Several European manufacturers in the 1970s, albeit briefly, entered the British market. In this issue Tony Stratford delves into the history of one company, Italian manufacturer Rivarossi, which produced a limited British range.
The founder of Rivarossi, Alessandro Rossi, was born in 1921 into a family of successful industrialists who had a long association with the wool trade. The family owned the Rossi Mill in Schio, which was in existence by the mid-1800s.
His mother also had property and a mansion near Como, a city at the southern end of Lake Como in northern Italy. His father, Francis, had a passion for technology and model railways and he encouraged Alessandro in the hobby by subscribing to Meccano Magazine and by purchasing O-gauge Hornby trains for him.
Having graduated with a degree in engineering from the University of Milan, the Second World War intervened. Rossi found himself drafted into the army serving as a commissioned officer with the engineers. Following illness and convalescence at Como and marriage to Theresa, the daughter of an industrialist who manufactured machinery for the textile industry, they crossed the border to Switzerland where they were interned until the end of hostilities.
The decision was not too difficult as the house in which they lived was almost on the border.
In 1946, Rossi used an inheritance from an uncle who had been a priest, to buy into a company called ASA, which produced electric commutators where one of the partners was Antonio Riva. Rossi’s intention was to use the skills in the factory in Albese Cassano to move into model railway production. The partnership with Riva did not last long; he left the company the following year, although ‘Riva’ was retained in the company name.
In 1946 Rivarossi produced its first model in the form of an Italian Railways’ two-car electric multiple unit consisting of a power car and trailer with non-working pantographs fitted to the motorised car only. T
he model was of the AE2002 Class EMU then operating in north Milan with the bodyshell moulded in Bakelite, a more robust form of plastic than acetate. Rivarossi was one of the first model railway manufacturers to use plastic rather than die-cast or tinplate. The Leeds Model Co produced coaches and wagons in Bakelite from 1937 and Trix had Bakelite track in the 1930s.
The early products were produced nearer to OO scale rather than HO and were aimed at the toy rather than the scale market. At the time there were no other model railway manufacturers in Italy although Lima would commence production shortly after.
For the full article, see the April edition of Modelling – available now!
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