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Milbro Model Railways Home Page

 

 

 

                                              * This section was revised most recently in July 2017 *

 

leaflet1

Illustration H1

The front cover of a folded advertising leaflet/brochure (with 8 panels). This version is probably rather rare, and has a very ‘period’ look.  

This site has two main purposes.

The first is to provide an introduction to model railway products sold under the Milbro trademark by the UK Sheffield-based firm of Mills Bros., both before and after World War Two.

The second is to complement and supplement this account by adding to the information available via the internet about railway models, mechanisms and motors made by several other firms between the 1920s and 1970s.

The UK Mills Brothers company was referred to initially in its catalogues simply as Mills Bros., and described as a Model Railway and Commercial Model Builders. Then, from 1935-36 until the late 1940s, it was referred to formally as Mills Bros. (Model Engineers) Ltd. Finally, following ownership changes and what seems to have been a division of functions between model railway work and model aero-engine production, the model railway activities were continued through the 1950s under the name of Mills Bros. (Sheffield) Ltd. (For more about the firm after the war see the Milbro Locomotives section.)

The general aim for this website is to discuss and illustrate a range of items in a way that may interest model railway enthusiasts and collectors, especially those involved with vintage 0 Gauge toys and models. The site is being developed by Malcolm Harrison, with advice on some of the content from other enthusiasts with knowledge of vintage trains, and with technical/computing support from Gill Harrison.  Illustrative materials and text are being added gradually to the site (a process which began in November 2013). This is a not-for-profit enterprise, primarily to help fill a gap in what is currently available about Milbro trains, but also to try to provide some brief material that might be helpful for people investigating other firms.

 

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Illustration H2  Milbro 0 gauge NE atlantic loco, probably from the early 1930s. This is made of tinplate.

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Illustration H3  Milbro 0 gauge gunpowder van. An example from the large range of wooden rolling stock produced by the company. This particular model is probably from the late 1920s or early 1930s. 

 

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Illustration H4  A rare example of a Milbro GN brake van. This is in good condition, with its trade mark intact. I do not know of any catalogue picture of this vehicle.

The majority of the photos shown will be of Milbro rolling stock, locomotives, accessories and associated published material or art work, but (in line with the intentions outlined above) some models or components from other manufacturers and retailers will be included too. This may be to help provide context, to illustrate, to show specific features, or to make comparisons. Feedback from some of the enthusiasts I know has indicated that the coverage so far given to items from other firms has been of interest, so the website sections on these will continue to grow in parallel with the Mills material.

At the moment there are a few illustrations of wagons from LMC and two other producers within the section on Milbro Wooden Wagons. There is also some general illustrative material on locomotives and motors from various UK firms (including Bond's) in the section on Vintage Locos and Motors, together with separate coverage of two small-scale post-war firms, Douglass Models and Vulcan of Kendal. The coarse-scale 0 gauge engines made by Beeson (including those sold through Milbro and R.M.Evans) are discussed and illustrated very briefly in another section of the site.

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 Illustration H5  Two LNER Claud Hamilton locos by Beeson, thought to be from a batch made for Milbro (see the Beeson section of the website for further comment). As with the loco in Illustration H2, these models are made in tinplate and were for gauge 0. (The loco near to the camera was changed in a few relatively minor ways by its previous owner, and this included replacing the wires through the crank pins with something a little rough and ready.)

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Illustration H6  Milbro advertising placed on a practical item. Tape used by Milbro, carrying their name and address details. This piece was tied around one of their labelled boxes (see the section of our website that shows Artwork)

 

The website also has a Gallery section which I have begun to use for adding more pictures of Mills rolling stock, and it also includes illustrations of wagons from some less well-known producers (so far only a couple of pictures of 'R' models wagons).

Milbro track was something for which the company seems to have been well known, and some selected catalogue illustrations of track and related products are included in the section of the site that covers 'Other' Milbro items. Actual sections of 0 gauge track included in some photos, however, have a variety of retail origins.

Coverage in the comments and illustrations mostly relates to Gauge 0 rather than to larger scales, but some examples of Gauge 1 wooden rolling stock are included (see particularly the Gallery section), and I plan to add more later on.

Enthusiasts often refer simply to 'Mills' locomotives or wagons, as an alternative to saying Milbro or Mills Brothers. Discussion on this site sometimes follows that practice.

Please note that permission should be sought from Malcolm Harrison before reproducing anything (text or illustrations) from this website. Copyright is retained by the author (or in particular instances by those who have supplied specific photographs). I have included some photos I have taken of printed items (catalogues, documents, etc.), and also some scanned illustrations. I hope this does not transgress any copyrights held by anyone else, but if so please let me know. In most cases these items are from firms that no longer exist, or of products advertised many years ago.

 

Acknowledgements, cautions and links

The ongoing preparation of material and illustrations for a site of this kind includes contacting experts and enthusiasts who possess particular locomotives or other items, and have specific experience and insights. Collaboration and consultation are absolutely essential in the case of Milbro, as there are many topics where one’s knowledge is limited, or where discussion helps towards making a better judgement. General thanks are due to several people from whom I have learned a great deal about vintage railway models generally in recent years, and who have a wealth of knowledge on specific company products, the building practices involved, and what makes models by various firms distinctive, intriguing or impressive. Amongst the helpful and informative people over a long period have been Malcolm Clayton, Simon Goodyear, David and Marcus Peacock, Brian Cain, John Robinson, Bill Truin and Alan Crompton. Simon Greenwood is also a valued expert to consult, especially on matters of construction and finish, while Lee Marsh is a perceptive analyst on historically-interesting models by the top makers. As far as support on the present project is concerned, I am grateful also to Bob Burgess, who has offered help on specific rolling stock and other items which has proved invaluable for enlarging my set of illustrations. 

Some qualifications or cautions are necessary about what appears on this site. There may be errors of fact, interpretation or presentation, and if I become aware of these I will try to correct them when text is updated. Identification of items often needs to be tentative, as data or evidence are frequently incomplete. It can sometimes be particularly difficult to determine which company or model-maker built a specific locomotive, and some claims about model locomotives having been made by or for Milbro can turn out to have been misplaced or over-optimistic. There also seem to have been potentially numerous links amongst personnel and between companies making models, with possibilities for work being contracted out for a variety of reasons to another producer or expert model-maker, or commissioned by retailers who then named items as their own. Bassett-Lowke, for instance, sold rolling stock made by other manufacturers, and Milbro catalogues included some accessories and even locomotives not made by themselves. In Milbro’s early years there seems to have been a strong link with the Leeds Model Company. Furthermore, parts and kits could be purchased, and in the case of Milbro wagons and coaches this means that some were assembled by purchasers themselves (see the section on wagons). What constitutes a Milbro item is therefore not completely straightforward.

I hope to increase the links from parts of my text to relevant websites. I have often consulted the very useful and well-known binns road site (see below), and have inserted links to two specific sections on that site when commenting on Bond's and Windsor Models in my section about Vintage Locos and Motors. There also seems to be growing interest in other countries in providing information and advice about vintage model railways on the internet, along with specific contributions from particular experts, makers and enthusiasts. Some of the sites are first rate, and new ones are under development. A very nicely-designed vintage trains example I have seen recently is from Australia, while the Fitzroy Locoworks site offers an intriguing view into some impressive ongoing developments (these two links are below):   

binns road site

Hornby Railways (Australian site):

Fitzroy Locoworks

For links to two sites that contain valuable material on Leeds Model Company items see:

 Dutch HRCA
 Leeds Stedman Trust

For some excellent sources referring to Milbro's connections with the history of model aero-engines, see the Locomotives section, and especially this link:

 adrians model aeroengines