Toytown Flyer / Harbro Flyer

Toytown Flyer

A rather basic, but attractive, little engine made in Britain just after the Second World War. In the November 1946 issue of Meccano Magazine the famous London department store, Selfridges, were advertising them for sale at 14 shillings and 7 pence (73p in modern money).

Toytown Flyer Instructions The advertisement only describes the engine as a "vertical oscillating steam engine" and gives no details of the maker. So who made them? That is not a straightforward question to answer as the identical engine has been documented as being produced by two manufacturers.

This example, according to the instruction sheet supplied with it, is a "Toytown Flyer" and was manufactured by Dixon Plastics Ltd. of Earls Barton, Northamptonshire. Other examples exist with instruction sheets that describe the engine as a "Harbro Flyer" and give the manufacturer as the Harbro Engineering Company of Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

It is possible that the engines were manufactured by one company and sold, under licence, by the other. It is also possible that the two companies were part of the same group, Earls Barton and Market Harborough are quite close, less than twenty miles apart.

These engines are characterised by the lack of a conventional safety valve. The instructions state; "It should be noted that an automatic safety valve device is provided in the method of spring-loading the cylinder pivot." Another unusual feature is that these engines have been found with two burners. Was this a simple case of providing a spare, or was it to allow the power to be increased by using them both together? Ironically, having said that, the burner is missing from my example.