Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Trix

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1947.
November 1952.

of 91 Regent Street, London, W1. Telephone: Regent 0661 (3 lines). Cables: "Teeteeyar, Phone, London". (1947)

The Trix model railway system started out as a 3-rail 14V AC coarse-scale system and finished up as a 2-rail fine-scale system with 12V DC operation. At times its owners could not decide whether it was an 00 or an H0 scale and the confusion did nothing to improve sales. The company changed hands many times and the product was renamed on almost as many occasions. The story is further complicated by its links with the German Trix system and Liliput of Austria.

The Trix Twin Railway took its name from the fact that two trains could operate on the same piece of track; achieved by having a three rail track with the centre rail acting as a common return.

1928 Stephan Bing left the famous German family toy-making firm and purchased the toy-making business of Andreas Fortner. Bing brought to his new venture a number of colleagues including Siegfried Kahn who became his general manager and designer of his new range of toys.

1930 Launched a construction toy, along the lines of Meccano, under the name of Trix; this proved very successful.

1932 In order to make this system in Britain, Trix Ltd was formed with the involvement of W. J. Bassett-Lowke. Manufacture took place at Winteringham Ltd; an associate company of Bassett-Lowke. The MD at the factory and his assistant were responsible for the design of some of the finest locomotives made by Bassett-Lowke. Stephan Bing’s son Franz emigrated to Britain and joined the fledgling company, organising sales. About this time Mettoy Co, another toy manufacturer (who would later be remembered for Corgi toys and Playcraft model railways), started up in the basement of Winteringham, with Winteringham doing the manufacturing for them.

1935 A new 00 scale model railway system called Trix Express was launched in Germany by Stephan Bing and, by the end of the year, was being imported to the UK by Trix. Initially it was sold in the UK as Bassett-Lowke Twin-Train Table Railway.

1936 Production of a British version was soon started at Winteringham Ltd., in Northampton, and launched by Trix in time for Christmas.

1937 Considerable expansion of the Trix Twin Railway and, to keep the public informed, The TTR Gazette was published from late 1937.

1938 The first Pacific-class locomotives arrived, but this was the year the rival Hornby Dublo system was launched with its better looking models.

Anti-Semitic legislation in Germany forced Stephan Bing and his partners to sell their German company. Their associate Ernst Voelk, who had also bought the Distler toy company in Nuremberg, purchased the company. The partners and Kahn emigrated to Britain.

1941 War halted production as Winteringham transferred its attention to the war effort. Winteringham Ltd got together with Trix and formed Precision Models to take over the production of the Trix range.

1942 Trix took a controlling interest in Precision Models and effectively separated the former Winteringham factory from Bassett-Lowke’s control.

1947 British Industries Fair Advert as Manufacturers of "Trix Twin" Model Railways and Accessories, Electric Trains with trains on one line under separate control, and Trix Constructor Sets and Electric Motors in entirely new presentations. (Toys and Games Section - Olympia, 2nd Floor, Stand No. J.2297) [1]

1948 The Trix trains reappeared. It was at this time that the fateful decision was made to stick with 14V AC 3-rail operation and coarse wheels, for the sake of existing customers; a decision that was to condemn Trix to a very slow death and to bankrupt companies along the way. Export was the first priority after the war and American-outline models were produced. However, shortage of materials was the company’s biggest problem.

1950 Ahead of their rivals, Trix adopted the new British Rail liveries, but the public wanted more realism in model design. They were getting it from Hornby Dublo and Tri-ang but not from Trix.

1952 The German company decided it was time to pull out of its involvement with Trix and sold its shares.

1953 W. J. Bassett-Lowke resigned from the boards of both Trix and Precision Models.

Trix limped along but, with very low profits, there was no money to invest in the new models needed to reform the system.

1956 Financial problems peaked and there was no way out but to sell the company.

1957 The Trix group was bought by Ewart Holdings. From then, both Trix and Precision Models had a completely new board of Directors and a fresh start was feasible.

1958 New models needed new capital and money was borrowed. With insufficient money coming in the financial position worsened and Ewart Holdings collapsed. A major creditor was Dufay Ltd who acquired the assets of Trix and Precision Models.

1960 Trix Products took over the design and marketing of the Trix range and in 1960 Dufay moved Trix production to Birmingham. Ernst Rozsa had established a company to import Liliput models from Austria. His company was called Miniature Constructions and assembled some of the Austrian models in the UK. He persuaded Liliput to make an 00 model of the Class AL1 E3000 for them. Rozsa joined Trix in 1961 and took with him the E3000 model.

1960-1961 Poor sales lead to Dufay closing down Trix production in order to save damaging the rest of their group and Trix was prepared for sale.

1962 The company was sold to Alvus Investments and Trading who planned to restart production of Trix in High Wycombe, but only the coach moulding tools were made.

1963 British Celanese (part of the Courtaulds Group) formed British Trix and purchased the goodwill and patents of Trix Products for £1 and a production base was set up at the British Celanese factory in Wrexham. Ernst Rozsa was placed in charge of design and development but later took full responsibility for production. The decision was taken to dump the stocks of tinplate and 14V AC models and they were buried in a large hole on the Wrexham factory site. To swell the range quickly a lot of models were bought in from Continental manufacturers and repackaged.

1964 was a good year but by 1965 Courtaulds were inviting Lines Brothers to take Trix off their hands. Lines Bros. turned down the offer. Kit locomotives and rolling stock were introduced that year and sold well

1967 N-gauge Minitrix models for the British market were being made in the Wrexham factory. Despite a number of successes, the financial problems continued and at the end of 1967 the plug was once again pulled. Quickly the German Trix company acquired the assets of British Trix and a company called Thernglade was acquired to take over production. Rozsa was a Director of the new company and the product was renamed ‘Trix Trains’. This period was famed for the excellent LNER Pacific locomotives they produced in 00 scale.

1971 A number of German toy company ownership changes lead to a decision to phase out model railway production at Wrexham. The Minitrix tools were bought by the German Trix company

1973 Rovex Ltd became the importers of the range which was renamed Hornby Minitrix. Meanwhile Thernglade continued toy production until the factory closed in 1973. Rozsa had salvaged the model railway side of the business and purchased stock and spares. He set up a mail order business under the name Berwyn Hobbies Supplies while Liliput of Austria purchased the British model tools owned by Trix of Germany.

1974 Rozsa formed Liliput Model Railways (UK) and continued to assemble former British Trix models from parts supplied by Liliput. This continued until 1992 when the supply of parts finally dried up. Some parts and tools were acquired by Dapol and others were retained by Liliput which was bought by Kader (a Chinese company) in 1993.

See Also

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  • [1] Trix History

Sources of Information

  1. 1947 British Industries Fair Advert 512, and p278