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An Introduction To EDOBAUD: French Machine Age Prewar Tinplate Toy Trains

Text And Photos By Jim Kelly

The Machine Age is characterized by the use of various metals in construction. There is a machine age aesthetic that glorifies the machines themselves by accentuating the very nuts, bolts, screws, beams and girders of which they are built. Certain tinplate toy trains show evidence of their machine age pedigree. The French firm of Edobaud produced a line of tinplate toy trains for only a little over a decade, from about 1928 to 1939. These toy trains are some of the most remarkable tinplate toy trains ever produced.

Edobaud toy trains and accessories were actually hand assembled with nuts and bolts. They were made primarily out of steel, cast iron, brass, bronze, nickel, aluminum, zinc, and tinplate. In the above detail photo of an Edobaud passenger car, note that the painted tinplate body is bolted to the steel girder undercarriage. The steel frame trucks are bolted together with a single bolt holding the simulated truck spring and two separate bronze bearings in place. The wheels are brass, the buffers are zinc or aluminum, and the steel handrails are bolted to the step. There are a total of 14 bolts holding the car body to the frame, with many more nuts, bolts, and screws holding the hand rails, trusses, roof, and other hardware in place on this one car! Imagine how long it took for a worker to assemble a complete car!

Edobaud trains are the monsters of 0 gauge, with No. 1 gauge bodies riding on 0 gauge trucks. In the above photo the Edobaud third class passenger car dwarfs a Lionel No. 248 even though they both run on 0 gauge track. Note the unpainted stamped aluminum roof on the Edobaud car. Some say they are ugly, but to me these great toy trains exude a beauty all their own, a machine age beauty. They are in a class by themselves, and they are like no other toy trains made before or since.

BACKGROUND

While the history of Edobaud Toy Trains is sketchy, French toy maker Edouard Baud apparently established his company in the late 1920's. He combined the first three letters of his first name (EDO) with his last name (BAUD) to form the "EDOBAUD" brand name. Soon he began manufacturing a line of toy trains that were possibly sold exclusively by the Galeries Lafayette, the famous department store located in Paris (see Carlson, Pierce. TOY TRAINS: A HISTORY. Harper & Row, NY, 1986. P. 137.)

PHOTO: Jean-noël Lafargue (Wikimedia Commons)

However, contrary to the above, French toy train collector Daniel Chausseray writes that Edobaud trains were sold more widely, but in highly specialized stores:

"Edobaud's trains where at that time (1928-1939) in the category of scientific toys, rather than the more common toy train models such as as Hornby or Jep . They where sold in specialized shops offering talking machines, pictures, photographic parts, static steam engines, and Fournereau trains."

Edobaud manufactured a small but relatively comprehensive line of locomotives, passenger and freight cars, track, transformers, and accessories which were sold individually and in outfits or sets. All trains were manufactured to run on 0 gauge track, however, as noted above, the car bodies were much larger than 0 scale, and more closely resemble No. 1 gauge or even smaller Standard gauge trains in scale.

While these heavy cars were constructed largely of a variety of metals, many of the cars used wooden components. According to Daniel Chausseray, the wooden components were actually made by French farmers to supplement their income during the winter months. Daniel writes:

"...originally the wood pieces where manufactured at home by poor small farmers in the mountainous Jura country during the winter to help them make some money. The cars where assembled in the small Edobaud manufacturing plant in the town of Oyonnax. This explains why you often find not strictly matching pieces. Steel pieces were manufactured at the factory as they were more suited to Edobaud's industrial production than the wood parts."

POWER CARS

Edobaud produced at least five different powered cars including two electric outline locomotives, a "Camionette," or powered van or truck, an "Automotrice," or powered passenger car, and a small switcher locomotive.

2-B-2 Electric Outline Locomotive

13-3/4" inches long, buffer to buffer

The two electric outline locomotives included a 2-B-2 (shown above,) a two-rail loco that was powered from the 110V mains using a light bulb as resistance in series with a rheostat. There was also a very similar looking 2-C-2, however this loco was three-rail, had a 20V motor, and was transformer powered.

The "Camionette"

18" long, buffer to buffer

The front truck is powered. The cab is tinplate, and the car bed is wooden.

The "Automatrice"

18" long buffer to buffer. The front truck is powered.

The power truck used in the "Camionette" and the "Automatrice"

These motors feature an unusual reversing scheme. The wheel sets are insulated from each other. The motor is wired so that it runs in one direction with power applied to the center rail hot shoe and the wheels on one side. The motor runs in the opposite direction with power applied to the center rail hot shoe and the wheels on the other side of the motor. Edobaud three rail track had wooden ties, so the outside rails were insulated from each other, unlike conventional tinplate track. Edobaud sold a stand alone reversing switch that was basically a toggle switch that shifted half of the power connection from one outside rail to the other in order to reverse the locomotive.

PASSENGER CARS

Edobaud produced eight different passenger cars: a First, Second, and Third Class Car, a Dining Car, a Sleeping Car, and a Postal And Telegraph Car. All of the these cars were 18" long, buffer to buffer, produced in tinplate, and painted a single color. They also produced a two-toned blue-cream tinplate "Pullman" car and a green tinplate "Fourgon de Queue" tail van or baggage car with sliding doors. All cars feature painted tinplate bodies, name and number decals, plain stamped aluminum roofs, individual metal and celluloid window inserts, steel hand rails, flexible end-of-car diaphragms, heavy steel undercarriages with trusses, and wooden floors. Apparently, some cars had provisions for lighting, but these are not common. The Edobaud coupling system consisted of a sprung hook and pin arrangement, and later a hook and link arrangement.

First Class Car

Second Class Car

Third Class Car

The Dining Car

The Sleeping Car

The Postal And Telegraph Car

FREIGHT CARS

Edobaud produced nine separate freight cars: a Lumber Car, a "Graphiline" Grease Barrel Car, a Box Car, a Flat Car, a Shell Tank Car, a covered (tarped) "Baches Plisson" Flat Car, a Gondola, a Wooden Barrel Car, and a "Cinzano" Wine Keg Car. Many of these cars relied on wooden topside components mounted on the usual heavy steel undercarriages. The cars are 14" long buffer to buffer.

The Lumber Car

Note the manufacturer's plate on the side of the car. The wood load is original, the chains are a replacement.

The "Graphiline" Grease Barrel Car

Note especially the European red squirrel logo on the grease barrel ends!

The Box Car

This car has been restored. The roof, doors, door hardware, and door guides are replacements. The box car was catalogued and is usually seen in red with a black roof. However, Daniel Chausseray says that a green version was made.

The Flat Car

The Shell Tank Car

This tank car still retains its original rubber hose. On the end of the car there is a functioning needle valve. It is apparently possible to actually fill this car with liquid through the open domes on top of the car and dispense the liquid through the valve and the rubber hose!

The ZAMAC dome castings on top of the tank car are open so that liquid could actually be added to the car. These castings show considerable "zinc pest."

The "Baches Plisson" Covered Flat Car

"Baches Plisson" was a manufacturer of tarps, according to Daniel Chausseray.

The Gondola

ACCESSORIES

Edobaud train accessories included a grade crossing, a truss bridge, an assortment of stop signals, and a semaphore. Some of these signals were electrified and some were operated manually. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of some of these accessories is the use of cast iron bases in their construction!

These two matching grade level crossing gate assemblies are electrified. The components are mounted on massive cast iron bases. The painted fences are steel. The crossing arms are wooden. They are very, very heavy pieces!

 

This unique bridge and ramp combination measures an amazing 46.5 inches long!

Stop signals (rear) and a semaphore (front)

Some signals were electrified. All of these signals have steel posts and signs and cast iron bases.

OTHER PRODUCTION

Other trains, accessories, and related items were produced. The author welcomes additional information and photographs which can be sent to Tinplate Times.

It is remarkable that so many of these fine toy trains survived the Second World War. However, considering how well they were made, perhaps this is not so surprising. It is a pleasure to research and collect such an unusual line of prewar tinplate toy trains.

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