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* This section was revised most recently in October 2020 *

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 M.L.Harrison 2020 © All rights reserved. 

 

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 UK firms between the 1920s and 1970s. At time of writing, some material is included on Beeson, Bond's, Douglass Models, Exley, Leeds, Miller Swan, Vulcan of Kendal, Windsor Models, Walker & Holtzappfel, and others.

***** SEPTEMBER CHANGES INCLUDE ADDITIONS TO WINDSOR MODELS SECTION, BEESON SECTION, GALLERY, ETC.*****

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 company operated primarily from Sheffield premises, their most well-known address being in St. Mary's Road (where they were based from February 1930 onwards). The telephone number from that address was used as one of the numbers offered in the Milbro range of wagon transfers, and is often seen on their factory-built vehicles (25742). 

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 increasingly also to try to provide some material that might be helpful for people investigating other firms.

 

RavenFeb17REVpic4

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

MillsWAGONredGPvanREV1

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. 

 

MillswagonsNOV23rdREV36

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)  models or components from other manufacturers and retailers will be included too. This may be to help provide context, to illustrate or explain, 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, and something on R Models wagons in the Gallery section. 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. An additional section illustrates locos from Windsor Models and Exley. The 3-rail (coarse-scale/standard scale) 0 gauge engines made by Beeson (including those sold through Milbro, Bassett-Lowke and R.M.Evans) are discussed and illustrated in another section of the site. There is also a section about Bernard Miller/Miller Swan. The section on Milbro coaches is complemented by brief outline coverage of some other coach makes in another part of the site, and that material will be expanded as things come to hand. In some parts of the site focussed on other locomotive makers in 0 gauge, I refer to features that might help with identification. Often the analysis is tentative rather than conclusive !  

 ClaudFeb172ndattemptREV1 001

 Illustration H5.  Two LNER Claud Hamilton locos by Beeson, thought to be from a batch made for Milbro. 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 a previous owner, and this included replacing the wires through the crank pins with something a little rough and ready, and replacing the pickups with a skate. When this picture was taken I was unaware that at some point the loco's nameplate had also been changed. The Claud Hamilton plate seen here is a later addition, glued on over the name 'John Herivel'. (See the Beeson section of this website for further comment.)

MillsPaperTape6REV

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)

 

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.

 

MillsRestorationTools

Illustration H7.  People come into the field of vintage trains in all kinds of ways and some get enjoyment from repairing or improving things as well as from operating layouts or collecting models. This picture was provided by a Netherlands correspondent who had been turning a wrecked Mills wagon into a revived item for his layout, and making a good job of it (with the help of original transfers and gum arabic) !

Some people prefer not to change the appearance of old models, so the usual advice is to keep (or 'touch in')  original paintwork and transfers unless deterioration has gone too far. The judgement is inevitably a matter of personal choice (although removing adequate original paintwork on a scarce item may affect its financial value).

 

In the pre-war decades one option for Mills enthusiasts was to use Milbro wooden wagon and coach kits or parts to make their own models. Sometimes these turned out very well, and the example of a six-wheeler below seems to prove that point. This item may have been professionally made by another firm using Milbro components, or might conceivably be a Mills factory special order, but it seems more likely to have been built by an enthusiast (and it has what looks like a date written in pencil underneath). I like this model partly because I had often thought it would be interesting to assemble a similar LNER vehicle from Mills spares but never got around to it (and probably wouldn't have done it so effectively). The model captures Milbro coach style very well, and what I guess is probably a considerable simplification of a full-sized 4- or 6-wheeler seems very much in tune with commercial railway modelling in the 1930s (cf pictures in P. Tatlow, 'Historic Carriage Drawings: Volume 3, Non-passenger coaching stock', Pendragon, York, 2000, pages 22, 23, etc.). There is another photo of this model in our Mills coaches section.

 

MillskitbrakecoachFULLRev2 

Illustration H8. This is probably a kit-built model using Mills parts, but is very much in the Milbro construction style. Its 1930s date is written underneath in pencil. For another picture of this vehicle see our section on Mills coaches.

 

 

Coverage in the comments and illustrations across the website mostly relates to Gauge 0 rather than to larger scales, but some examples of Gauge 1 (and even bigger) wooden rolling stock are included (see particularly the Gallery section).

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, other than for personal private use. 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 and accept my apologies. 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. The same applies to other firms I comment on.

General thanks are due to the 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 these helpful and informative people have been Malcolm Clayton, Simon Goodyear, David and Marcus Peacock, Brian Cain, Alan Cliff, Hans van Dissel, John Robinson, Bill Truin, Mike Delaney, and Alan Crompton. Some of these enthusiasts have provided illustrations of specific items for the present project. I am very grateful to Pieter Penhall for providing pictures and insights that have informed and underpinned my accounts of Read Maxwell and Rocket Precision motors. Simon Greenwood has also been 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. I also want to thank those other enthusiasts, collectors and experts who have come forward with help on specific rolling stock, engines and other items which have proved invaluable for enlarging my set of illustrations, or to provide information and source materials. Amongst these contributors and correspondents are Bob Burgess, Mick Bayliss, George Coop, Martin Ford, Malcolm Holliday, Jonathan Lewis, John Lockwood, Mike Williams, Peter Davis, Peter Wray, Hugh Hazelton, John Lumb, William Whitehead, and Stuart Rose. As far as literature is concerned I would like to thank Tony Manktelow and Robert Jagger for providing and alerting me to some specific and very informative written material relating to Bernard Miller and W.S.Norris, and Graham Thomas for helping me access a particular important publication in this same territory. Finally, thanks are due for the help of the Gauge 0 Guild's officers (all volunteers) who have run the Slides (DVD and Video Hire) service and the Executor and Trustee service in recent years. The historical material the Guild holds on specific model railway layouts and modellers is a valuable and unique source of information, and considerable gratitude is due for the hard work that has been done to preserve and update things so that current members can draw on them. I am very grateful to Chris Simpson for his support when I have been looking for material that would help me understand elements of the 0 gauge model railway past.

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 (or other makers) 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. Some direct links will be made within specific sections of this site (for example a connection is made in the Miller section to a site offering first-rate illustrations of some fine 7mm model locos). As I have often consulted the very useful and well-known binns road site (see below), I have similarly inserted links to two specific sections on that site when commenting on Bond's and Windsor Models in my coverage of 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 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