Sunday, 23 December 2012

Magnus Volk

On Saturday 2nd February at 7pm Ian Gledhill will present a talk about Magnus Volk and the Volk’s Electric Railway which has been running along Brighton Seafront for 129 years! The other not less remarkable creation and probably the most recognisable was the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Railway (Daddy Long Legs). Ian had a diverse career in tourism and travel, music, television and theatre, as well as railway engineering. He currently divides his time between directing operas, helping to support Volk’s Railway and giving talks to the public. You can purchase a ticket in advance for £5 at the museum or for £6 on the door.
Volk's Electric Railway Carriage N6 Model at Brighton Toy and Model Museum (on loan from Volks' Electric Railway  Association)

Brighton to Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway Model at Brighton Toy and Model Museum (on loan from Volks' Electric Railway Association)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Frank Hornby 150th Anniversary

The Frank Hornby 150th Anniversary logo, in dark red.
2013 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of British toymaking pioneer Frank Hornby.

Hornby didn't just invent Hornby Trains: he also invented Dinky Toys, and he got his start when he invented Meccano, originally as a way of making it easier to make toys for his own children out of strips of cut-up biscuit tins.

Hornby patented the idea behind his modular metal construction kit in 1901, and the system evolved to become "Mechanics Made Easy", an educational system for teaching engineering principles to children, before being given the more catchy name of "Meccano".

Meccano Ltd. grew to become an international company with headquarters at Binns Road, Liverpool, and Hornby became a millionaire and a Member of Parliament.

Heritage Lottery Fund LOTTERY FUNDED
The Museum has just been awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help it to celebrate 2013 as Frank Hornby Year. The grant will pay for a full-time Project Officer for a year to rewrite and dramatically expand our online resources for Meccano, Dinky Toys and Hornby Trains, and to set up a project website at to hold a directory of participating groups and organisations, and a calendar of their 2013 events. We'll also be holding events focussing on Frank Hornby Week (13th-19th May 2013), launching the programme at the 2013 ModelWorld exhibition in February, and doing some other Very Cool Stuff including some very exciting things on the Museum floor with new technology to allow visitors to access information from the Museum floor. 

As well as its Meccano exhibits, the Museum has what we believe to be the best collection of early Hornby Trains on public display anywhere in the World (in Arch Four), and this grant will let us finally install information systems that can do these collections justice. We're also hoping to bring in some new guest exhibits for 2013 to mark the anniversary.

More information to follow as these exciting developments unfold ...

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Magic Lantern Show

On the 7th December the museum was transformed into a different world by the "Magic Lantern" show. The Victorian predecessor of the film camera, called the Magic Lantern, was projecting images of Christmas, local scenery and other themes, accompanied by the Pepper's Ghost Company's quartet, who were reading  poems, playing music and singing along to some truly enhancing music.

During the Victorian times, this was a highly popular leisure activity for the nobility and common people alike. Travelling companies would tour the country, showing amusing images and scenery from across the land in theatres. Public institutions would often have their own one and even families that could afford a simpler version would use the lantern to entertain themselves during friends and family gatherings.

The beauty of magic lantern is that it not only projects still images but it projects the images that are also moving, fading and so on, making the experience similar of the film.

The museum was packed to capacity with the audience transfixed by the images and everyone felt like they had been transported into the Victorian times. The museum already has a magical quality about it and the light effects bouncing off the glass cabinets only added to that.

Mulled wine, made to a Victorian recipe, was served during the show.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Jazz Night at the Museum

On Sat 24th November, the Museum had a great night of Jazz. A popular Brighton band, Harry's Tricks, played some amazing music to a captivated audience. Mike (lead guitar and vocals), Dmitri (trombone), Dave (base) and Dan (trumpet) filled the arches of the Museum with their music, putting life into the displays. Their music was lively and engaging, soulful and touching, something for everyone.

Some of the guests broke into a dance and one could feel the Museum come alive with all the gaiety. To add to the audience's pleasure, our very own "Tigger" joined in and sang some breath-taking French melodies. Tigger has many years of experience in singing with bands across France. She and the band gelled together so well, taking the audience into a sort of a trance.

A bar was open till midnight and kept the "spirits alive". There was a barrel of bitter from Harveys, which seemed to go down very well with the guests. And hey! No wonder of wonders, we managed to track down each and every glass.

To top it all, Chris gave us all a rare treat by running some of the special trains, including the Coronation Scot. That was unexpected and the crowd gathered around the tracks, watching the rare locomotives and  carriages rocking along on the rails.

All in all, a fantastic evening!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Half-Term Event - Drawing Teddy Bears

It was a pleasure to see many families visiting the museum and enjoying Teddy Bear themed activities just a few weeks ago.
We received many drawings inspired by teddy bears and other toys at the museum. They were so lovely that  we wanted to share all of them! Here are the ones that we got permission from the parents to share.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Forthcoming Events

On Saturday, 24th November at 8pm we are hosting a Jazz Night. The music will be performed by a mainstream jazz band Harry's Tricks.

On Friday, 7th December at 7.00pm join us for an authentic Victorian Christmas Magic Lantern Show

There will be a bar during both of the events!

Not only will you be able to enjoy the events but also to see the museum's exhibitions!

There are some discounted tickets available if purchased in advance.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Half Term Special Activities - Fun with the Teddy Bears...

The event's "Teddybear" poster
What a great atmosphere here at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum today! It is lovely to see lots of kids and their families enjoying spending time together and talking about some of our wonderful exhibits, mainly the Teddy Bears. Well of course that is what we are focusing on this half term and it has sparked all these nostalgic memories that are taking our older visitors back to their childhood and of course sharing it with the younger generations. We have Steiff bears, cartoon bears, toy shop bears, storybook bears, rare and special bears, famous bears, the list goes on... I have certainly learnt some amazing facts, and I can guarantee that anyone visiting during this exciting week will learn at least one new thing to take away with them.

By Nazie, Aged 6 Years Old
Oh and some of the talented artwork that has emerged is really encouraging! We have been asking the kids to find their favourite teddy bear in the museum and to draw a portrait of them and then suitably name them. Among my favourites so far are 'Boo Booo', 'Fuzzy' and 'Loopey'. It's delightful to see the kid's imaginations come to life with the colours and the flair, you can actually envisage the concentration and thought behind each one. What a pleasure it has been to give a prize to each and every drawing submitted. Those with permission will certainly be heading onto our website for us to proudly display.
The activities will be running until Saturday 3rd November so if you fancy joining in then pop down for a visit. Our normal opening times and admission applies with a further £1 entry fee on the drawing activity if you choose to participate. Hope to see you soon...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Train Running Day - Coronation Scot Special

It's that time of the year again... The Brighton Toy and Model Museum will be hosting it's Autumn Train Running Day on Saturday 10th November 2012 from 11am until 5pm...

This time the exciting theme will be the 75th Anniversary of the Coronation Scot train and as the star of the show the museum will be presenting the one and only Bassett-Lowke Coronation Scot running on our extravagant '0' gauge layout.

If you have been to one of the museum's Train Running Days before you will know they are fun events for anyone whether you are a train enthusiast or you're a family looking for a great day out! This particular one however, if you are a Bassett-Lowke enthusiast, will be utterly unmissable. For anyone whose interest is more casual, it's a great time to come along!

Hope to see you there...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Leeds Model Company Exhibition at the Brighton Toy and Model Museum

Until 21st October 2012, the Brighton Toy and Model Museum will be home to a very special display of locomotives and Southern Railways rolling stock, made by the Leeds Model Company (LMC).

Started in 1912 by Rex Stedman, the Leeds Model Company also known as Leeds or LMC produced various '0' gauge model railway stock. For the more affordable market, they produced rolling-stock made of wooden bodies with lithographed paper decals which when got tired looking could be replaced with a fresh set of decals. They also produced a range of rolling-stock using the then new 'Bakelite' plastic material as well as more beautiful 'made to order' items from the more expensive end of the range.

If you are particularly interested in the history the Leeds Model Company, pop in and purchase a copy of David K. Peacocks book 'The Leeds Model Company 1912-2012: The First One Hundred Years, selling for £19.95 in our collectors shop.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

"Coronation Scot" exhibition, November 2012

Coronation Scot at Brighton Toy and Model Museum
The Coronation Scot bullet-train (1937-1939) was arguably the finest steam train that Britain ever built, and is a critical part of Britains's railway heritage.
However, the run of the blue-and-silver “streak” was cruelly cut short by the onset of World War Two, and the prototype red-and-gold second-generation “luxury” version of the train, which was proudly sent to the US for a promotional tour, was left stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic when war broke out and never got to go into service on UK track.

With the onset of war, the train was withdrawn, streamlining on all the locomotives was stripped, the “stripped” loco class was renamed the “Duchess” Class, and the memory of the train faded from history.
2012 is the train’s 75th anniversary, and the Museum is putting together a collection of Coronation Scot artefacts and memorabilia, along with some of the greatest Coronation Scot and Coronation Class locomotive models ever made.
We’ll be launching the exhibition with a special "Coronation Scot" Train Running Day on November 10th, where we’ll be unveiling our 1930s Bassett-Lowke Coronation 6220 loco pulling a complete set of nine B-L carriages, on our 1930’s layout, forming a train that’s around thirteen feet long.

Since none of the blue Coronations or their carriages exist any more, this is probably the closest you’ll ever get to seeing the real thing.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Refreshed signage

The Museum's external signs were starting to look a bit faded, so we've taken them down and partially repainted them. They're now back to their old glossy red and glossy selves.

The Museum likes to reuse and recycle materials wherever possible, and during the refurbishment it turned out that the larger sign had been painted on the back of an earlier version, dating back to the early days when we had our old name. So we took a quick snap of the back of it before the board went back onto the wall.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

RMS Titanic, temporary display

We've now assembled a display based on the doomed luxury ocean liner RMS Titanic, in Area 25.

In case you've missed the slew of centenary TV programmes, April 2012 is the one-hundred-year anniversary of both the ship's maiden voyage, and it's sinking. Titanic set sail from Portsmouth on 10th April 1912, and sank with the loss of over fifteen hundred lives on 15th April 1912.

As well as an array of memorabilia (including some White Star crockery and glassware), modellers might be interested to know that we have two large Titanic models on display, based on the largest commonly available kits and sets of plans – a ~thirty-inch 1:350-scale version that has been produced over the years by a number of different manufacturers (recently reissued as a special centenary edition by Minicraft), and an even larger ~forty-three-inch, 1:250-scale model, based on the Hachette/Amati plans.

Also on display is a copy of Daisy Spedden's "Polar the Titanic Bear" book, written by a Titanic survivor for her son, which recounts the events through the eyes of the child's Steiff polar bear. Alongside the book is an original ~1910 Steiff polar bear from the Museum's soft toys collection – this is the only original Steiff polar that we know of that is on public show, and one of the very few originals that still exists. There's rumoured to be another bear (in better condition) in a bank vault somewhere, but that's the only other surviving original that we know of.

The Titanic display will be on view until this autumn.

Friday, 23 March 2012

QR Codes

"Artistic" QR code for the Museum's Wiki landing page
If you haven't yet seen them, QR codes are the 21st century version of barcodes. They're like a graphical successor to Morse Code - they store text, and when you wave your smartphone camera at a QR code with the Google Goggles app running, it sees the code, works out how the image is aligned, and then offers to show you the hidden text, launch a file, or take you to a website page.

If you're in the Museum and you look at the bottom left corner of a cabinet, you should see a small QR code sticker whose embedded text leads to the online Wiki web page for that cabinet, and to a listing of any of the cabinet's items that have been given their own Wiki entries.

One of the great things about the Museum is that its collections are organised organically and sympathetically, with surrounding exhibits and backdrops providing a sense of context. It's a series of little worlds, not just a set of labelled items sitting in isolated cells. The Museum is a forest of toys and models ... or perhaps a jungle ...  and exploring it is like going on safari to do some wildlife photography. It's a visual onslaught of period design and craftmanship.

blue QR-code art
"Artistic" QR code for the Museum's "Train Running Day" event.
Scan me!
The exhibits are so densely packed, and many of them are so small, that if we labelled everything in the Museum using a conventional approach it wouldn't just disrupt the visual spell, it would require so much additional paper to be stuffed into the cabinets that you probably wouldn't be able to even /see/ the exhibits, and this makes "virtual labelling" an attractive option, once a sufficient proportion of visitors have camera-equipped smartphones.

Eventually we should end up with the best of both worlds, old and new, with the exhibits free to be arranged in whatever manner is most appropriate to the period, and with invisible 21st-Century technology providing background information and links to online resources and multimedia on the visitors' own mobile devices, without intruding on or spoiling the display space.

We're not quite there yet. Since we're built into a Victorian basement (under a steel bridge!), mobile phone signals don't yet penetrate very far into the Museum, and the Museum's wifi hasn't /yet/ been extended to reach more than about a third of the total museum floorspace, so we still have some work to do. It may also be that in a few years' time, QR codes will have been replaced with a newer technology such as NFC, and it might be that in 2018 you'll be placing your NFC-equipped smartphone against a cabinet to get a readout of its contents. But the organisational groundwork that we're doing now with QR codes will hopefully transfer across easily to whichever future technologies end up being used.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Train Running Day: Legendary Trains of the 1930s (24th March 2012)

Train Running Day, 24 March 2012
The next Train Running Day is scheduled to take place at at the Museum on Saturday the 24th of March 2012. The theme will be "Legendary Trains of the 1930s".

The day will be broken into two showings, one in the morning from around ~10:30am to ~1pm, and a second running in the afternoon after an hour's break, from around ~2pm to ~4:30pm.

More details are on the Wiki.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

ModelWorld 2012: Setting up

We were at the Brighton Centre today, setting up the stand area at ModelWorld 2012 that we'll be sharing with the 5BEL Trust.
As well as the full-size Pullman backdrop (scale: 12 inches to the foot), we were also assembling a set of original Pullman Art Nouveau-ish wooden marquetry panels, with an accompanying table, cutlery and crockery, and a very comfy-looking Pullman chair. Unfortunately, it's very valuable, so nobody's allowed to sit on it.

Representing a collection like the Museum's is somewhat difficult, so this year, we're also bringing along a model of the entire Museum, inside and out, rendered in Lego. The next time that someone visiting the stand asks us to describe what the Museum is like, we'll be able to make a futile spluttering sound and some shruggy gestures, and wave them towards the model.
Of course, if you want to judge how accurate the model is, you'll have to also come and see the real Museum...