CR was a highly successful French toy company established in Paris, founded by Charles Rossignol in 1868. CR produced
painted and lithographed tin clockwork toys such as 'O' and 1 gauge floor trains and trolleys, trains that ran on tracks,
a series of motor cars, coaches and busses, trucks, planes, robots and boats. Rossignol, along with Radiguet, were two major
builders of elaborate steam engine models in France, competing with the famous German manufacturers of the era 1890-1930.
CR introduced a very popular range of Paris buses in the 1920's and continued production until they ceased business in 1962.
Early floor trains and vehicles were assembled of hand cut
tinplate parts that were shaped and soldered
together then hand painted and lacquered. Wheels were made of cast iron.
The clockwork locomotive front wheels were flangeless and could be turned and locked inward so that the
mechanical vehicles would run in a circle on the floor. The early floor trains were made in 65mm gauge.
Eventually new production techniques such as the lithographic process, metal stamping press machines and the tab and slot
assembly method were implemented.
Charles Rossignol was not just a toy maker, but he was also an innovative inventor. He filed 10 patents, including one in
1889 that became his trademark.
The assembly of tinplate toys using pre-cut tabs and slots in the metal was a Rossignol original idea. This simple technique,
that eliminated the soldering
process was eventually adopted by almost all toy manufacturers worldwide. These newer
manufacturing processes enabled reduction of labor costs and elimintation of harmful paint fumes from the workplace. The new
processes also enabled greater
levels of detail to be printed onto the trains and toys. Later clockwork floor trains were also built in 28mm, 33mm and 35mm gauges.
The first clockwork powered trains that ran on track were introduced in 1905 in the form of a 4-2-0 steam outline loco and 4-wheel tender #210.
The production of French outline clockwork 'O' gauge trains that ran on track began following World War I. This was
an effort to fill the gap left by the Germans. In a fashion taken by a number of other toy manufacturers like
Meccano Ltd. in the UK, CR took
the opportunity to move into producing 'O' gauge model trains and train sets after German dominance of the market was broken by the War, and
by post-war German economics and widespread anti-German sentiment. Just as the "Golden Period" of the German manufacturers is considered to
be the time when their pieces still had a slightly artistic and surreal "toylike" element (before they got "too good" at producing literal scale
models of trains), the Rossignol model railway pieces that are of the most interest to collectors are the very early items, which had a strong
distinctive character and identity that became a little more subdued in later pieces.
CR was based in Paris at 110 Avenue of the Republic. In the 1930's CR produced toy trains and sets modelled after the Bugatti
rail cars that ran on the
French and Italian rail roads at that time. Train sets were packaged in beautifully illustrated cardboard boxes. Rossignol trains
were very toy-like
and whimsical, not scale-like or prototypical of the real trains of the times. The company later produced electric trains during
the years 1928 to 1939.
At a very superficial glance some Rossignol pieces can look a little like early Bing tinplate (due to the
common use of
lithographed tinplate technology), but on a second look, the choice of color schemes and the use of emphasized pinched contours give many
Rossignol pieces a very different and very "Parisian" style, slightly reminiscent of period French cartoon work, or the sketches of UK
cartoonist Ronald Searle (who was British but very influenced by French art). Another, rather more obvious "giveaway" is that CR pieces
were often models of French vehicles. Rossignol lithographed pieces tend to be marked 'CR', either as a logo or as simple text. The CR logo
has the letters C and R entwined around each other.
While there is a lot of intricate detail in these toys that appeals to collectors, the Rossignol models of French
busses are the most highly-prized.
Charles Jacques Rossignol was born in Neufchef in 1839 and died in Paris in 1889 at the age of 50. The company was run by Rossignol's
son starting in 1888.
In 1930 the company name changed to Roitel, Rossignol & Cie. The company produced toys for 94 years before closing its doors
permanently in 1962.
Link to French web site dedicated
to Charles Rossignol C.R. Trains