ACE Electric Train Company Ltd. of London was originally created as a partnership between Andries Grabowsky and Alan Levy in 1995 for the purpose of
distributing 100% of the 'O' gauge tinplate model trains manufactured by Andries Grabowsky and his ACE Far East Company based in Thailand. This partnership proved
to be highly successful as in the first ten years of operation they sold fourteen series of British styled tinplate coaches, three series of British styled tinplate
locomotives, and three series of British styled die-cast locomotives. The die-cast locos were models of the
Class A4 streamlined 4-6-2 locomotive whose prototype was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley in 1935 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER), the A3 Pacific Flying
Scotsman of the LNER, and the Great Western Railway (GWR) Castle Class 4-6-0. The prototype A4 streamliner named 'Mallard' holds the record as the fastest
steam locomotive in the world.
Andries Grabowsky of the Netherlands had been involved in the production of toy trains since the early 1990's. In 1993 Grabowsky acquired
the rights and tooling of the famous Swiss manufacturer Darstaed from Marcel Darphin with the intention to revive 'O' gauge tinplate
train production that had almost completely disappeared from the European market. Until that time Grabowsky had manufactured Dutch model trains in HO scale,
two of which won the prize of Model of the Year at the Nuremberg Spielwarenmesse in 1991 and 1992. Alan Levy was a
co-founder of the London Toy and Model Museum along with his first wife Narisa Chakrabongse Levy. Narisa Chakrabongse Levy was the Great granddaughter of
King Chulelongkorn of Siam, who was depicted in the play "The King and I". Allen Levy also established New Cavendish Books which publishes books on toy trains.
He is also the author of the books "A Century of Model Trains", and "Brilliantly Old Fashioned, The Story of ACE O Gauge Trains".
New Cavendish published information rich books on toy trains such as the distinctive coffee table book "The Trains on Avenue De Rumine", and the comprehensive
"The Hornby Gauge O System". In the summer of 1995 a first agreement was made between Levy and Grabowsky in St. Mawes. The plan was for Grabowsky to design and
manufacture the line of British styled 'O' gauge model train products and Levy would sell them. A company originally called Allchem Trains Ltd changed its name
to the now familliar ACE, at Levy's recommendation. The name is an anagram of the initials of Allen, Charlotte and Emily Levy. Charlotte and Emily being his current wife
and youngest daughter.
The first locomotive ACE Trains produced was the E/1 based on the original Hornby clockwork powered 4-4-4 initially produced
in the 1920's. This locomotive was made on the recommendation of Ron Budd, a well known respected collector and founding member of the Hornby Railway Collectors
Association (HRCA). Ron felt that the UK market would be very receptive to the idea of a replica Hornby 4-4-4 as an electric 'O' gauge locomotive. A Hornby model
was supplied by Ron Budd and artwork for this first project was done by Les Horton. The E/1 was released in April 1996 heralding the return of coarse
scale 'O' gauge in Britain. The tinplate E/1 series of 4-4-4 tank locomotives were produced both in British and French liveries along
with a series of compatible tinplate passenger coaches. ACE trains intent was to develop trains that would have been a logical extension of the Hornby
line had Hornby continued to produce 'O' gauge tinplate trains into the 21st Century. It was a huge success, ushering in a revival of interest in British Tinplate.
ACE production was moved from Taiwan to Madras, India in 1996 where the C1 suburban passenger coaches and Electric Multiple Units (EMU’s) were
made. Once it was decided to manufacture the A4 Gresley locomotive, India did not prove to be the ideal location and in January 2000 the entire manufacturing
facility was moved to Bangkok, Thailand where a great number of sophisticated Taiwanese manufacturers had settled. The rugged die-cast
bi-motored Gresley A4 and A3 locomotives were top of the line and rapidly became famous because of their very high tractive power and reliability.
The Class A4 streamlined Pacific was available in at least seven colors and with at least thirty different engine names. Over 1600 A4 Gresley locomotives
were produced and today on the second-hand market they command several times the original purchase price. These were hefty, detailed, beautiful models of their
The creation and growth of this company and how they ended up manufacturing toy trains in Thailand is fascinatingly described
in Allen Levy’s book "Brilliantly Old Fashioned, The Story of ACE 'O' Gauge Trains". ACE developed a solid base of dedicated fans and a new club,
the Ace Train Owner’s Club (www.acetrainsownersclub.org.uk) provides an on-line forum for ACE topics. Members operate ACE trains at venues
in the UK along with their Hornby Railway Collectors Association (HRCA) counterparts.
On July 31st 2008 Allen Levy announced that he and Andries Grabowsky were disolving their partnership. The two had conflicting
ideas as to how ACE Trains should evolve. Andries and Allen parted ways with differing opinions about various aspects of the business and where it
was heading. It was announced that Allen Levy would continue with ACE Trains and that Andries Grabowsky would focus on the re-launch of the famous Darstaed
line. There was concern among ACE enthusiasts as to whether ACE Trains would survive. But ACE bounced right back. Although they
targeted the same British 'O' gauge train market, ACE Trains (Levy) and Darstaed Trains (Grabowsky) agreed that the
tooling for new 35 cm coaches would remain in Bangkok, Thailand to be freely used by both companies. And a complete range of French PLM (Paris Lyon Mediterranee)
tinplate coaches would be produced and sold by both ACE Trains and Darstaed Trains. The last product sold under the ACE Trains/Grabowsky and Levy partnership was the die-cast
Castle Class 4-6-0 locomotive in GWR and BR liveries. During the twelve years that Grabowsky and Levy sold products under the jointly owned ACE Trains label
over 6000 locomotives, over 1000 EMUs, thousands of goods stock and over 20000 coaches were made.
ACE Trains continued to make quality trains and accessories by shifting its production to China and by using other vendors like
ETS. In 2009 ACE developed a tinplate Stanier Tank Locomotive in LMS and British
Rail liveries. The prototype locomotive was designed by Sir William Stanier, Chief Mechanical Engineer for the LMS Railway. In the late 1930’s, the
British company Bassett-Lowke sold a small number of Stanier type tank locomotives with bodies that were made
by Märklin. Today they are very hard to come by. ACE’s Stanier tank locomotive looked very similar to the original
Bassett-Lowke model but the ACE locomotive was operable on both 2-rail and 3-rail layouts. Next ACE produced the Bulleid light Pacific in the liveries
of the Southern Railway and British Rail. The prototype was designed by Oliver Bullied, the C. M. E. (Chief Mechanical Engineer) of the Southern Railway, and intended
for express passenger service. These 4-6-2 locomotives pulled the 'Golden Arrow' Pullman train from London to Dover on the English Channel after
World War II. This loco was called the Spamcan because of its boxy appearance.
ACE also produced locos such as the E/12 Stanier 4-6-2 Coronation and Duchess Locomotive. ACE has the ability to produce their locomotives in a wide variety
of liveries and engine names. They are fitted with 20 or 24 volt DC motors. Another ACE tinplate locomotive release was a family of 0-6-0 tender locomotives
in such versions as the Q-Class Southern Railways/British Rail freight locomotive, the J 19 LNER, and the Fowler 4F locomotive of the LMS Railway. A newer release
was the Evening Star 9f 2-10-0. An unusual engine from the ACE Trains range of 'O' gauge Schools-Class locomotives with different configurations was the a startling bright pink
'St. Trinneans' loco named after the chaotic girls school St. Trinians depicted in the famous Ronald Searle cartoons. In addition to the bright pink paint job the St Trinneans
loco has white wheels, and instead of the more usual sober blue-suited fireman and driver, is manned by two English schoolgirls.
As for freight wagons, ACE has produced multiple colorful, petrol and milk tank wagons, a brake van, and goods wagons. The freight
and passenger cars don't have a lot of added on detail as they are built like toy trains were in the 1920's and 1930's with lithographed printed features
on tin plated steel. The cars appear, in photographs to have ribs, angle iron and rivets, panels, etc. but all of this is printed on and the car sides are
flat. These trains are 1/43rd scale. All the trains are compatible with the colorful Hornby trains of the 1930's.
ACE Trains re-introduced 'O' gauge tin printed coaches to the market after an absence of some 50 years. By 2002
ACE Trains had produced over 10,000 British outline coaches. One remarkable fact is the new series contained more
varieties of liveries than issued by their illustrious predecessors in
over 100 years prior to 1999. The series was based on a 35 cm chassis evoking a scale size length of 51'. Refinements
such as Clerestory roofs, rear lights, and interior kits were also offered. The ACE/Wright series became an adjunct
of both the 35 and 40 cm series. A range of articulated sets depicting many of the crack LNER Express trains of the
1930's were also produced. They were followed some 5 years later by a line of 40 cm main line stock some of which
(C/13 onwards) were fitted with Commonwealth fully sprung bogies. ACE produced the Brighton Belle which included two
Motor/Brake units, a 3rd Class Parlor Car, a 1st Kitchen ‘Doris’ and 1st Kitchen ‘Hazel'. ACE 40 cm LMS coaches were
introduced in 2009.
In 2018 ACE partnered with RTM Models to produce the D1 Warship Diesel in 'O' gauge. RTM built the loco
under license from ACE London. All design and supervision would be handled by ACE/London on a royalty basis.
The loco featured all-metal construction, a powerful 2-motor 4-axle clutch drive, heavy weight for good adhesion,
2-rail and 3-rail operation conversion via a function switch, 24-volt DC power, and realistic analog diesel sound. It also
included operating cab lights, directional operating 4-digit head code lights, and directional operating front and
rear lights. The model was priced at £465.
Click this link to access the ACE Electric
Train Company Ltd. of London website.
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