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Bond's Motors and Locos

**** The material here was most recently amended in February 2022 ****


Bond's motors and locomotives


Please Note:  this new section is being developed using the material about Bond's that also currently appears in our website page about Other Vintage Locos and Motors.  Later we will remove the Bond's material from that page, so as to make more space there for coverage of the other firms.


Copyright is retained by M.L.Harrison for all text and photos, except for those taken by other owners and enthusiasts.


M.L.Harrison  2022 ©  All rights reserved.


Bond's locomotives and motors have a high reputation amongst 0 gauge model railway enthusiasts. I do not have any expert knowledge on this company's products, and what is said here is open to subsequent correction. It may be useful, however, to consider the contributions made by Bond's alongside Mills, especially as there seems to be very little available in model railway books apart from a valuable section in Hammond's Guide. Thus I hope present coverage will provide some introductory material that may be of interest. There is a very useful historical commentary on Bonds by Martin Bloxsom in the Bassett-Lowke Society Newsletter of May 2014 (24, 2, pages 26-27).

As far as 0 gauge models are concerned, the most widely-known and numerous of Bonds engines are the 'Bonzone' saddle tanks, the Hunslet Diesel Shunter, and the LMS 'Jinty' tank loco. For excellent images see  the  Bond's  section at  the binnsroad website. Hammond's Guide gives production periods of 1927-1956, 1932-1940, and 1938-1960, respectively, for these three items (although end dates appear tentative for the first two). I have no technical information on what mechanisms went into these models over time, although where wheels were small then specific designs might have been necessary. A couple of mechanisms are shown below.


Illustration V30a  Bonds Diesel Shunter. Many thanks to the owner of this loco for providing the picture. The 1936-1937 catalogue gave a price of 42 shillings and 6 pence for this model. I understand that versions may be found in several colours.



 llustration V30b  An example of the Bonzone saddle tank. Thanks to the same enthusiast for the use of this picture.



BondsDieselShunter (Restn1)



Illustrations V30c-V30e  Pre-war models have often suffered from mistreatment or neglect, but in this case the present owner has carried through a very effective restoration project. Many thanks to this enthusiast for sending the 'before and after' photos, and for the useful picture of the engine's mechanism. Here Bond's seem to have used a fairly standard type of motor unit, but other options were also explored (perhaps at different times) when making small-loco mechanisms (see below). 



Illustrations V30f and V30g  Two pictures of a 'freestanding' compact Bond's motor unit, almost certainly specifically designed for one of the Bond's standard small locos at some stage over their production periods. Thanks for these pictures to the person who also provided the three immediately above (V30c-V30e). I am informed that the size of this unit does not quite match either of the Bond's locos held by this enthusiast, but perhaps there was variation over time in the exact dimensions of one or other of the small models.


I have been informed that the body of the first diesel loco shown above is of tinplate, and that the body of the second is also tinplate (and with brass buffer beams). The 'Bonzone' saddle tank shown is also made of tinplate. In June 2016 I was able to examine closely three Bonds LMS 'Jinty' models, and found all these too to be made of tinplate. One of them is shown below; its body and steps are of tinplate but the buffer beams are of brass (and are slightly thicker). In the light of these findings, I had to revise tentatively my previous expectation that Bonds generally built their locos in brass. It seems possible that the catalogued cheaper standard small models were in fact generally made in tinplate, perhaps for reasons of economy. Nonetheless, they were relatively well detailed for their period, and the Jinty had a machined brass dome and chimney. In the 1930s the firm described this LMS steam engine as having many items "never seen before on a production model", including "a smokebox door that has correct dummy clamping dogs", "hinges and number plate fitted", and "side water tanks that are correctly made with sunk top plates and projecting top edging" (Bond's Model and Experimental Engineering Handbook, 1936-7 2nd Edition, p. 56A). As is noted again below, the bodies of most Bond's scale model locos built to order were in contrast generally made from "heavy gauge brass sheet" (p. 64 of the same catalogue).

As was perhaps rather the custom when some pre-war retailers described their better models, Bonds deployed the term 'super detail' when referring to the Jinty, although it would not be seen as such alongside today's super-detailed 0 gauge engines. Certainly, however, the three small 'standard' engines that formed the relatively inexpensive range seem to have been sturdy, functional and very well-designed models. They were hard to fault in 'value for money' terms, and the fact that a Jinty often turns up as a 2-rail engine testifies to their longevity as desirable running items.



Illustration V31.   An example of the standard LMS (tinplate) 0-6-0 tank loco produced by Bonds over a long period, although (as often occurs) the model has undergone some minor change and restoration. The chassis seems to have been replaced with one containing a later (and very good) Bonds mechanism of the enclosed integral gearbox type, while the transfers have been renewed. It has also been converted to 2-rail and given more modern wheels, although it could fairly easily be put back into 3-rail form. 

To conclude coverage of these three excellent Bond's small locos, I have added photos of advertisements from the Model Railway News of 1927, 1928, 1932 and 1938. These seem to capture the enthusiasm of the makers and the style of the pre-war years. There is an interesting comment in the 1928 advertisement about the collector shoes then being fitted to the saddle tanks. In order to cater for outside third rail pickup arrangements, the "spring shoes" were designed to facilitate fitting a "projecting crossbar".







Illustrations V32a-V32d  Four of the advertisements for the small locomotives shown above. All of these were on the magazine's back cover. The 1928 reproduction has rather poor definition and I hope to improve on it later when time allows.  See The Model Railway News: September 1927, 3, 33; November 1928, 4, 47; November 1932, 8, 95; June 1938, 14, 162.


As well as providing these locomotives, the company also sold models made by other firms (and identified as such), and built some locos in response to requests. Hammond's Guide indicates that the Bond's catalogued special order locos range was offered from 1935 onwards, which means that these particular models were available (apparently) for a shorter period than the Milbro ones in the pre-war years. They were also rather expensive, although a couple of the 0 gauge prices undercut those of Mills. The catalogued Bond's LNER pacific, for instance, was priced at £19 10s in 1936-1937, as against £22 5s for a Mills one in the same catalogue years. In any event, locos from this Bond's series seem extraordinarily scarce. Unlike Milbro, however, Bond's continued to be known for its model locomotive production through the post-war years up until the 1970s, although most of the company's business was apparently nothing to do with model railways. Martin Bloxsom's article shows some examples of locos made by the company. In the post-war years there was also some outsourcing, including contract arrangements with Vulcan of Kendal to supply J39 0-6-0 tender locos and some B1 4-6-0s.

One question of interest for present purposes concerns differences between pre- and post-war Bond's locos. After World War Two, materials gradually shifted in model-making generally, with more use of nickel silver, but equally important was the ongoing development of motors and mechanisms. Many post-war coarse-scale models (not just those of the company itself) contain Bond's motors of modern design, so identification and verification of a Bond's loco might sometimes be more difficult than with items made before the war.


I have not tried to assemble here any systematic list of the motors and mechanisms offered by Bonds in different periods (and there will be many enthusiasts who know a great deal more about that history than I do), but there do seem to have been several changes over time as far as mechanisms for 0 gauge were concerned. For present purposes I will start by illustrating the very successful type available in the later years. Discussion then goes on to refer to the 'Standard' and 'Super' mechanisms that were available at the time when the company produced its pre-war scale model locos range. This is followed by tentative comments on the post-war use of the term 'Super' mechanism.   



Illustration V33  Examples of the familiar types of motors and gearbox available during the later stages of production, and popular with O gauge enthusiasts. As most readers will probably already know, a Bonds unit of this kind often represented the 'motor of choice' when models were being built or up-dated and re-engineered. 



Illustration V34  A leaflet advising on the fitting of a Bonds motor, to assist locomotive builders or owners.


When its pre-war scale locomotives range was developed, the firm had some highly distinctive mechanisms available for its 0 gauge models. The 'New Standard Electric Mechanism' was described in the 1936-1937 catalogue as including a 'special form of skew gear', and had adjustable ball races for the main driving axle. The next picture shows what I take to be one of these mechanisms, in Bond's six-wheel frames, in case some readers may not have seen one.  As it is without its centre pair of wheels in this photograph, the way the brushes are held can be seen reasonably well. Standard versions similar to this one turn up occasionally in four- or six-wheel forms. I have found that when the wheels are of the heavy pressed-on type they can present problems for anyone hoping to remove them without specialised equipment! The illustration of this six-wheel mechanism is followed below by a picture of a similar one which carries a Bond's logo. Unfortunately, finding that one of these motors has a Bond's logo does not mean that the loco it sits in was made by the firm itself!

The Bond's designs of this period contrast in a number of ways with the mechanisms being used by Milbro (see our section on Milbro locomotives). Until the mid-1930s, Mills mechanisms were themselves linked with the brass-framed motors that had been developed by Leeds in its earlier production period. An example of a Leeds mechanism with brass frames is shown in Illustration V36 below. When Milbro's later mechanism was introduced, the motor unit was very compact, and could be used without the construction of the kind of rectangular framing needed in earlier mechanisms like that shown in V36.

BONDSearly Mech1

Illustration V35a  An example of one of the pre-war types of mechanisms made by Bonds. Not all of these motors have survived in reasonable running order, and some may prove a challenge without the help of someone with good electrical knowledge and skills.



Illustration V35b.  Some of these motors carry the firm's name. This one drives the mechanism in what seems to be a scratch-built model created by someone with excellent engineering skills. Unlike the motor shown above, this one runs superbly, and seems very capable of powering what is a large and heavy LNER 2-8-0.



Illustration V36.  For contrast. These Leeds mechanisms seem to have been widely used, and the link with what Mills made for Milbro engines up until the mid-1930s is clear. In this example there are steel wheels rather than LMC soft metal ones, but the slotted centre nut is much the same as it would be if LMC wheels were put on.



Illustration V37a.  The Bonds mechanism as set up for a four-coupled loco. This motor still runs quite well despite its age. The frames appear to have been shaped to fit a specific model, either by the company or by a purchaser, and the wheels are of the pressed-on type. One of the pick-up 'spoons' has been lost, and replaced rather crudely. It can be seen that the coupling rods are very plain (and they are also fairly thin). This was probably largely a matter of price, although it is possible that higher quality original ones may have been removed by an owner.



Illustration V37b. This advertisement from June 1936 introduces the type of mechanism shown in our previous illustration. The wheels are of the 'press on' type, and attention is drawn to the ball races. This is from The Model Railway News, 12, 138, page xii.



Illustration V38a  This Bonds mechanism is a variant of that shown in Illustration V15, and the brass frames run the full length of the model. I think it fairly unlikely that this very attractive engine is a Bond's loco (and its present mechanism seems to be a replacement for another motor), but the picture shows how an earlier standard Bond's motor unit could be incorporated in full-length framing.


Illustration V38b  The loco needs some minor repairs to the apparatus below the body and lacks pickups. Although its maker is difficult to identify, it is a convincing model with a good number plate and other detailing.


The Bond's 'Super' mechanisms before and after World War Two

The pre-war Bonds 'Super Electric Mechanisms' (see Illustrations V39, V43 and V44) may perhaps have represented a high point of the firm's mechanism design in the early and mid-1930s, but seem very rare today. They were apparently built individually to suit customers' own requirements. The 1931-1932 catalogue description for them was twenty-one lines long, and the price for gauge 0 was £4 10s. The company offered these mechanisms in six-wheel form, but I have not seen any picture of a four-wheel version. Unfortunately, I do not have an array of the Bonds catalogues for the late 1930s, but if there was a four-wheel version then it must have been difficult to construct. In any event, in the absence of further information it seems most likely that a mechanism like that in V37 or V38 would have served instead as the most probable pre-war power unit for some of Bonds smaller tender and tank locomotives.


Illustration V39  The super mechanism as catalogued at the time of the pre-war locomotives range.


It appears that a transition to new mechanisms took place after the war, but I do not know whether the pre-war Super Mechanism remained available during the 1940s. It is worth noting, however, that Martin Bloxsom's article indicates that the company's original premises were 'bombed out' in World War Two. Unfortunately, Bond's 1950 catalogue confusingly shows what looks like an old picture of a motor of the type shown in V37 above, while simultaneously referring to a 'New' Super Electric Mechanism. Bond's Model Railway News advertising of the same period includes a drawing of a Bonds new '0' motor unit (e.g. in February 1950, at ii), but points out that the new redesigned motor unit differed from the illustration. The new Super Electric Mechanism was eventually referred to alongside an appropriate new photograph, showing a motor that included the 'Alcomax 2 magnet of new design'  (for instance in the 1956-1957 catalogue, 15). This post-war type of mechanism seems to have remained available for a long period, and apparently survived into the 1970s, even though a range of the types of motors shown above in Illustration V33 had by then also been developed. The 1972 catalogue seems to include the same photograph as that shown in 1950s and 1960s catalogues (although this observation is based on a very slim sample of catalogues). Using the terms 'Super Electric Mechanism' and 'Supermec', the 1972 text states that these 'Supermecs' are 'made to order only' (p. 83; cf also pp. 18-19 for the other advanced motors). Illustration V40 shows parts of catalogue pages side by side from 1964 and 1972. The 1964 one shows one of the firm's LMS tank engines, and the excellent motor bogie, as well as the six-coupled mechanism. As far as I can tell, the motor shown in Illustration V41d is of the type featured on both these pages. 



 Illustration V40  This comparison of pages from 1964 and 1972 shows continuity as far as availability of the post-war 6-wheel 'Super' mechanism was concerned.

The page on the left includes two very well-regarded other products; the motor bogie and the LMS 'Jinty' tank loco (see above). The term 'super' was also applied to the bogie. Motor bogies were advertised as being available in 6-wheeled as well as 4-wheeled forms. I assume that the bogie shown below is by Bond's, although perhaps an earlier version than the one pictured above (which looks to have enclosed gear boxes). I have no detailed knowledge of these products, but they are very impressive.  






Illustrations V41a, V41b and V41c  An excellent motor bogie that seems to be by Bond's. I do not know when this was made.





  Illustrations V41d and V41e   I think the motor in the upper picture here is a 'super' mechanism of the standard post-war type. The commutator is located at the rear, and the brushes are contained in tubes rather than located externally as on the pre-war mecanisms. The mechanisms I have had of this type have run very impressively.

The lower picture (V41e) shows what seems to be a 'transition' super mechanism. It is very well engineered, and similar to the one shown above it, but it has arrangements for the brushes that reflect pre-war practice.


The new Bonds motors of the post-war years were compact and well engineered, and achieved widespread use. Some principles had been carried forward from the 1930s, but as far as I can tell there was no return to the old types of magnet, or to the kind of large and open gear train that had been incorporated into the pre-war Super Mechanism. This may be important when it comes to trying to determine the production period of a specific Bonds scale model loco.


Pre-war Bond's locomotives from the catalogued scale model range or linked to it.

The pre-war locomotives in the catalogued 'scale model' range were available in various scales from 4mm up to the larger sizes, with 'scale steam' being an option for those above 0 gauge. Those items listed by the firm would most likely have been supplemented by specific orders from customers for individual models of additional engines. According to the catalogues, brass was the material used for the super-structures (except for the steam locos in larger scales). This seems to have contrasted with practice for the three small standard models referred to above in this section of our website (and which I suggest would generally have been built in tinplate).




Illustrations V41f-V41h.  The Bond's pre-war range of scale model locomotives. I do not have enough of the Bond's catalogues to be sure, but I think this set of examples shown by Bond's remained the same until the war brought an end to their listing in the catalogue.    See also comments in our section on Mills locos, at Illustration L1b. 

I believe that the pacific loco shown now is an 0 gauge model sold by Bond's in the late 1930s as an item from their scale model range. I assume that it was built in the firm's own workshop. The loco and tender appear to be made of brass. 


Illustration V42a.  Pre-war Bond's pacific Papyrus (see further pictures below).

In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it seems reasonable to assume that the larger engines in this range in scales 0 and 1 would normally have used the 1930s Super Mechanism. My guess is that while the Bond's workshop would certainly have assembled frames and mechanisms for its own products, staff might also have provided either mechanism parts or complete mechanisms for use if a loco job was contracted out. In any event, as deployed in the loco shown here, the super mechanism is built directly into the frames. The catalogue description of the range explains that the mechanisms were specially built for each locomotive. With Papyrus the full-length side-frames (with their integral mechanism components) parallel what Mills had been doing since 1930/31. The idea of this style of construction was not Milbro's alone, but Bond's engineers may have felt the same about the advantages from the point of view of maintenance and construction. I have no way of knowing for certain whether the approach illustrated below was typical of Bond's catalogued loco models in general when a pre-war mechanism was inserted, but for the moment I am inclined to suggest that it would have been. Interestingly, the wheels on Papyrus appear to be pressed on. 


Illustration V42b  Another full-length picture of LNER pacific Papyrus. I believe this engine to have been made in the second half of the 1930s. It is a beautiful locomotive, and its paint finish has lasted well, albeit with some nasty damage to the metal at one point above the boiler. The previous owner had converted it to two-rail running, and made some amendments inside the loco and below the tender. Despite this, he retained the original frames and mechanism, as can be seen below.



Illustration V43  This shows the chassis and built-in mechanism of the loco. I have put alongside it a 'freestanding' 1930s Bond's 'Super Electric Mechanism', so that the viewer can see at once what has been done. The 'achilles heel' of these impressive pre-war motors was probably the system for the brushes. It seems odd that the designers of a motor with ball races and sophisticated gearing should have come up with such an under-developed and potentially precarious arrangement for holding things in position. An interesting feature of the motor and its gear train is that for this pacific it connects to the axle of the front driving wheels. This contrasts with what I would expect for a Milbro 4-6-0 or 4-6-2.



Illustration V44  From a different angle. The wheels on the front mechanism are not original, but its origin is confirmed by the stamped name of the company on one of the frames.



Illustration V45.  Loco side view.



Illustration V46.  Front end details.



Illustration V47.  Nameplate, wheels and motion. I am informed that conversion of vintage locos to two-rail running could mean altering the wheels by cutting through spokes; perhaps that was done for this engine. 



Illustration V48a.  The tender.



Illustration V48b.  Tender front view.



Illustration V48c.  The tender's paintwork is still in good condition.


Another excellent Bond's loco that may have been made before the war is shown below. It is a 3-rail LMS 8F.  





Illustrations V49a-V49d.   I am grateful to a previous owner of this model for permission to use his excellent photographs here. They appeared on Ebay when the loco was auctioned in 2017. The narrative given to me via another past (earlier) owner suggested that the model was apparently sold by Bond's just before the second world war. If that is correct, then the loco might well be expected to contain something similar to the mechanism of Papyrus shown above. Our fourth photograph suggests that the locomotive not only appears to have 'pressed on' wheels, but a complex gear train built directly into the frames, rather than a later postwar motor unit. I would need to be able to examine the model more directly to check further its similarity with Papyrus. As can be seen, the Bond's pickups have been removed from the two pickup blocks.