Blast from the Past: The story so far…

Tony Stratford concludes the story following the demise of the Mainline range after the owners of Palitoy pulled the plug!

The last few articles in this series have covered the financial collapse of Airfix, the emergence of Palitoy’s Mainline Railways and its subsequent acquisition of the Airfix model railway range, closure of Palitoy and more recently the involvement of both Dapol and Replica Railways.

Bachmann Birds of the World plastic kit. PAT HAMMOND

With more twists than an Agatha Christie novel, the story finally comes to rest in Hong Kong, where toy and model manufacturers Kader Industrial owned the former Mainline tooling.

In the last issue we reported how Replica Railways was given access to part of the tooling inventory between 1986 and 1992, releasing several models under the Replica brand but with the former Mainline identification marks underneath the models being replaced by the name Bachmann.

A Kader company building in China. KADER

It was hoped that this would result in increased sales in the USA, Bachmann’s only market at the time, but it failed to capture the imagination of railroad modellers in the States and so Kader looked to the British market for which the original Mainline models were produced.

The beginning of Bachmann

Although known as a major supplier of model railroad products in the USA since the end of the Second World War with its Plasticville range of plastic kits, the history of Bachmann goes back much further into history.

Bachmann originates from two companies. The oldest was formed by Henry Carlisle in 1833 in Philadelphia.

Bachmann Manor Class No. 805 Broome Manor cat. 31-305 (1996). PAT HAMMOND

Its business was the manufacture of vanity products including combs and parasol handles fashioned from horn, ivory and tortoiseshell.

One of the key markets at that time was the American South to whom it supplied the Spanish combs worn by ladies in their hair – anyone who has watched the epic American Civil War film, Gone With The Wind, will be able to identify the product immediately!

Two years later in 1835 Henry Bachmann, a German immigrant, formed another company in Philadelphia, which manufactured a wide range of goods such as those offered by Henry Carlisle.

Graham Hubbard and Merl Evans discuss original drawings from which Merl will design a model. BACHMANN

Henry Bachmann was a master carver and ran the company with his son, Walter, the company winning many awards at the Centennial Exposition in 1876.

His other son, Henry E Bachmann, was managing the Carlisle company and in 1899 the two companies merged to create a single company, Bachmann.

The company was quick to react to changing circumstances and as early as 1902 began working with a new material, celluloid, producing among other items hair combs produced by injection moulding.

Bachmann A4 Class No. 4489 Dominion of Canada cat. 31-950 (1995). SAS

It began making the frames for glasses using a tortoiseshell pattern and at the time employed just 16 people.

Following the death of their father in 1914 the company’s name was changed to Bachmann Brothers and in 1929 moved to new, more spacious premises in East Erie Avenue, the same site occupied today by Bachmann Trains.

For the full article, see January’s edition of Modelling – available now!

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