Tag Archives: Lone Star Treble-0

Class B Tanks

No, Revolution Trains crowdfunded model is not the first ready-to-run example of the 1955 Class B tanker in N. That honour goes to these beasties, made by Lone Star in about 1960.  Though extremely crude by the standards of even a decade later, they’re clearly not based on the older steam-era short wheelbase tanks. The 1955 long wheelbase tanks look like the more likely inspiration.

This trio resulted from my making a speculative low eBay bid and turning out to be the sole bidder. I only really “needed” one…

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More Lone Star Treble-0

To accompany those Lone Star coaches and wagons I blogged about a while back, I’ve now managed to obtain a pair of British outline locomotives to go with them. Both of them came via eBay, advertised as factory clearance, unboxed but in near mint condition at what appeared to be a very reasonable price.

They’re both models of the then very recently-introduced Modernisation Plan diesels. The upper model is an English Electric class 23 “Baby Deltic”, of which just ten of the real life version were built, and lasted little over a decade in service. My childhood train set included one of these, and I remember the Ian Allan ABC books for 1969 and 1970 showing just two remaining in service. I never saw the full-sized locomotives in action.

The second loco is a model of the Derby/Sulzer class 24. The full-sized versions of these were far more numerous, and I always associate them with 1970s family holidays in mid-Wales, when they appeared on freight and mail working on the Cambrian lines.

Since production ceased in the mid 1960s, these models have persumably been in storage somewhere for something like fifty years. They are complete, but giving the length of time they’ve been stored they may take a bit of work to get them running.

By comparison, the middle locomotive is a far more recent Graham Farish model of the class 24, painted in the later BR Blue livery I remember from those Welsh holidays. Considering there’s something like fifty years separating the two 24s, it suggests Lone Star were a long way ahead of their time when they introduced the range.

In retrospect, they were perhaps too far ahead of their time. The design used a large central motor that extended down into the fuel tank between the bogies, and it just wasn’t possible to motorise a British outline steam locomotive using the technology they had in 1960. So they launched an all-diesel range at a time when the real railway, though changing fast, was still largely operated by steam, long before “Modern Image” was a thing. It interesting to speculate where the range might have gone had they continued with it.

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Lone Star Treble-0-Lectric

When I was three years old, my parents gave me a train set for Christmas. I was probably a little too young at the time; on seeing it I’m an told I exclaimed “Oh, rails”, and promptly trod on it.

It was a Lone Star Treble-0-Lectric set, in what is now called N gauge, but then labelled as 000 gauge, half the size of the more popular 00 gauge. I had what must have been the deluxe version, with vacuum-formed scenery and buildings. The track was a looped eight which made two circuits of the board crossing over itself.

As the very first manufacturer to make ready-to-run electric models Lone Star were ahead of their time. The range descended from an earlier die-cast push-along system which used an 8mm track gauge. The locomotives used an ingenious but ultimately troublesome design with a large central motor powering both bogies via a transmission that used rubber bands. This precluded any British-outline steam locomotives, which meant the only steam locomotive in the range was an American-outline Baldwin 0-8-0 switcher with the mechanism in the large bogie tender.

The range ultimately included four different locomotives. There were two British diesels, an English Electric “Baby Deltic” and a Derby-Sulzer class 24. The other two were American-outline models, the Baldwin 0-8-0, and an EMD F7 diesel which ultimately appeared in eight different North American liveries. There was a limited range of rolling stock, again split between British and American prototypes.

Lone Star never developed the system beyond that small initial range. They didn’t have the resources to invest in a more flexible and smaller mechanism that would enable them to make anything other than four-axle diesels. The range was discontinued after only a couple of years, with some models perpetuated in a newer push-along range that used to be sold in Woolworths for another few years. Not until the late 60s did German company Arnold introduce a new range in the same scale, and what we now know as N-Gauge became established.

Most of that original train set is long gone now. A few items have somehow survived; a battered American “Mobilgas” tanker, one piece of curved track, and of all things, the controller, which survived to power a later TT gauge layout, but that’s another story. There may be more survivors hidden away in the back of cupboards. But when on holiday last summer in the Isle of Man I visited the tramway shop in Laxey, and saw a few items of rolling stock, three coaches and three wagons, and nostalgia got the better of me.

It got worse after that; I started scanning eBay for Lone Star items and bid for another pair of coaches, which I ended up winning. And then a couple more wagons from a secondhand dealer at the Maidenhead & Marlow exhibition. All I need now is the two British-outline locomotives…

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