Karl Bub founded this company in 1851 in Nüremberg,
Germany. American toy train collectors are familiar with the 'KBN' trademark, which stands for
'Karl Bub Nüremberg'. Bub made a superbly enameled and later lithographed line of clockwork tin
transportation toys including trains.
They started making trains that ran by clockwork in 1903. Track
based trains came two years later in 1905. Then in 1914 an electric train was added to the product line.
KBN never produced live steam locomotives. The very first trains consisted of 2-2-0 clockwork engines and
open end passenger cars. The first models of both passenger and freight cars were
of typical Nüremberg design. These early trains were made in gauge 1 and 'O' gauge. The factory was
located at Gostendorfer Hauptstrasse 48. Karl Bub's daughter Emma married Albert Huck who eventually
took over the management of KBN.
A partnership with Issmayer and
Carette allowed all three companies to produce similar looking
trains which often had only the logo that was different. Bub was one of the first companies to produce
diecast accessories for model trains. Many Bub toys reached the American market via exclusive
distributor F.A.O. Schwartz, New York City, during the 1920's-1930's.
Albert and Emma's son, Heinz started working in the family business at an early age
and proved to be a talented toy designer in his own right. In the early 1920's, Bub cataloged
electric outline locomotives, some of which had
clock-work mechanisms, that were patterned after contemporary German and Swiss prototypes. From 1925 on,
Bub introduced steam locomotives patterned after the standard German Reichsbahn prototypes. This included
small 0-4-0's through 2-4-2's and Atlantics to big Pacifics in 'O' gauge.
In 1932, as a result of rising import custom taxes in Great Britain, a second factory was
opened at Aylesbury with the name KB-Toy factory in order to retain the British market. Bub is known to have
acquired the tooling for Bing toy
trains when Bing went
out of the model train business in 1932. Besides the dies, Bub used the toy sales
organization of Bing, a fact which
explains why many of the later products were sold with the combined trademarks of both companies.
Bub had greater interest in the British market, than in the American market. Even
before the factory in England was established, there were several train sets issued in liveries of British
railway companies such as LNWR and GN. After the British Railway merger of 1923, LNER and LHS liveries
Bub was able to keep manufacturing costs low during the depression era because
it utilized paper thin sheet metal. Bub restarted production of the Bing models in 1934 for the
German market but this in turn ceased at the outbreak of World War II. Models made from Bing's dies
appear in catalogs issued from the beginning of the 1930's and most are freight cars of the later Bing
types. During that time period it was fairly common for tinplate train manufacturers to copy each others
designs, and the similarity of Bing, Fandor and Ives
freight and passenger cars in the Bub 'O' gauge lines is apparent. Albert Huck passed away in 1938, and Heinz
inherited the family toy business. The original Bub factory in Nüremberg was completely destroyed
during the war.
After 1945 a production of trains in an 'S'
like gauge (1:64 scale running on 22.5 mm track) was created,
but these train products could not compete with the upcoming trend of HO gauge and was a commercial
failure. The company struggled to recapture its earlier successes by creating the popular BubMobil.
During the 1950´s the company made a strategic error by not switching its production from diecast and tinplate
to plastic, as was the practice held by other toy train manufacturers of the time. By the mid 1960´s Bub
was forced to completely cease production and cease operations. In 1964, the factory was located
at Elsnerstrasse 9, near the original one. There was a plan to convert to the manufacture of HO gauge
and N gauge locomotives with experimental vibrator motor drives designed by Heinz Huck, but the company
itself wound up closing its doors in 1966.
Bub trains and cars are hard to find and are highly collectible. Complete sets of
these trains rarely
appear on the market except at auction when an old established collection is being dispersed.
Catalogs issued by Bub are very rare because, in common with other Nüremberg manufacturers,
these were issued only to retailers.
In 2002 a new firm began producing HO and large scale trains under the Bub name.
There is no lineal
connection between the old Bub and the new Bub. The new products are manufactured in China, but the
company offices are located in Nüremberg. Their web site address is www.bub-toys.de.