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Friday, 4 April 2014

Gods Wonderful Railway Running Day Highlights

On Saturday 29th March 2014 we had another successful running day.
This time we honoured the Great Western Railway, which is also known as Gods Wonderful Railway. It was a splendid affair, with many happy people excited to see the trains run.

We were especially delighted to have the "King George V" Great Western model run. It is a rare King Class Locomotive made for Bassett Lowke by Marklin in 1937, and we were very happy to have it run here in Brighton.

King George V

King George V

As well as the "King George V", we also had a range of other Great Western trains, including a special appearance by the "Alliance", which was kindly made possible by Mike Little.



Some of the other trains that ran were the "County of Bedford", the "Orion", and the "Pendennis Castle"
County Of Bedford

Pendennis Castle

We also had rare models in painted wood of the Great Western 70ft coaches, c1933; Early printed tin plate Great Western coaches by Carette, and a freight train by the same manufacturer, which are all 100 or more years old, as well as many other Great Western rarities. 

All in all, we had a fabulous day, and we hope you did too. If you were unable to make it, we hope to see you at another running day soon, as we'd love to share this exciting experience with all of you. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Suomenlinnan Lelumuseo - The Finnish Toy Museum

 In Helsinki, Finland, there is a place that is familiar to us all. Suomenlinna Toy Museum was opened in 1985, and like Brighton Toy & Model Museum, it presents the public with historic toys that have been loved through the ages. 

            (Nalleja 1900-luvun alkupuoliskolta)
            (Teddy bears in the first half of 1900’s)                
 (Nallerouva Hunajapurkki)
(Mrs. Winnie the Honey Jar)
Suomenlinna Toy Museum is a family owned company, with a wide range of toys backdating from the 1800’s and celebrate Finnish History.
The founder, Beep Tandefelt, had an awakening one day, and thought to herself, “Why churn out new objects from the already existing world, when you can cherish the old”, and with this she began to collect antique toys, and once word got out that she was collecting them, she received many more from those around her. 
 (Loppuun leikityt)

         (Bebe –nukkeja 1930 – luvulta)          
              (Baby Dolls)                  

In 1979, the Nordic Center for the Arts requested there be space at the Jetty Barracks exhibition for the antique toys, and after a successful show, Beep began to wish for a permanent display for the toys.
In 1985, what Beep Tandefelt had been wishing for came true, and the Finnish Toy Museum was opened in the basement of Piipan Tandefelt’s home, who took over the reins from Beep.

(Nukkekoti – interiööri 1800 – luvun lopulta)
(A dolls house interior in the late 1800's)

 (Moomin dolls made by Ateljé Fauni in 1950’s)

In 2003, Piipan Tandefelt passed the running of the museum over to her daughter, Petra Tandefelt, who also produces beautiful postcards based on the collections at the Finnish Toy Museum. Some of the postcards available are shown here, which Petra gifted us with when she came to visit us recently.
         When Petra came and saw us, she told us that she loved what we had on display here, and if she could, she would take the Brighton Toy & Model Museum with her back to Finland.

 (Vanhoja värssykirjoja)
(Old verse books)
We all enjoyed having Petra here visiting us, and hopes that she comes back to see us again soon.
If you want to learn more about, or take a virtual of the Suomenlinnan Lelumuseo – The Finnish Toy museum, you can visit their website at

(Kaksosnuket Manja ja Ljuba)
(The dolls, Manja & Ljuba)

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Horatio C. Gull comes to the Museum

Brighton Toy and Model Museum is proud to announce that we have a new resident, one Horatio C. Gull, former watchbird of the Lord Nelson Inn. He now sits above the cabinets in our shop, watching visitors come and go and admiring the photos of his friends and family in our local history section.

But how did he come to be here? Well, a few months ago Horatio's former boss, Graham Boyd, left the Lord Nelson after longs years of glorious service and Horatio felt an itch in his wings and an urge to move on as well. He bid his co-workers a fine farewell, helping them on one last crossword (7 down; cosmopolitan) and flew the nest.

Left to Right: Horatio, Annie, Toby, Nelson Gnome and Lizzi
Now, Horatio has not been out into the big wide world for some time and it took him a moment or two to find his land wings. Well, he'd been out for one last photo with the staff and regulars as a present for graham but he'd been under someone else's wing at that point.

The fine folks of the Lord Nelson Inn
But with goodbyes done, people moving on to new things and the cricket memorabilia taken down it was truly time to head off. A Seagull can only wait around for so long after all. The future is waiting!

Feather in beak, Horatio flies the coop
But where was he to go? Now you and I both know where he goes but at the time Horatio was rather unsure. Such decisions are hard for your average person, let alone a former watchbird. It should be noted that Horatio is very well read, hence his always welcome help with the crossword (though Sudoku still confuses him), and enjoys a good a book so he soon found something very nice when he stumbled across Nick's Book stall. A wondrous range of literature and reference books lay before him! Horatio had a very good browse.

Sadly he could not find a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull
As fun as it was to be surrounded by books Horatio knew he could not live the rest of his life with his beak buried in a book. He was a working bird! That is when he spied an inviting red sign and an interesting little establishment.

Yes, it's under the bridge, below the train station. Come visit us!
A museum!? A museum was a great place for Horatio to start a new life. He could watch the front desk and make sure the volunteers behaved and when the museum was shut and the toys were safe and sound he could read the books in the shop or the resource room. A quick meeting with the Director, Chris Litttledale, and Manage, Tigger Savage, and he had the job just like that. They knew talent when they saw it!

And so Horatio took up his spot as if he had always meant to be there. Welcome Horatio, it's nice to have you here!

Horatio stands watch

Horatio's reading list

  1. Shire book of Mail Trains
  2. for the love of TRAINS
  3. great days of the Southern Railway
  4. Classic Steam
  5. Vintage Meccano Magazines

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Our second Childrens day of 2013

David Lucas reading us his story

It's round two of our special Children's Day event. Another fun day of art activities, stories and trainsets. We had three major events: Arts and crafts where visitors could make their own jumping Jacks, a drawing/story area where childrens author David Lucas gave us advice on making characters and then read us one of his fabulous books, the train sets which eventually grew to take over a good quarter of the museum and a second story area in the Puppet Corner.


There was some serious business going on at the trainsets; how many bridges could be built? Could we get a track and road system intermingling? Most importantly though; How many crashes could we make? The answer; Lots! Not a single train managed to stay on its rails for the whole day. Altogether we are very proud of our visitors enginuity for destruction.

Our French Interns really enjoyed the train set

We admire this young mans Thomas the Tank engine footwear

With destruction comes construction and at the crafts table many a Jumping Jack came into being. Child and Parent worked as one to make their new toys to fantastic success. Coming in a range of designs, the table was very popular and a great opportunity for parent and child to work together.

Dad and Daughter working together

Mum and Daughter are not to be out done and also work together

The main event though was the drawing and story sessions with David Lucas. He read us one of his wonderful stories and gave us a wide range of advice on writing stories and making characters for them. Our visitors (and not a few of our volunteers) created plenty of amazing pictures.

David Lucas tells us some of his secrets!

An All mixed up Unicorn, Cheesy flower and firey mouse!

King of the Clouds

A Skeleton Pirate hangs 10

A man turning into a rainbow and a clown/duck/alligator? I love it!

As an added bonus and to keep us all energized for the day cake, fruit and drinks were available. I can happily attest to their deliciousness!

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Mystery of the Missing Medieval Building Blocks Manufacturer

Sander's Tudor Stone Building Bricks, box lid
This is an odd one. We have in our collection a Box No.2 of Sander's Tudor Building Bricks. This is a charming (and slightly wobbly) set of building blocks designed to recreate mediaeval European and "Tudor-style" buildings.

However, nobody seems to know who this company "Sander's" are, and the box and literature doesn't seem to be any help. After some detective work, our current best guess is that these sets may have been made specially as promotional items for an Alf Sanders, who built real-life Tudor-style buildings in Hampton Hills, Dallas, Texas.

However, we don't yet have any confirmation that this is really where these sets originated - the combination of Tudor buildings and the Sanders/Sander's branding might be a coincidence.

If anyone out there has more information on these Sander's sets and their origins, we'd love to know more about them - please do get in touch!.

Meanwhile, we've built the model that's on the box lid and front page of the manual, and put it on display.

An assembled Sander's mediaeval building set

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Gooey volunteer cake
Volunteering sometimes comes with extra privileges.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The charm of dolls’ houses.

The charm of owning a world in miniature is something appears to be universal. From children to adults and Victorian aristocrats many people have been drawn in by the dolls house’s allure.

What is it that makes them so special?

I clearly remember my first doll's house, it was a small, chipboard creation, with four rooms and furniture that didn’t quite fit; I loved it. I played with that doll's house until it fell apart. Yet from that moment, I was hooked. As time went on, I got given another, "collectors" doll's house, and became exposed to the world of doll’s house miniatures.
It’s fascinating what you can find, everything from beds and sofas to rolls of loo roll and slices of cheese, have been recreated in miniature. The attention to detail can mean that they even look like the real thing. It is also possible to get scaled down wall paper that is designed to look realistic in a miniature room.

Don’t you just want to eat this cheese?
My doll’s house is a modern one called "Willow Cottage". It has six rooms, two staircases and lots of interesting features to it. I set it out as you would expect a house to be set out, with the children's bedroom and the bathroom upstairs in the attic. However, doll's houses have the downside of not being exactly the same as real houses, and I remember constantly being frustrated by the fact that the stairs ran through the parent'’s bedroom and the bathroom, try as I might, no amount of shifting the rooms around would solve the problem and my dolls just had to put up with people running through the bathroom to get to the playroom.

So imagine my fascination when I came across the "Queen Mary's Doll’s House" which even had entrance halls. Every last inch of the giant doll’s house was decorated with minute attention to detail, looking at the pictures, there is even a whole library stocked with books, some of which have titles written on their spines. On the ceiling of the king's bathroom is a beautifully painted mural, and the fittings make it look almost as if it could be a real bathroom.

How would you like to have this bathroom it your own home?
In this particular Doll's House there was even a wine cellar stocked with miniature bottles of wine and spirits with real alcohol inside of them and labels to tell you what they are. (Why the bottles were actually full I don’t know, I'm assuming it's so that the dolls could get drunk...)

It’s difficult to determine exactly when the first Doll's houses were created though some historians have dated them as far back at the 16th century. The earliest Doll's houses where not meant to be children’s play things, instead they were meant to be used to show wealth and prestige. These early houses did not have to same uniform scale of furniture, for instance some of the furniture might have been tiny whilst other pieces might have been larger. It was only when they started to become play things as well that scaling became more of an issue and even then different dolls houses were built on all kinds of scales.

After the Second World War the uniform scale of doll's house models became 1:12 and most mass-produced dolls house furniture and items were produced to this scale.

Having a doll's house as a toy used to be a privilege reserved for children from the upper classes, for instance, rich fathers would have them built to teach their daughters how to be good housewives. These houses often had a lot more attention to detail than their later mass-produced counterparts.

The Toy Museum itself has a wonderful collection of dolls house miniatures spanning the years, from the 1800’s through to the 1930’s. One of the most beautiful pieces being a German fireplace, made out of metal and complete with an intricately painted tile design (1930)

Other pieces include two highly detailed metal chairs dating from the Eighteen Hundreds that were designed by the British company Evans and Cartwright.

Metal used the be the favoured material with which to make dolls house furniture, because of the fact that it was easier to work with and manufacturers could create much more detailed pieces than they could with wood. I only got a chance to look at a few examples of what the museum has tucked away in its store room, but I have been told that there is a lot more hidden in its collections.

Keep an eye out for some of the collection being exhibited in the near future!