Buying Mamod products – the overseas guide

Mamod has always prided itself on being a thoroughly British company but over the years it has grown to encompass a global audience.

The love for model steam trains spreads much further than John O'Groats across the UK to Land's End and Mamod has a presence throughout the world. As with all firms nowadays, Mamod is trying to appeal to as big a demographic as possible and while it is still proud that it works from its Smethwick factory with British-made parts, it welcomes attention from all points of the globe.

Mamod currently has a presence in key markets such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and India with the company shipping to all of these countries. The internet has allowed for the company to reach further afield but it is not always to ensure that customers in far flung corners of the world can enjoy Mamod products.

Sometimes it is not as straightforward as boxing up a Mamod model and sending it halfway across the globe. Mamod occasionally has to team up with retailers in the specific countries who can then distribute the models to interested buyers. Having working relationships such as this can take the burden off Mamod and also reduce costs from the company's side.

So what are the Mamod's policies for delivering to specific regions of the world? Here is a brief overseas buyer's guide.

North America

North America has a huge love of model railways. In fact, the large model railway resides in Flemington, New Jersey including 100 trains, 400 bridges and 50,000 streets. The Northlandz model railroad took creator Bruce Williams Zaccagnino 16 years to complete, something which only started out as a hobby.

This highlights the huge market for companies like Mamod. The British firm has a good presence in the US and Canada but is looking to expand to satisfy the huge demand in the country. Those looking to purchase Mamod products from the US have to go through one of its buyers, which happens to be the largest importer of steam engine across North America.

Australia and New Zealand

Model railways are also popular Down Under. Mamod is developing its profile in the region but is still not as well known as it would like to be, especially in New Zealand. This is a disappointing fact as the company sells directly to New Zealand and Australia.

While Mamod is not well known in New Zealand, the company is popular in Oz where customers recognise the British made emblem. The firm has not sold in great volumes to the region due to the costs involved but for those looking to purchase any of the products will be guaranteed the best price available.

India

One region where Mamod has been boosting its profile is India. While other manufacturers exist in the country, they tend to deal with distributors which can drive up the price. For Mamod, it wants to give customers the best possible price available and will sell direct to buyers living there.

One of the main problems is often a language barrier but the company has reassured customers that this can easily resolved during the buying process.

A history of the Mamod Saddle Tank

The Saddle Tank has long been a favourite for Mamod buyers and this year marks the dawn of the latest incarnation of this popular model.

Despite being unnamed as of yet, there is already excitement and anticipation of this new Saddle Tank to come off the Mamod production line. The company waved goodbye to a stalwart of the Smethwick factory when the final Diamond Jubilee Saddle Tank engine was sold in the build-up to Christmas. Mamod now has high hopes that the new model will strike the same chord with enthusiasts.

So why has the Saddle Tank become such a popular model? Well, Mamod engineers believe the limited edition engine for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee has driven this popularity. This has since been complemented with the launch of the Brunel which was one of the very few steam models to have a vertical boiler as opposed to a horizontal one. This has proved to be a unique selling point for Mamod customers.

However, despite the recent success the Saddle Tank has been an institute of Mamod since the 1980s. The original Saddle Tanks were first launched in 1980 – the RS1 and the RS2. Released in 0 gauge there was only a limited number of the engine due to the small range of rolling stock and track. It represented the first mass produced live steam set to be sold in the UK.

They remain the last remnants of the Malin family's ownership of the company but the success of the RS1 and RS2 inspired the development of the RS3. This model hit the shelves just a year after the original launch of the first two, this was shortly followed by the SL1 kit in 1983. These engines saw the introduction of a pair of double acting oscillating cylinders connected to a rotary reversing valve.

What's the difference?

When it comes to the Saddle Tank there are a number of considerable differences between these engines and the other engines in Mamod's portfolio. The name itself is derived from the fact that the water tank cover saddles the boiler. It was a design that was used in real life engine around the world and was popular with smaller, industrial trains.

Both in real life and in model form, the design of the Saddle Tank was popular as it allowed for greater water capacity compared to the traditional side tank arrangement. The close proximity to the boiler meant that the liquid could be pre-warmed and smooth the transition into the engine, making it much more efficient.

Mamod made a few tweaks when it came to design a model Saddle Tank compared to the real locomotives, while they work in the same sense there are a number of differences when it comes to the design. The model versions do not have a separate water tank and the water is placed directly into the boiler.

The Saddle Tank continues to be a huge favourite in the modelling and has even tried to be replicated by another company before production was ended.

What’s new for Mamod in 2015?

Christmas has passed and now people are gearing for the final hurrah of 2014 as the dawn of a new year approaches.

It is a time when people look back on their accomplishments during the past 12 months but also start making resolutions of what they want to do in the coming year. The same can be said of Mamod as the company prepares for what it hopes to be another busy year of bringing innovative and exciting steam models to market.

In the past 12 months, Mamod has relaunched its marine engine. It has provided collectors and steam enthusiasts with the opportunity to build their own steam boat. A long-term project such as this can be the perfect chance to hone skills whether it is in trial and error when putting an engine together or ensuring that every part of the boat works in harmony.

There were some farewells in the Mamod community as an iconic steam engine left the Smethwick factory for the final time. The Diamond Jubilee Saddle Tank steam train model had been a big favourite with Mamod's customer but 2014 saw the last of the toys roll off the production line.

Originally released to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, the Saddle Tank struck a chord with collectors. The limited edition model was a versatile product as it could switch between gauges depending on the preference of the user. Mamod engineers will no doubt look back on the train as a fond favourite in years to come.

So what does Mamod have in store for 2015? Here is a sneak preview.

The Telford

The Telford is the headline act for Mamod in the new year. A model steam engine that has been four years in the making is finally ready for release and it has been a huge labour of love to get it to this stage. Dubbed 'the runaway train' by engineers and designers, there has been a huge amount of trial and error to create the Telford.

With the concept starting in mid-2011 and planning starting in 2012, the February 2015 release date highlights the amount of work that has gone into perfecting the Telford for the mass market. Collectors will notice that the model is an updated version of the Saddle Tank but with the introduction of a new piston, making it somewhat of a pioneering model.

Engineers maintain that while there has been a lot of inspiration taken from Saddle Tank engines, the Telford is very much "its own engine". Mamod expects the latest product to be popular so there could be a rush when it is finally released.

More focus on the marine engine

Mamod reintroduced the marine engine to its offering in 2014 and the coming year will see yet more focus on these products. Marine engines saw a spike in popularity in the early days of Mamod's operations but then subsequently quietened, however with modellers now interested in expanding their horizons the marine engine can play a significant part.

It is the perfect opportunity to embark on a long running project which could result in the creation of a truly impressive, steam-powered boat.

Why I love Mamod – Lee Hale (part 2)

Time moves on nowadays at a seemingly exponential rate with technology changing all the time. Companies all over the world have to move with the times or risk being left behind as the next big thing takes its place. Mamod is no exception and has had to adapt to the developing digital world we live in today.

Starting out as a humble family-run company, Mamod has blossomed into a name known right around the world. There has obviously been challenges, as there always is with a brand which has been running for over 80 years, but Mamod has been able to overcome these obstacles.

In the second part of our chat with the curator and head of Winterbourne House and Garden, Lee Hale, we look at the changing face of Mamod and how it has adapted to new markets and appeals to the next generation.

"In years past they [Mamod products] were intended solely as a child’s toy, but there are now many more adult collectors as people realise their recreational value," Lee explains. The company has helped to evolve far beyond its original campaign of being the ideal toy for children to understand the concept of steam.

Mamod has been creating models for educational purposes for years. Long-standing partnerships with schools has seen the company specifically develop the models to allow youngsters to have a grasp of how engines work. As it core target market has grown older, Mamod has had to alter its approach and cater for a customer base wanting much more than a toy.

Steam has become a hobby for many adults for a number of reasons. For some it is the desire to develop a new skill, others want to take a trip down memory lane and recreate some of the engines they saw during their skills while some just like having projects to work on. However, for Lee it was something completely different.

The Winterbourne curator explains: "The hobby provides me with a distraction from a busy work life and has helped through times of great personal difficulties by focusing my mind elsewhere. The steam shows and rallies are full of wonderful people that really enjoy imparting their knowledge; you can’t beat seeing a vast array of engines gathered in one place!"

Another key selling point for many getting involved with steam collecting is the community aspect. There are a multitude of steam clubs and groups across the UK and Mamod is heavily involved in this. Lee is a member of the Unofficial Mamod Forum and says that it is great place to expand your knowledge about model steam engines.

"There are a myriad of steam events and rallies throughout the year; I run the Winterbourne Toy steam event in Birmingham and we are now looking forward to our third year following a very successful event in 2014," he adds.

Over the years, Mamod has built a large and loyal customer base and while it is now building towards an older demographic it still regards itself as being able to create some perfect steam engine toys for the younger generation. Whatever age you are, it shows that you can neither be too young or too old to enjoy steam.

Why I love Mamod – Lee Hale

Mamod is a well-known name among the model railway community and has built up a significant following since they were first introduced way back in the 1930s. In this series of articles we will be meeting the people who have grown up with Mamod and have bought models throughout their life.

Next up is Lee Hale

Mamod enthusiasts come from all walks of life with some collecting them all their lives or others that have just recently picked up the hobby. Lee Hale is one of the latter.

Lee is the curator and head of Winterbourne House and Garden in the grounds of the University of Birmingham. The site is among the top ten attractions in England's second city but has a distinguishable link with the steam community. Last year marked the first-ever Winterbourne Steam Fair which attracted 500 visitors from across the country.

Mamod was one of the vendors in attendance and it is a brand that is close to curator Lee's heart. Having got into steam modelling relatively late, Mamod has been one of the company's that he has focused on. In the short years has been collecting he has amassed around 25 Mamod models.

Starting off with a Mamod Traction Engine, Lee explains that his love of pre-war machines drew him to the Traction Engine. Not content with just the model itself, Lee has also invested in the variants that complement the engine. So versatile are the models the Winterbourne curator explained that his son is in the process of creating a wood yard diorama which uses the Traction Engine to drive a saw.

One of the great aspects of Mamod products is that a world can be built around them. In the past collectors have amazing scenery where the train models can happily chug through. While Lee admits that dioramas are not really his cup of tea he has always dreamed of creating a garden railway.

"If I am lucky enough to move house in the near future a suitable space for a Mamod garden railway will be on my tick list for sure," Lee explains.

The main appeal of Mamod for Lee is the company's embracing of yesteryear and bringing some much loved engines back to life. When it comes to picking out a favourite it is the pre-war range which strikes a chord with Lee. However, he also is a fan of the more modern models with the Samson TE which he received as a gift last year as his favourite.

"I like the earlier engines, preferring the traditional green and red colours and lots of shiny brass! That said Mamod are showing great innovation at the moment and the volume of new models being introduced is great to see," Lee notes.

Like with many other collectors, Lee keeps an open mind to both mobile and stationary models in the Mamod range. While one of his main ambitions is to build a railway garden in the ground of his home he also has a passion for stationary models such as the SP8.

The trials and tribulations of Mamod – Part 3

For a humble steam model company, Mamod has had to overcome some pretty difficult challenges since its establishment in the 1930s. From a world war to a World Cup to two recessions, the firm has persisted and still stands strong to this very day. In this three part series, we look back at the trials and tribulations Mamod has been through over the years.

In our third and final article in this series we move into more modern times and look at how Mamod coped with recessions of both the 1980s and the 2000s.

As the 1980s approached, Mamod was riding high. The release of the TE1a, SR1a, SE1a and SE2a had performed well with its customer base and the company was prospering as a result. However, when the next decade came round there was a huge change across the world as recession bit hard.

The UK had experienced a number of financial crises towards the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s. Inflation had grown to around ten per cent and unemployment was rife across the country. Approximately 1.5 million people were left out of work with the north of England being one of the hardest hit areas.

The likes of Tyneside, Yorkshire, Merseyside along with West of Scotland, South Wales and, importantly for Mamod, the West Midlands saw main industries close such as shipyards and mines. This led to widespread unemployment and a deep resentment towards the government.

Mamod was not an exception to these changes. In June 1975, founder and chairman Geoffrey Malins died at the age 83 and not long after the company was forced to make a series of redundancies.

Reports in the media highlighted the dangers of methylated spirit following an "accident" in the US. The result was not pleasant. A large number of retailers cancelled orders due to concerns of the liquid meaning valued Mamod staff had to be let go to cover costs.

The gloomy days of 1975 had not dampened Mamod's thirst for innovation and by 1979 it released five new engines – SP1, 2, 3, 4 and the twin cylinder SP5. This was followed by the launch of the RS1 and RS2 railway sets which, while impressive, came at a big cost to the company.

Uncertainty continued as Malins was unable to repay money owed to the bank and was subsequently placed into administration despite trading in the black. A number of ownership changes ensued and it was not until the Terry family came on board in 1992 that it was pulled back from the brink.

Under the stewardship of the Terrys, Mamod was moved back to Birmingham and production was up and running once again. The 1990s was dedicated to refurbishing the worn tooling and the main focus was to improve the quality of the Mamod range.

With the dawn of the new millennium Mamod launched models such as the SP5D (2000), Millennium Blue Bus (2000) and the Le Mans Racing (2001). There were also limited edition models such as the Golden Jubilee Loco which was introduced in 2002. However, just like in the 1970s and 1980s, the UK was braced for another recession.

The 2007 economic downturn once again put a huge amount of pressure on Mamod. As images of people queuing outside of Northern Rock outlets and model outlets closed right, left and centre, Mamod needed to develop a new approach.

It made the risky decision of selling directly to customers. Retailers could no longer afford to hold a wide range of Mamod products so the company felt that direct selling could be the way forward. This move not only helped to safeguard the future of Mamod but also fostered a much stronger relationship between Mamod and its customer base.

Just a year after the start of the recession Mamod released both the MK I and the MK II, representing the final models made by the Malins family.

Through wars, World Cups and recessions Mamod has survived and continues to prosper to this very day.