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Seki/Sakai Trains


Seki Sakai O gauge EB505 0-4-0 Box cab electric Seki Oxil 'O' gauge 3 rail electric 2-4-0 Locomotive and tender Seki was a model train manufacturer that got their start prior to WWII in Japan. They manufactured trains for export all over the world under the names Bryant, Oxil, Stronlite, Stalwart House, Standard Railway, and Maraklin. Seki made track, trains, signals, accessories, and other tinplate toys. Seki ceased operations during the war. What happened after the war is uncertain, but many believe that they re-emerged as Sakai Seisakusho Ltd. as the trains manufactured by that company were very similar to the pre-war trains made by Seki. During the post-war occupation period, many American soldiers stationed in Japan purchased the low cost train sets manufactured by Sakai, and brought them home to their families in the U.S. The company competed primarily with Marx in the U.S., offering some interesting variants on Marx as well as low-end Lionel and American Flyer 'O' gauge train sets. Seki and Sakai badge-engineered their trains for many different countries, for example the Stronlite brand was created specifically for the UK market in the 1930's, Bryant was targeted at the European Continental market, the Maraklin brand was for the Australian market, and the Stalwart House brand was used for train sets sold through Macy's Department Store in the United States in the 1950's.

Seki 'O' gauge Pre-war freight set with C584 0-6-0 Steam Loco, 6-wheel tender, Tank car, Gondola, and 2-door baggage wagon circa 1930's

Seki 'O' gauge EB57 Pre-war 2-4-2 Electric outline loco The pre-war Seki offerings were in 'O' gauge and were mostly copies of other manufacturer's trains. One item was a passenger coach that resembled an early Lionel #610 coach with arch windows. The Seki version was lithographed in green. The couplers utilized were close copies of Märklin's standard European-type couplings. Other similarities have appeared in pre-WWII Seki tinplate, such as cars with older-style Lionel-style tinplate trucks, Ives-type truck journals, and the Märklin-type couplers. Seki produced a detailed 'O' gauge 4-6-4 Electric outline loco that came in a passenger set with 3 cars and in a freight set that included an oil tanker and caboose. They also produced a die-cast 'O' gauge steam locomotive in 2-6-2, 2-6-0 and 2-4-0 wheel arrangements.

Seki 'O' gauge C584 Pre-war 2-6-0 Steam Locomotive and Tender In the 1930's Seki supplied the UK market with a range of 'O' gauge products under the name 'Stronlite'. Amongst these were a set of printed tinplate copies of the Leed's LMS coaches and the 4-4-2 loco that pulled the passenger set was a copy of the Milbro 4-4-2 Tank locomotive. An 0-4-0 Tank locomotive copy of the Leeds 0-4-0 Saddle Tank locos was reproduced by Seki and sold in sets with either 2 painted tin passenger cars or three open wagons. Sets were labeled for either the LNER, LMS, GWR or Southern liveries. Some sets were also sold under the name Oxil. The Seki Tank loco copies are identifiable by a heightened toolbox in the casting. This heightening was done to accomodate fitting the larger Seki/Stronlite/Oxil electric motor into the chasis. Another distinguishing identifier is the way the Seki models employed the drive gear as part of the wheel flanges, plus the wheels are also much more coarse scale than those used on the Leeds locomotives. Other Leeds items copied by Seki/Stronlite included the LMC GW Siphon G wagon, LNER Corridor Coach and LNER Corridor Brake Composite wagon.

Seki Trains Made For The British Market Under the Name Stronlite
Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge Pre-war electric Japanese tin plate GWR 0-4-0 Tank loco & Tin printed open wagons bearing the GWR and SR livery
Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge LMS set circa 1930's
Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge Pre-war #5107 LNER 0-4-0 Tank Loco and Passenger coach circa 1930's Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge Pre-war Southern Railway passenger coach

Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge Pre-war LMS 0-4-0 Tank loco In order to reconstruct the economy of Japan, many toy manufacturers and model makers produced products for export to the U.S. after the war ended. When Sakai re-entered the U.S. market after World War II, they made 'O' gauge trains that were nearly identical copies of Marx designs. To add further insult, from 1946 to 1969 Sakai sometimes undercut Marx's prices. In addition to producing tinplate and die-cast toys, the company also made tinplate boats with electric outboard motors. The Sakai 1948 catalog pictured an electric outline locomotive in kit form, a set of MU cars, the 2-6-2 steam loco and tinplate passenger cars. The early post-war equipment was made of stamped and painted steel, similar to the pre-war offerings. But eventually over time thinner sheet metal with lithography, and eventually plastic materials found their way into the line. Surprisingly to many collectors, the detail and almost scale-like quality of some of the Seki and Sakai electric outline locomotives produced in 'O' gauge made them very appealing to acquire. The EB58 was one of these low cost but well designed locos.

Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge copies of Leeds passenger coaches and Milbro 4-4-2 LMS Tank Loco circa 1930's

Seki 'O' gauge EB5873 Pre-war 2-4-2 Box Electric Locomotive In the post-war era the steam locomotive produced by Sakai was a 2-6-2 configuration, numbered 301. This engine became the flagship presence in the Sakai line for many years. It is believed to have been the largest volume export item provided to the U.S. market. Early versions were die-cast while later versions were plasti-cast using low density styrene resin. An automatic reversing device was standard in these locos. The Sakai automatic reversing device broke the field of the motor by driving a ratchet, similar to a Lionel E-unit. However, the shift of the reversing device was only forward and reverse, unlike Lionel's 3 position device with a neutral. One early version of the Sakai steam locomotive was a bullet-nosed streamliner painted blue, and packaged with a set of four blue painted tinplate passenger coaches. Seki/Sakai was one of the first Japanese manufacturers to utilize the die-casting process in model train making. Both the early and later tenders were made of tinplate. The die-cast Sakai #301 locomotive looked similar to a Lionel #675 but shrunk down to about the size of a Marx #999. It’s about 2½ inches too short to be a 1:64 scale model of the Pennsylvania K5, though its height and width are about right, but it looked more detailed and costly than anything Marx made in its price range. It also ran really well, as long as the reverse unit was kept clean. The pressed tinplate tender closely resembled the Marx tender it directly competed with, but there were subtle differences. The most noticeable difference is that Marx’s tender was slightly wedge-shaped, while the Sakai tender was squared off. Marx’s design disguised the differences across its product lines, and Sakai had no reason to do that.

Seki Stronlite 'O' gauge LNER Corridor Brake Composite Coach, LNER Corridor Coach and GWR Siphon G circa 1930's

Seki Bryant 'O' gauge EB599 Pre-war 0-4-0 Electric loco Seki Eight wheeled passenger car, probably for the US market In later years the steam locomotive was normally packaged in a freight set that included a tender, an American-style box car in NYC red over grey colors numbered 1744520, a grey gondola numbered 1530000, and a caboose numbered 201570. All cars were lettered Hudson & Pacific, except for a yellow Pegasus tank car which was numbered 752. The freight cars were made of lithographed sheet metal with stamped steel operating knuckle couplers. A considerable number of these sets were sold mainly in department stores in Japan. There have been a few variations to the #301 steam freight set discovered. Unlike U.S.-made trains that often had real brand names on them, Sakai used the name of a fictional railroad. The earliest sets were marked Hutton & Pacific on the loco's tender and cars. They intended to label them Hudson & Pacific. The mistake was caught quickly and the lettering was changed to Hudson & Pacific on later sets. Other than the name change on the cars, the early and later sets were the same, both having stamped steel couplers. The Hutton & Pacific version is very desirable to the Sakai collector, but tese sets are extremely hard to find. A third version of this set was the same as the second version, except it had die-cast trucks, couplers and wheels. This version is also very hard to acquire.

Seki Sakai 'O' gauge A-4800 Standard Models 2-6-0 Streamliner Sakai’s rolling stock was a near-exact copy of Marx’s 3/16 tin lithographed trains if they were placed on Lionel-sized trucks with a Lionel-compatible knuckle coupler made of sheet metal. As mentioned, the later trains were labeled Hudson & Pacific on the tender, box car, caboose, and gondola. The paint scheme and lettering closely resembled Marx’s New York Central-inspired cars of the early post-war era. Sakai supplied a tank car lettered Pegasus, likely taking a cue from Mobil Oil, whose trademark was a red Pegasus in flight. The paint scheme and overall layout closely resembled the yellow Shell-lettered tank car that Marx sold in the early post-war era. In the post-war era Sakai also issued two F-type diesel A unit sets featuring the same freight cars included with the steam engine sets. One diesel set featured a Hudson & Pacific labeled loco and the other a silver, red and grey loco lettered for the Canadian Pacific Railway. These diesels are quite rare today and are highly sought after by collectors.

Seki 'O' gauge MU Set with Power Car and 2 Trailer Cars

Seki pre-war cast block signal accessory Sakai made and sold O-27 track that looked just like contemporary Marx or Lionel track, except the ties were located farther back from the end and the ties were not painted or blackened. Sakai’s switches have similar internal components to the Marx #1590, although the controller is wired in a different way. A Marx or Atlas #56 controller can be utilized with these switches if the original controller is missing, or if a conversion to make them non-derailing is desired. The same instructions for Marx switches can be used to accomplish this conversion. Sakai’s switches are designed to operate with either Marx or Lionel trains and track.

Sakai 'O' gauge EB5873 4-6-4 Box Cab Electric Sakai also made HO trains that operated on 14 volts AC but on two rail track. They produced an American type HO 2-6-2 steam outline loco that was virtually a miniaturized version of their 'O' gauge model, but die-cast instead of made of tinplate. The steam loco was initially labeled for the Hudson & Pacific fictious road, but eventually it was marked for the Baltimore & Ohio, and given the number 327. HO scale die-cast diesels were also produced. HO trains became the primary product exported to the U.S. in the 1960's and 'O' gauge production became the focus of domestic sales. The Sakai HO train locomotives were designed to pull 4 cars weighing a maximum of 17 ounces. This was the limit since the engines were die-cast, and had die-cast trucks, which added a great deal of weight. Locos typically weighed around 20 ounces (1.4 pounds). The cast wheel frames and die-cast body did provide a greater deal of traction however, and the locos were fitted with a substantial electric motor. The Sakai HO freight cars were equipped with scale-proportioned flanged Bettendorf style trucks and wheel sets that were designed to run on true HO scale track, rather than the taller tinplate track found in more toy-like plastic HO train sets of that era.

The first HO sets produced featured cars that were made entirely of tin printed sheet metal. The later HO scale box cars and reefers were made of a combination of tinplate sides with plastic roofs and floors. Handrails were metal, but decorative ladders were plastic. Later hoppers consisted of detailed plastic shells with simulated coal loads mounted onto cast metal frames. Later cabooses were plastic shells with die-cast frames and the handrails and ladders on the deck were pressed on steel plates. Sakai also produced an HO scale Varney-type 0-4-0T Dockside switcher with valve gear. The identifier is a cast F in the oval builder's plate on the side of the smokebox. These locos sell in the $125-$150 range today. Sakai produced an HO passenger trolley with dual overhead poles that was sold in the U.S. under the GHC brand. The HO track included in sets consisted of brass rails and plastic sleepers. The track bears no markings to indicate the manufacturer. It is beleived that Sakai OEM'd their track to other companies that also sold HO model train products and sets in the U.S. The Sakai track is similar to the products made by Shinohara and Atlas during this period. A power pack that bore the Sakai logo was included in sets. It was labeled as a Model 12 and featured 16 volt DC output for the trains and 16 volt AC output for accessories, as well as a forward and reverse switch.

Sakai 'O' gauge Hudson & Pacific Freight set with #301 diecast steam loco, tinplate tender, gondola, 174520 Pacemaker Freight Service boxcar, 752 Pegasus tank car, and 201570 caboose

Sakai 'O' gauge Post-war Canadian Pacific F3 Diesel Locomotive A unit The Sakai/Sakai Seisakusho/Sakai Seisakusho Ltd. Tokyo, Japan trademark was the company name "Sakai" placed within a diamond shape with concave sides formed from what appears to be four swords. The nearly identical logo had the company name replaced with the letters "SS". There is little collector interest in Sakai trains today, possibly because of difficulty identifying the equipment and because the brand is much less widely known than its U.S. counterparts. However, the trains made by Seki in the 1930's do have a following with a small group of collectors. Sakai trains are often referred to as Japanese Marx, because of their close resemblence and similarities to the American made Marx trains. Exactly what became of Sakai is unknown.

Sakai HO Gauge Trains
Sakai early HO gauge Hudson & Pacific Railway Freight set with diesel loco, #3620 gondola, #7571-125 Pacemaker Freight Service boxcar, #752 Pegasus tank car, and #6025 caboose
Sakai later HO gauge Baltimore & Ohio Freight set with #237 2-6-2 Steam Outline loco, tender, PFE Reefer, NYC Coal Hopper, REA Reefer and Red Caboose Exported Under the Standard Electric Toys Brand
Sakai later HO gauge #522 Boston & Maine, #512 New Haven and #25702 State of Maine Bangor & Aroostock BAR Box Cars

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