A Brief History of Bowman Models
Geoffrey Bowman Jenkins was born on 24th November 1891. In 1917 he set up the Woodcraft Patents Company to manufacture wooden toys. In 1919 he was awarded a patent for an elastic drive for toys and models. His first model speedboat, using his patent rubber drive, was introduced in 1921.
In 1922 Geoffrey Jenkins demonstrated his steam powered launches to Hobbies Ltd. of Dereham, Norfolk. Hobbies were impressed and the Woodcraft Patents Company started the manufacture of the steam launches that were sold under the Hobbies brand name. In 1923 the company relocated from South West London to Dereham. By 1924 four launches were available; "Peggy", "Miss America", "Pioneer" and "Peter Pan", in addition the steam engines that powered the launches were also offered for sale as separate items.
In 1925, in partnership with his cousin Bernard Smart, Geoffrey Jenkins set up Warboys and Smart, of Luton, to market his own range of steam engines. These were built at Dereham and featured a base drilled to be compatible with Meccano. They were sold under the trade name "Wormar". Production of Wormar engines continued until 1927.
In 1926 the Woodcraft Patents Company moved into a new purpose built factory in Dereham, which they leased, from Hobbies. At this time Geoffrey Jenkins changed the name of his company to Bowman Models. In 1927 the first of a range of Bowman stationary steam engines, the E101, was introduced. The E prefix to the number indicated a wooden base. M prefixes, e.g. M101, were used for engines with metal bases drilled to be compatible with Meccano.
The first Bowman live steam railway locomotive, the 234, was introduced at the British Industries Fair, in March 1928, where it was seen pulling six large Hornby coaches. The railway range expanded and eventually included four locomotives as well as passenger coaches, goods wagons and track.
Bowman Models were now a successful company selling stationary steam engines and accessories, a live steam railway system and the superb Hobbies-Bowman steam launches. Bowman steam toys were not the cheapest around, but their quality was outstanding, which is why so many survive today.
By late 1930 Geoffrey Jenkins had set up Jenkins Productions Ltd. and he diversified into the manufacture of such items as the "Domex" razor stropping apparatus, the "Kavor" water powered toothbrush and the "Mavis" gramophone. The razor strop and the toothbrush were not commercial successes but the gramophone led to the birth of the "Jentique" range of furniture. Sadly from a steam enthusiastís point of view by 1934 he was concentrating on his furniture business and seems to have lost interest in steam toys, the manufacture of which had ceased by 1935.
The full story of Geoffrey Jenkins and Bowman Models is told in two superb books by Colin Laker "Bowman Steam Toys and Pond Yachts". Both Books are available from the publishers Headleys of Ashford The Invicta Press, Ashford, Kent, TN24 8HH, (UK).