Lines Bros

Lines Bros

Lines Bros Ltd was a British toy manufacturer of the 20th Century, operating under the Tri-ang brand name.

Lines Bros Ltd, at its peak, was claimed to be the largest toy maker in the world.


The brothers George and Joseph Lines made wooden toys in the Victorian age, their company being G & J lines Ltd. Joseph was the active partner while George went into farming. Joseph (or Joe) had four sons. Three of these formed Lines Bros Ltd soon after World War One. These three were William, Walter and Arthur Edwin Lines. Three Lines making a triangle - hence Tri-ang. Arthur's son, Richard Lines, was largely responsible for the Tri-ang Railways system. At the start of the Second World War, production of children's toys was deemed non-essential by the British Government. As a result, production facilities were converted to weapons manufacture, specifically the Sten Mk III submachine gun. Manufacture of toys resumed shortly after the war ended.

At their peak they had 40 companies world-wide, but as a result of losses overseas they were in financial trouble. In 1971 Lines Bros. Ltd called in the Official Receiver. The Group was broken up and sold off. Rovex Tri-ang Ltd (which had the Hornby Railways among its portfolio) was "Pocket Money Toys Ltd" and then sold as "Rovex Ltd", complete with its factories at Margate and Canterbury, to Dunbee Combex Marx Ltd. (DCM). G & R Wrenn a linked toy railway company bought itself free as Wrenn Railways. The name Tri-ang was sold off. As a result the Tri-ang Hornby system took the name Hornby Railways from January 1972.

Product Lines


Lines Bros had its own railway system, Tri-ang Railways. In 1964, Meccano Ltd, which manufactured the Hornby Dublo range collapsed. Tri-ang purchased the company, and the combined model railway was marketed as Tri-ang-Hornby although the vast majority of the models were all Tri-ang. Because the "Hornb"y brand was more established and recognised, the "Tri-ang" part was dropped and model railway division was sold as Hornby Railways.

Railway systems
*Tri-ang Minic Narrow Gauge (garden) railways in 10 1/4" gauge.
*Railways systems (see above) in '00' and 'TT' gauges.

Large Roadvehicles

The British range of Tri-ang large scale pressed steel vehicles were produced from the early 1930’s through until the mid 1970’s. To the casual onlooker or collector in the world of old toys, these toys (not models!) are of no great interest, are crude by modern standards and only a few different types were ever made or so it would appear.

Everyone has seen the red-bonneted tipper lorry, the bonneted Shell tanker, breakdown lorry and the London Transport double decker bus.

To most people this was all the range consisted of with a couple of cranes and a Puff Puff railway engine or two thrown in for good measure. The actual selection of pressed steel vehicles including the different types of cranes and trains consisted of over 200 different types. There were actually nine different series of lorries together with a series of buses, cranes and trains. Tri-ang was one of the largest toy producers in the world and their range of toys reflected this. The nine different ranges of Pressed Steel Toy Lorry were:

: (All dates are approximations)

The pressed steel (and occasional wooden) trains and pressed steel cranes were made during the same lifespan as the lorries, although up until the mid 1950s, most trains were made of wood. The steel buses were manufactured from 1957 up until around 1970. In the Pressed Steel Lorry range there were delivery vans, petrol tankers, breakdown lorries, different types of articulated lorries, rocket launchers, car transporters, circus lorries, mobile shops, Army, RAF and emergency vehicles. There was quite a vast range of these vehicles and the cab types tended to reflect the designs of those in real life at that particular time that they were being manufactured. All nine different ranges large roadvehicles Tri-ang produced you can find on the below link Triang NL.

Model road vehicles

Minic Motorways was a system of HO-scale road vehicles that followed a slot in a plastic roadway. The system aimed as far as possible for realism, and therefore the slot was as narrow as possible (about 1/8") with brass conductors placed vertically at each side. The vehicles picked up power via a small wheel (called a Gimbal Wheel) on their underside, which was divided into two halves by an insulating flange. At some time in the 1960s this mechanism was replaced by a pair of vertically spring sliding pickups. This design differed from that of electric racing car systems such as the same company's "Scalextric", in which the electrical conductors were spaced more widely apart on each side of the guide slot, and were hence more stable.

Vehicles were controlled by a hand-held controller, which had a thumb-operated speed control plus a rotating reversing switch.

The range of vehicles was designed to be complementary to a model railway set, and for instance included a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, a Humber Super Snipe, a Routemaster bus, a Shell petrol tanker and a towtruck. The most remarkable vehicle was a Road-Railer, an articulated lorry with a pair of pivoting rear axles, one bearing road wheels and the other rail wheels. The semi-trailer could be remotely uncoupled and then collected by a bogie wagon on the Tri-ang railway system. These could in theory be chained together to compose a train. This vehicle suffered from being underpowered. Vehicles could also be driven aboard a car-carrying wagon in the Tri-ang railway system.

The basic track sections contained two slots, though single-slot pieces also existed. They permitted quite complex road layouts, and included a crossroads, a 4-section roundabout, forks to create dual carriageway sections, right-angle junctions, single-track forks to allow lay-bys, and later a crossover from the left to the right track (with a break in the conductors). Railway compatibility was ensured by a level crossing and road/rail interchange pieces. Curves could be built with up to 5 parallel slots.

Points were manually operated, although third-party electric point solenoids could be fitted.

A range of trackside accessories such as a petrol station and a ferry allowed users to build towns around their systems.

At a late stage of the system's life, an attempt was made to update its image and enter the model racing-car market. Racing car bodies were introduced, which contained more powerful motors with worm drive, and with the improved pickups mentioned above.

The Minic Motorways system allowed the modeller to animate the roads as well as the railways in their townscapes. Some modellers used flexible track manufactured by Peco to enhance the level of realism.

Minic, like Tri-ang railways, used 12-volt direct current, which made reversing loops impossible without an insulated section. The competing German Faller system used alternating current, and had a compatible trolleybus system.

Model Racing Cars


Mr B Francis of Minimodels Ltd designed a range of metal model racing cars driven by clockwork in 1952 under the SCALEX brand. To this he later added an electric motor showing the product in 1957. Faced with a demand beyond his capacity to fulfill, Mr Francis sold his company to Tri-ang in 1958. With their mass-manufacturing capability and know-how with plastic, the Rovex subsidiary of Tri-ang converted the metal cars to plastic and extended the range.

Model Cars

When Meccano Ltd faced financial troubles and was acquired by Tri-ang, it also acquired the Dinky Toys range. Tri-ang's own range of model cars, Spot-on, had competed with the Dinky range but never had the success of Dinky and its designs were briefly subsumed into the Dinky range.

Other names

*Arrow jigsaw puzzles
*Pedigree Prams and dolls,
*Minic vehicles,
*Minix cars,
*Minic waterline ships
*Minic Motorways,
*Arkitex construction kits (two scales),
*Frog construction kits,
*Wrenn Railways There were associated companies overseas selling Tri-ang under their own brand names. eg: A.T.T. in the U.S.A.

External links

* [ Tri-ang society]
* []
* [ Lines Bros] (information about Lines Bros including photos of the factories from the [ V&A Museum of Childhood] )
* [ Tri-ang catalogue] (a 1938 Tri-ang catalogue from the [ V&A Museum of Childhood] )
* [ Photos of the Sten Mk III - as manufactured by Lines Bros during WW2]
* [ Video of a Sten Mk III - as manufactured by Lines Bros during WW2]
* [ Video of a Sten Mk III (as manufactured by Lines Bros during WW2) compared with 2 other submachine guns]

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