Mamod has become a brand synonymous with model railway fans starting from humble beginnings growing into a household name today. In the first of a series of articles, we look back at the history of the Birmingham company starting with its formation.
You have to go back all the way to 1934 to find the very beginning of the Mamod journey. The landscape of the UK was much different to the world we know today and in a small corner of the Midlands, a modelling company was making its first ever steam locomotive model. Mamod began its life in Birmingham’s “Gun Quarter” on Price Street. As its name suggests, this area of the city was dedicated to the production of firearms but it is where Mamod first took off.
The company’s first venture into the modelling market was turntables designed for Meccano or other toy sets as well as a brass propeller for model boats. It struck a partnership with Hobbies which was responsible for distributing the products across the UK. Hobbies itself had a deal in place with Geoffrey Bowman and together they were able to develop the highly successful Bowman Range.
It was not all plain sailing, however, as in 1935 Mamod and Hobbies’ partnership broke down but with this cloud came a silver lining. Mamod was able to work with Geoffrey Malins which led to the development of the first Mamod models. In the space of a year, the company had released the SE1, 2, 3 and the twin cylinder SE4 which all carried the Hobbies badge. They were based on the Bowman style but were models that did not suit the high standard of Malins.
He remarked in 1936 that the 576 engines he made in that year were “the worst I ever made as I had to begin at the beginning and find out everything”. He realised that by having his own trade name he would be able to make better engines. He herefore ended his association with Hobbies and Mamod was born.
Using a trading name that was a combination of “Malins Models”, the company began to soar in popularity. As the war with Germany began to rage, Mamod became the most popular British-made steam toys and orders improved as the public were put off buying products made in Germany. In 1939 a four-page brochure was published to complement the new Minor 1 engine.
The onset of World War II in 1940 meant that Malins turned his attention to the war efforts and production was halted until 1946. Following the end of the war, production started back up but while the Minor 1 remained unchanged the SE2 was updated with a base mounted chimney, later reverting to the boiler mounted chimney.
It was the end of the road for the SE3, SE4 and ME1 marine engine but the dawn of the New Minor 2 in 1948 while there was also the introduction of the Meteor steam yacht in 1949. While steam yachts had been popular prior to the war, this had declined following the ceasefire and by 1952 all boat production had stopped with just 1,500 Meteors and 200 Conquerors, the electrical version, sold.