Tuesday 22 November 2022

New Toy Train for Christmas

Christmas was once a traditional time for toy trains. Not only were toy trains/model trains high on the wish lists of many children (predominantly boys), toy trains also did millions of rounds in shop window track ovals to attract the attention of children and ultimately their parents' money. Societies develops and today it's rare to see a model railway in a shop window and very few children want a model train for Christmas.

The Triang Big-Big Train catalogue no RV 272 Diesel has landed on the Nystrup Gravel rails. Shop manager Petersen isn't amused...

I usually treat myself to an early Christmas present for my railway modelling activities. Last year I bought a static grass applicator. This year I chose a locomotive: a Triang Rovex Big-Big Train locomotive. Not a loco that many serious scale modellers would include in their collections. The 'Big-Big Train' range was introduced in 1966 and with all-plastic track, robust and simple battery powered plastic locos and colourful plastic wagons clearly intended as a toy for children. The range was British 0-scale with 32 mm gauge and in 1967 a narrow gauge loco with a clear Ruston & Hornsby look to it was added to the range together with standard V-skips. 

An illustration from a Big-Big Train set with a curious mix of rolling stock in different scales. 

While the Big-Big Train was 0-scale the Ruston and the skip were clearly to a much larger scale. Anyone with a little knowledge of Ruston & Hornsby locomotives will recognize the model as a Ruston LHT type from the early 1950's. A comprehensive article about the Big-Big Train in 'Narrow Gauge and Industrial Railway Modelling Review' issue 100 from October 2014 compared the model with Ruston drawings and found that the scale of the model is 16 mm scale in height and 14 mm scale in length - effectively making the model a short and stubby LHT. The loco had the same 32 mm gauge as the 0-scale stock and was actually sold in mixed scale sets as illustrated above.

In this image the forward 'lean' is easy to see. I suspect the reason to be a trapped wire to the motor blocking the drive unit's correct placement. Probably a fault that will be quite easy to fix.

For a 1970 toy the detailing is pretty good. The Ruston plate is very close to the original design. The brass handle under the radiator releases the loco body from the frames.

Rear view of the model that true to prototype Ruston LHT's has only one door in the cab.

I bought the loco mostly because it is a charming combination of a simple toy and a rare early ready-to-run 16 mm scale (well almost) model with a considerably level of detail for it's day. I wonder if the developers of the model had plans to evolve the range into a real industrial railway range of products? The model has been photographed on Nystrup Gravel and looks rather good in company with skips and figures. So far I think the loco will go back into its box and into storage. But in the future a restoration and perhaps even a rebuild is possible.

With the body taken off the battery fittings are visible. The brass levers on both sides of the loco enabled automatic train control with the help of posts added to the track. Photo: Seller's Ebay post.

Contrary to most images online of yellow Big-Big Train Rustons locos my loco is blue with black frames. According to the 'Review' article blue locos were made 1970-1971. My loco arrived safe and well packaged from United Kingdom. Contrary to most of my Ebay-shoppings it came in its original box including original manual and even some of the original wrapping paper! I haven't taken the loco apart and done a thorough examination yet. The exterior looks alright considering it is a plastic toy more than 50 years old. I didn't find any damages apart from a few marks from general use. I noticed a pronounced forward 'leaning' of the locomotive that is also easy to see in the photographs. There is no glazing in the window openings as stated in the 'Review' article. I found no traces of glue on the inside of the cab, so maybe my item never had windows fitted. The loco is rather dirty and will need a 'deep rinse crystal double cleaning with conditioner and wax' as available in the car wash. 

I couldn't resist testing the loco with a 1.5 V battery connected to the motor terminals. It worked and the drive train seems to be alright despite its age. The coupling rods did bind somewhat and I suspect it's the wheels' quartering that may be out of synch. A problem I will look into once the loco lands on my modelling table.  

The Big-Big Train has two sites devoted to it online - visit them at www.bigbigtrain.org.uk and www.thebigbigtrain.com

Page one of the two page manual showing hos to disassemble the loco. Manual is dual languaged English/Swedish.

The original box so important to real collectors. 

The post assembly that could be fitted to the Big-Big Train's plastic track and engage the levers making the loco either stop or change direction depending on which side of the track it was mounted. Quite a clever idea that was actually used on a real industrial railway in Denmark. The assembly was wrapped in what I suspect is the original 1970-71 wrapping paper.


  1. There is also a Big Big Ruston Appreciation group on facebook. I always thought the blue versions were Novo?

  2. Hi James. Thanks for pointing out the Facebook group to me. I will check it out. The info about the blue production variant is from the Review article. The article also mentions the Novo version made in USSR. I suspect my loco to be made in the UK as it is labelled 'Made in Great Britain'.