The Tri-ang company history

Tri-ang colour logoTri-ang is a name that will be familiar to many railway modellers but where did it come from and what happened to the once mighty company? Here’s a potted history on one of biggest names in model railways.

Although a long time fan of Tri-ang trains it was only while researching the Tri-ang factory for my OO gauge layout that I realised I knew only a fraction of the true history of the company. My curiosity piqued I went on a fact finding mission.

Here’s what I’ve found about the company that for many years was synonymous with model trains. I’ll update this as I learn more, drop me a line if you know something I’ve missed.

The name – where did the Tri-ang name come from

Tri-ang was a division of the giant Lions Bros toy company which was created by three brothers, William, Walter and Arthur Edwin Lines. Although it was Arthur’s son, Richard Lines, who was largely responsible for the Tri-ang Railways operation the name comes from a play on all three of the founding brothers: three Lines making a TriAngle.

The foundation of Tri-ang

Tri-Ang Railways LogoIn its day, Lines Bros was a huge toy company and the Lines Brother factory in Merton, South London, was the largest in the world.

In early 1950s, Lines wanted to expand into model trains so bought the Rovex company who were making platic electric model trains for Marks and Spencer but struggling financially.

Lions Bros bought Rovex in 1951 and launched their trains to the public under the Tri-ang name in 1952.  (these are models that I collect, mainly)

In 1954, Rovex, now called Rovex Scale Models Ltd, was moved to a factory in Margate. To this day, Hornby operate from Margate.

The Hornby Dublo Buy Out

Tri-Ang Hornby lgooBy the early 1960s, the better models produced by Rovex and sold under the Tri-ang name were out selling Meccano’s Hornby Dublo system.

An idea of their success can be gleaned by examining their product catalgoue. When Tri-ang trains first started their catalogue contained just 31 models by the early 1960s, the range had swelled to 11 train sets, with 110 models including 27 different locomotives!

Unable to comete, Meccano invited the Lions Bros to buy the Hornby Dublo brand in August 1964, which they did along with a large quantity of stock.

Lions Bros consolidated the Hornby range with the Rovex range and sold by Rovex under the Tri-ang Hornby brand.

The end of Tri-ang

In 1971, Lions Bros collapsed and the rights and products sold under Tri-ang Hornby were sold to the Dunbee-Combex-Marx group who continued to sell them under the Hornby Railways name.

The Tri-ang name was sold elsewhere and disappeared but it’s impact on model railways and it’s wonderful models will never be forgotten.

Recap, key dates in the history of Tri-ang

  • 1st May 1919: Lions Bros registered.
  • December 1923: Lions Bros signs contract for a purpose ­built factory Morden Road, Merton, South London. This going on to become the largest toy manufacturing factory in the world.
  • 7 June 1933: Lions Bros becames publicly traded company.
  • 1951: Lions Bros buys Rovex Plastics Limited, later becoming Rovex Scale Models
  • August 1964: Lines Bros.  buys Meccano Ltd. and Dinky Toys from Hornby.
    • Hornby­Dublo train sets are consolidated with Tri­ang’s own railway system and sold to Rovex Scale Models,
  • 1971: Lions reports a record £4.5 million loss the previous year and collapses.
    • Rovex­Triang became Rovex Ltd
    • Tri­ang Hornby Railways continued as Hornby Railways

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