932, in the depths of the Depression, Bing-Werke's financial difficulties resulted in its collapse and production ceased. The tooling subsequent passed to Karl Bub who restarted production in 1934 for the German market but this in turn ceased at the outbreak of war.
However, by 1924 Henry Greenly had obviously decided that this new small size had significant potential. In his famous book, Model Railways, published In May 1924, he writes in the section on scales: "Gauge No. 00, 'Table Railways':- This standard gauge has recently been introduced by the writer at the instance of Mr. W. J. Bassett-Lowke to provide for those who are limited in space to that of an ordinary dining-room table. Clockwork and electric locomotives are supplied. The actual gauge is 16mm (5/8") and the scale is 4mm to the foot." By Stephen Siddle

Descriptive line

A miniature table railway set made in Germany by Gerbruder Bing in the early 1920s

Labels and date

Clockwork table top railway
Made from tin in Germany by Gebruder Bing in the early 1920s
This small railway system that could be used on a table was a great success. []

Production Note

sold or distributed by The Ajax co, Ilford & Romford


Tin; Card


Children & Childhood; Dolls & Toys

Production Type

Mass produced


Museum of Childhood

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