THE TRI-ANG MINIC NARROWGAUGE RAILWAY SYSTEM
by Mike Slatter
BETWEEN the years 1963 and 1966, Tri-ang introduced a miniature 10¼” gauge ‘garden’ railway entitled the “Tri-ang Minic Narrowgauge Railway (TMNR)” produced at the Minic factory in Canterbury, Kent, England.
Originally the brainchild of Anthony Edmondson, the Managing Director of the factory at the time, the idea was to produce a ‘ride-in’ garden railway that could be run in an average suburban sized garden and aimed at working/middle class families.
The locomotive was inspired by the newly introduced Southern E5001 (Class 71) locomotives that ran the prestigious ‘Golden Arrow’ London-Paris service which ran adjacent the Canterbury factory and chosen due to its easy shape for tooling and production.
The original designed (T.M.N.R.1) locomotive is five feet one inch long, eighteen inches wide and powered by a single series wound 3/4hp GEC DC motor which is mounted above the rear bogie driving all four wheels by chain and an intermediate drive shaft.
Cast iron wheels fitted with insulating bushes are keyed to steel axles and run in nylon axle boxes which are sprung from the frames and traction current, similar to Tri-ang OO gauge models is picked up through frame mounted brushes which run against the outer faces of the wheels. Similar bogies, but without motors, drive, keys and bushes were used for the front end of the locomotive and various coaches.
The frame of the locomotive is a 3/16 inch steel plate, reinforced by 1 inch steel angle along the edges and is supported above the bogies by bronze rollers and painted red with the bogies painted black with red buffer beams and white buffer heads. The body of the locomotive is formed from two identical blow moulded dark green plastic parts joined at the centre by a rubber strip with the roof section of the rear moulding removed to form an opening for the driver.
Windows and body louvers are recessed and painted in silver, the roof painted white and the model fitted with a “Golden Arrow” screen printed head board and body-side painted golden arrows. On each of the four corners of the body are small screen printed plaques – On one corner, an adapted BR emblem of the Kentish Horse holding the driving wheel between its hooves carrying the letters TMNR and on the opposite side, a similar plaque with Tri-ang in red on a yellow background.
The dashboard panel features a “Track Supply On” red indicator light, two rotary Arrow GB snap-action switches – one for “Reverse/Off/Forward” and the other “Slow/Half/Three Quarter/Full” for the speed stages which are obtained through a resistance bar mounted underneath the frame. The panel also includes a headlight switch and horn button, which was fitted as an optional extra.
A second simpler design of control panel was later introduced with a single, centrally mounted switch giving “Reverse Full/Reverse Half/Off/Forward Half/Forward Full” control. Brakes were not fitted as standard and the motors are designed to give braking when the direction lever is reversed; a break on the motor shaft was described as an optional extra.
The locomotive is capable of a maximum speed of 8mph hauling a sizeable train and is stated to be able to run up a gradient of 1 in 25 with a light load.
The locomotive was accompanied by Pullman carriages based on the East Coast Metro Cammell sets of the time and a ride on ‘toast-rack’ wagon.
The Pullman coaches utilised the same non-powered bogies and under frames as the locomotives and the body again formed from two identical halves joined as before but moulded in dark brown with cream livery painted on. Each Pullman coach carries two passengers and is fitted with tubular shaped steel seats the same as those fitted in the loco, and similarly the coach carries the TMNR and Tri-ang badges in addition to coach names – Amber, Amethyst, Emerald, Opal and Pearl.
The ‘toast-rack’ coach is fitted with three seats which had the addition of arm rests and supporting legs, with a safety rail mounted at the front. The base was painted red and the seats and rail cream.
Sectional track was produced, manufactured from 16 gauge folded galvanised steel screwed to Keruing hardwood sleepers at approximately eight inch centres with straight panels available in a 6ft length and curves in two radii – twelve feet and eighteen feet.
The product line was developed to include a limited number of points, made from the standard sectional rail, and special track to include a right angled crossing and buffer stops.
Track power is supplied by a 35v 20amp trackside transformer and with attentions turning to the commercial market, the twin motored locomotive, with internal (T.M.N.R.3) and external (T.M.N.R.4) control was developed giving 1½ hp supplied by a 35v 40amp transformer.
In addition to the standard 10¼” gauge design of the railway a 9½” gauge version was offered although none are known to have been built to this size.
Planned additions to the range included a 10 ¼” gauge 0-4-0 shunting locomotive based on the OO gauged Nelly of which two examples were made – the original prototype and one complete locomotive manufactured using spare parts for a collector in Surrey.
To accompany the locomotive a standard open five plank wagon was designed but did not develop any further than the basic chassis.
The price for the TMNR system varied greatly during its production and is clearly evident when comparing the UK Retail Price Lists between 1963 and 1964. In addition to the purchase of individual items, ‘Railway Sets’ were offered in 1963 to include “The Super Golden Arrow Pullman Express Garden Layout (T.M.N.R.202)” which included a single motored locomotive, two Pullman coaches, three plastic covers, twenty-four lengths of straight track, sixteen thirty-six foot diameter lengths of curved track, twenty feet of two core cable and one hundred feet of three core cable (note that no transformer was included) for £292 3s 6d.
The publicity brochure states that “The manufacturers have conducted tests on track and vehicles for over a year in order to ensure that all possible safety precautions have been taken. During this trial period children of four to sixteen have been driving the trains unattended in many varying conditions.” It continues to say “Provided that children and animals are not actually riding in the train are kept well back from the track and the track is carefully laid on a suitable terrain, a very considerable amount of enjoyment and educational value can be derived from the layout”.
END OF THE LINE
Due to the size of the railway, many retailers were unable to accommodate the product in their shops and therefore reluctantly worked on a commission basis with the sets being delivered directly to the customer from the Minic factory in special containers.
This reluctance made the railway difficult to sell so attentions soon turned to the commercial market with the introduction of a twin motored locomotive (both internal and external controlled) and a large number of the railways were brought and installed at the Butlins seaside holiday camps and commercial operators.
Production stopped soon afterwards in 1965, as once a railway had been installed there was limited scope for product expansion and therefore was not a continued source of revenue for the company and that last units were sold in 1966 with a total of 89 locomotives having been documented as being manufactured.