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Bassett-Lowke Trains

History

Bassett-Lowke LMS Compound clockwork 4-4-0 circa 1950's Bassett-Lowke was a toy company, based in Northampton, England founded by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke (1877 – 1953) in 1898 or 1899 that specialized in model railways, model boats and ships, and construction sets. During its history, Bassett-Lowke offered trains in all gauges up to 15" and in all modes of power (clockwork, steam, and electric). They were also well known for their ship models, some of which graced the board rooms of the largest steamship companies of the time.

Bassett-Lowke LNER 02 2-8-0, prototype model not put into production, 1950's W. J. Bassett-Lowke was the son of a boiler-maker and a governess. He left school at thirteen. He spent eighteen-months in an architect’s office, before joining his father in the family boiler making business. He took up the hobby of making model stationary steam engines. Realizing the impossibility for the ordinary enthusiast of purchasing small parts, which he had made in his father’s workshops, he soon began a small mail-order business. His father’s bookkeeper, H. F. R. Franklin, joined him in the project. Bassett-Lowke initially started as a mail-order catalogue business and primarily remained so, although it sometimes designed and even manufactured some of its own items.

Bassett-Lowke Flying Scotsman in BR blue circa 1950's Bassett-Lowke was inspired by his visit to the Paris Exhibition in 1900, where he made contact with German manufacturers, including Bing, from whom he bought model trains painted in British livery. Soon he began manufacture in Northampton. The company began making ‘waterline’ ship models in 1908. This type of model, showing only the parts above the waterline, were used in wartime as training aids for the Navy and Air Force. Yachts were also made to sail on boating lakes. Large shipping companies commissioned models of their luxury liners to display in their offices. Miniature railways were made for wealthy individuals and for exhibitions and resorts. The skilled model maker E. W. Twining formed Twining Models Ltd., which produced the highest quality architectural models with Bassett-Lowke Ltd.

Bassett-Lowke 2-6-0 Live Steam 'O' Gauge LMS - RN 2945 Bassett-Lowke was primarily a sales organization, contracting out the manufacture of models and parts to other manufacturers, such as Twining Models, and Wintringham's also of Northampton. They did, however, keep the manufacture of shipmodels for display purposes in-house.

Bassett-Lowke produced trains in a variety of sizes, from 15" gauge live steam models to Gauge 2, Gauge 1, and '0' gauge.

Bassett-Lowke BR Prince Charles Saloon Passenger coach in 'O' gauge Their first 15" gauge steam locomotive, test run on the Eaton Hall Railway in 1905 was the Little Giant. Unlike other engines on the line it was a replica of main-line locos, being built for a new public miniature railway at Blackpool. It was a quarter scale 4-4-2 Atlantic tender engine, though not an exact copy of any particular prototype. This engine still exists in private ownership.

In 1908 Bassett-Lowke opened his first London shop at 257 High Holborn, moving to number 112 in 1910. His company made great use of trade shows, not only displaying their own goods, but often supplying companies with models, too. Many 15” gauge railways were installed to carry visitors around exhibitions. Usually the displays were of smaller gauge models and large tabletop systems. However, mail order remained an important part of the business.

Bassett-Lowke BR Brittania circa 1960's In Bassett-Lowke’s earlier days, the company commissioned a lot of its products from other manufacturers. The company collaborated with Carette who made a good deal of carriages for the English market. One of the primary suppliers of 2½" gauge locomotives prior to 1913 was Carson & Co. (James Carson). In 1913, Bassett-Lowke acquired all of Carson’s tooling and continued to make at least some of the Carson range for some time afterwards.

In 1914, Bassett-Lowke produced only the second Pacific 4-6-2 (of any size) to be built in Britain (the first was GWR 111 The Great Bear). This was the John Anthony, built for a private miniature railway at Staughton Manor. It was never delivered, but after storage at Eaton Hall during World War I, it was sold to the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway and renamed Colossus. It was scrapped in 1927. Previously the Ravenglass and Eskdale had purchased another Bassett Lowke Atlantic, the Sans Pareil.

Bassett-Lowke Gauge 1 Great Northern Railway 4-4-2 Atlantic #251 Live Steam locomotive & tender In the 1914-18 war Bassett-Lowke Ltd. made the gauges which tested the standard parts of guns.

In the 1920's, Bassett-Lowke introduced 'OO' gauge products from original Bing designs. The company would also provide a complete custom-build railway service for those with necessary funds; one such layout survives in modified format at Bekonscot Model Village in England.

Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge LMS Black 0-6-0 Standard Goods Loco & Tender #4755 Electric powered for 3 Rail 12 volt  DC operation From 1930 to 1933, Bassett-Lowke received and filled an order from the Great Western Railway for a highly detailed 3/4" scale model of their 'King George V' locomotive. A huge model of the 'Empress of Britain', 21' long also was produced. The regular lines of 'O' and 1 gauge steam locomotives were enlarged to include five types in 'O' gauge, and an equal number in 1 gauge. These came in the liveries of the English 'Big 4' LMS, CWR, SR, and LNER Railway Companies. In 1939 a special 2½" scale, and a 10¼" gauge model of the 'Royal Scot' was produced for Lord Downshire. Previously, the largest such miniature had been one for 7¼" gauge operation. Other scale models built by Bassett-Lowke in the 1930's included a 7¼" scale model of the underground railway system, for the London Passenger Transport Board, a 1½" scale model of the Robert Stephenson & Co. Locomotive No.1, ½" scale models of the French 'Normandie' and the British 'Queen Mary' ocean liners, and a miniature 'Graf Zeppelin'.

Bassett-Lowke BL99006 LMS Princess class Pacific No.6201 Princess Elizabeth in LMS maroon In the 1930's, Bassett-Lowke distributed 'OO' gauge Trix models in the United Kingdom under the brand name 'Twin Train Table Railway'. They initially used German outline models painted in British colors, but from 1937 onwards they made and sold relatively crude models of British locomotives and rolling stock. This included Flying Scotsman, Princess Elizabeth, Coronation Scot, Hunt and Schools Classes, and the LMS compound types.

In 1937-1938, Bassett-Lowke released an 'O' gauge model of the Great Western Railway's King George V. The locomotive body and the tender were manufactured by Märklin, while the motor and wheels were made by Bassett-Lowke, Ltd. The Basset-Lowke North Hampton shops followed up by making several improved 'O' gauge models, including the Princess Royal, Princess Elizabeth, LNER Silver Link, LMS Coronation Scot, CWR's 2-6-2 tank loco, LHS' 2-6-4 tank, and a Victory 4-6-0, LNER 4-6-0 Melton Hall, and an improved Royal Scot, with smoke deflectors and a high-side 4,OOO-gallon tender. All locos were available in clockwork, or as AC/DC electric powered models. These trains were made from soldered sheet metal, a distinct feature of the company since they began.

Bassett-Lowke #440 clockwork 4-4-0 Steam Loco, 6 wheel tender & Baggage Car During the 1939-45 war a great variety of work was done by Basset-Lowke to support the war effort. Many projects were of a highly critical, secret nature. A method of training for aircraft recognition using mirrors was devised. They produced training models of the sectional Inglis and later Bailey bridges. Perhaps the most important construction of this nature was the model of the floating Mulberry harbour, which was used to land troops in Normandy in 1944. Bassett-Lowke did continue to sell locomotive models from remaining pre-war production stock.

In the post-war period of 1946-1965, train production at Bassett-Lowke was resumed, but only in 'O' gauge. Other larger gauges were discontinued. Prices were raised, as labor and material costs rose following the war. Such models as the LMS 4-6-2 Duchess of Montrose, and GWR 4-6-0 Pendennis Castle were produced.

Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge BR Class 20 Diesel Loco Electric Business trailed off in the late 1950's and even more so in the 1960's. Bassett-Lowke's fall was mirrored by two of its U.S. counterparts, the A. C. Gilbert Company and Lionel Corporation. Bassett-Lowke's decline starting in the late 1950's can be blamed on at least two factors: Sometimes people would browse the firm's free catalogue and then buy similar or nearly identical items elsewhere at a lower price, but also consumer interest in technical toys in general began to decline in the hobby market.

After W.J.’s death in 1953 the company continued to make high-quality ship and industrial models. However, the 1960's were also to bring their problems, and in 1964 the company ceased its retail sales and sold its shops, including the famous one at High Holborn in London, to Beatties. The original Bassett-Lowke went out of business in 1965. The Bassett-Lowke and Franklin families sold their shares in 1967.

Bassett Lowke 'O' Gauge Teak Style Passenger Coach 1235N In 1966 the company was acquired by Messrs Riley and Derry, and in the late 1980's by Nigel Turner, a Northampton businessman.

In 1993 the name was revived for a while with short-run white metal models. These included a Burrell Type Traction Engine, Clayton Undertype Steam Wagon, Burrell Type Steam Roller, and London 'B' Type bus.

The brand name was acquired by Corgi in 1996. Corgi linked the company with live steam and electric 'O' gauge locomotives. Manufacturing was moved from Northhampton to Leicester England. Corgi re-launched the railway locomotive products in 1999 to commemorate the original company's 100th year. Bassett-Lowke continued to produce a range of 'O' gauge locomotives that were individually made Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge Wood Varnished Newspaper Kiosk with cardboard cut out woman passenger from sheet metal using soldered construction and that reflected those made in a bygone era. The company's intentions were to produce a limited number of each livery style and move onto the next item in a plan. The company stated that "Those involved in the production of Bassett-Lowke trains have a passion and knowledge of trains and their aim is to produce a good value and quality product". These products are made with wheel standards that will allow reliable running on most comercially available 'O' gauge track systems. The recommended smallest radius being 36". All currently manufactured locos are electric motor powered and fitted with a smoke generator which means that with a few drops of smoke oil down the chimney the loco will produce what looks like steam from the smokestack. All locos are switchable between 2 and 3 rail operation.

Because of the premium nature of Bassett-Lowke's toys, they tended to be well preserved, and many examples of older product survive today. They are highly collectible.

Key competitors to Bassett-Lowke were Hornby and Exley. Hornby acquired Bassett-Lowke when it purchased Corgi in 2008.

Bassett-Lowke Enterprise steam in 'O' gauge Bassett-Lowke LMS Mogul Hughes type steam in 'O' gauge
Bassett-Lowke 0-6-0 Tank LMS electric in 'O' gauge Bassett-Lowke #88 LNER 0-4-0 Tank electric in 'O' gauge
Bassett-Lowke Great Northern Railway Teak 3rd class coach in 1 gauge Bassett-Lowke Duchess of Montrose LMS 4-6-2 loco & tender in 'O' gauge
Bassett-Lowke GWR Mogul 2-6-0 electric in 'O' gauge Bassett-Lowke Flying Scotsman 4-6-2 Electric Loco & tender in 'O' gauge
Bassett-Lowke 2-6-0 Royal Scot clockwork engine & tender in 'O' gauge Bassett-Lowke 2-6-0 LMS Mogul (Hughes) electric in 1 gauge
Bassett-Lowke NE Wordsell 4-4-0 Steam loco & tender in 2½ gauge Bassett-Lowke Aspinal 4-6-0 steam loco & tender in 2½ gauge
Bassett-Lowke 0-6-0 Tank Steam loco in 2½ gauge Bassett-Lowke Flying Scotsman 4-6-0 Steam Loco & tender in 2½ gauge
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge Black LMS Royal Scot #6100 clockwork Loco & Stanier Tender Bassett-Lowke LMS 4-6-0 gauge 1 Royal Scot steam loco & tender
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge, LMS 12-Wheeled Dining Car, RN 13210 Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge, LNER, Ivatt Express, 4-4-0 Loco & Six-Wheeled Tender, RN 4390, Clockwork 1927-30
Bing for Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge clockwork L&NWR 4-4-2 Precursor Tank RN 44 Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 0-6-0 Black #5374 Clockwork Tank Locomotive Bing for Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge clockwork GWR 2-4-2 Birdcage Tank RN 3611
Bassett-Lowke LNER #1864 2-6-0 Steam Locomotive & Tender Bassett-Lowke LNER 'O' gauge teak 1st Class Pullman car #36232
Bassett-Lowke 4-6-0 GWR Spitfire 'O' gauge electric Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge Duchess of Montrose 4-6-2 Pacific 12 volt DC electric Locomotive and Tender in British Rail Blue
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge Coronation 4-6-2 Streamlined Pacific Clockwork Locomotive and Tender in LMS Blue Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 4-6-2 12 Volt electric Turbomotive Locomotive and Tender in LMS Maroon
Bassett-Lowke Post War 'O' gauge 4-6-0 Black Five 12 Volt DC electric Locomotive and Tender #45126 in BR livery Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 2-6-0 Mogul 12 volt DC electric LNER Green Locomotive and Tender Number 33
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 1931 Series LMS Royal Mail TPO Coach Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 4-6-0 Royal Scot Class 12 Volt DC Electric Locomotive and Tender in LMS Black
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge Black Five 12 Volt DC Electric 4-6-0 Locomotive and Tender in LMS livery Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge Empire of India Electric 4-6-2 Streamlined A4 Pacific Locomotive and Tender in LNER Blue livery
Bassett-Lowke Marklin bodied 'O' gauge Merchant Taylors 12 volt DC Electric Southern 4-4-0 Schools Class Locomotive and Tender Bassett-Lowke Marklin bodied 'O' gauge Impregnable 12 volt DC Electric 4-6-0 5XP Locomotive and Tender in LMS Maroon livery
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge LMS Compound 4-4-0 Loco & Tender RN 1108 Electric 3 Rail 12v DC Bassett Lowke 'O' gauge clockwork Princess Elizabeth loco and tender
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 4-4-2 Precursor Tank 12 Volt electric DC Locomotive #6810 in LMS Maroon livery Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 2-6-2 12 volt DC electric 2-6-2 Tank Locomotive #94 in LMS livery
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 12 Volt DC Electric GWR 2-6-0 Mogul Locomotive & Tender Hunt for Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 12 Volt DC Electric GWR 4-6-0 'King John' Locomotive & Tender
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge 12 Volt DC electric LMS Euston-Watford Set powered 3rd class brake coach #1652 Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge LMS 3rd class coach 12 Volt DC electric from the Euston-Watford Set #6560
Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge LMS 1st and 3rd class coach 12 Volt DC electric from the Euston-Watford Set #3416 Bassett-Lowke 1921 Series LNWR Brake Third class Bogie Coach
Bassett-Lowke BR 'O' gauge 1st and 3rd Coaches Two Bassett-Lowke 'O' gauge LNER Passenger Coaches - 1st & 3rd

Basset-Lowke website
Bassett-Lowke Collector's Society website

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