Blast from the Past: The French toy company Jouef

Tony Stratford outlines the story of the French company that produced Playcraft in HO and returned in the 1970s with a small range of British OO models.

In the last issue we outlined the arrangement between Mettoy and Jouef to produce the range of Playcraft HO/OO scale models available in the 1960s. This time we cross the English Channel to concentrate on French manufacturer Jouef.

Georges Huard became an agent for JeuJura wooden toys and products in 1931 that were produced at Champagnole in the Jura region of south-east France. JeuJura remains in business today still making wooden toys. Huard was from Paris but little is known about his early years or about his private life.

Jouef slot-car Ferrari 250 GT. Pinterest

It is believed that he began a company making household items in plastic and metal in the 1940s and in 1944 he formed a toy company.

Le Jouet Français/The French Toy Company

The company headed by Huard began making toys using conventional tinplate techniques and also in plastic at affordable prices. Items included cars, airplanes, cookers, saucepans and mechanical clockwork figures including a pair of boxers. This company, Le Jouet Français (The French Toy Company), had its name contracted to become Jouef.

In 1949 the company made its first toy train set. This was tinplate running on two-rail tinplate track and consisted of a clockwork railcar such as the type used on the line from Algiers to Timbuktu in West Africa.

Algiers, now the capital city of Algeria, was a French colony from 1830 until independence in 1962 while Timbuktu is now in Mali, another former French colony. What made this set different to others in the same period is that it was produced in HO scale rather than O gauge, which remained popular in the early postwar years.

Jouef HDI BB15006 Loco made in Ireland – Winner 12578

Huard’s aim was to make the cheapest toy trains in the world and he certainly achieved his aim, causing considerable discomfort to many long-standing ranges across Europe!

By 1954 an electric set was in production. This consisted of the 1500v electric BB 9004 locomotive that had entered service with SNCF (French National Railways) earlier that year. On March 29, 1955, the BB 9004 broke the rail speed record of 331kph on the Landes line between Facture and Morcenx.

The set comprised two coaches and tinplate rails revised for electric two-rail operation, the locomotive having a 6v motor supplied by German manufacturer, Distler, a company that had begun trading in Nuremburg in 1900 before closing in the 1960s. Distler in return sold some of the Jouef building kits and accessories.

For the full article, see the March edition of Modelling – available now!

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