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Bassett-Lowke

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Neil Wyatt14/04/2021 17:03:17
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I was bemused to see an email from Hornby in my inbox, revealing a new range of 'steampunk' models (which seem to have similarities to Lego technic) under the Bassett-Lowke brand.

Previously they used the brand for sheet-metal O-gauge railway models.

I see that in 2020 they released a range of 00-gauge steampunk railway models.

www.gaugemasterretail.com/magento/model-railways/bassett-lowke.html

An interesting evolution of a brand once intimately associated with Model Engineer through WJ Bassett-Lowke.

Neil

 

Edited By Neil Wyatt on 14/04/2021 17:05:01

Edited By Neil Wyatt on 14/04/2021 17:07:02

norm norton15/04/2021 14:02:11
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Bemused is a sentiment I would agree with.

I wonder what Mr Bassett-Lowke would make of it?

Jeff Dayman15/04/2021 14:52:47
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Any building toy that gets kids making / putting together something is great. But-

Marketing it under a name from the past like Bassett Lowke is in my opinion a cheap marketing trick aimed at grandparents / great-grandparents who might recognize the old firm's name / recall their quality while buying toys for little kids. The toys shown have no relation to the original firm's product or scope, it's just more mass market injection moulded toy products.

Nigel Graham 215/04/2021 16:46:53
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The link is to what appears a genuine model-railway supplies retailer, and its catalogue does list various materials like Humbol Paints and other general products by names well-known in model-making. Though I sighed into the monitor when I saw they have listed gears as "cogs", and offered no apparent purposes.

Nevertheless I agree with Jeff that whoever is using the Basset-Lowke name in the background, is merely cheapening it.

In this case it could also give very widely-distorted views of old-time engineering. Although the O-gauge Hornby and similar tin-plate train-sets were no more realistic than they should be, they did have passing resemblances to reality.

That so-called "Steam-punk range" looks guaranteed to give modern youngsters the idea that the Victorian and Edwardian had little engineering skiils and aesthetic sensibilities. It drags the whole thing, and the Basset-Lowke name, down to the level of those ghastly "land-train" tractors that parody Disney parodies of 19C American locomotives.

'

I recall a conversation with a work colleague not ever so long after his son was no longer assembling Lego kits, that the people who now run such companies - or perhaps remote owners -now set out on principle to cramp the child's style. (It was also not long after the years trying to buy worthwhile Christmas presents for an expanding tribe of nephews, without compromising my mortgage.)

We remembered architectural model-kits like Lego or the Bayko I had, (years before Lego anyway) and engineering ones like Meccano ; or a version whose name I forget, for younger children, consisting of plastic rods plugged into assorted wheel and the like. These all shared the assumption that having gone though the sample plans sold with the sets, you could progress to making things to your own designs. Mamod even made its model mill-engine bases compatible with Meccano. The limit was only that of set size and imagination - and you (or you adult male relatives!) could buy additional parts and stretch your imagination.

Now though it seems the manufacturers prefer to concentrate on set kits, and having built, disassembled and re-assembled the 'Intergalactic Destroyer' or whatever vaguely resembles the the box illustration a few times.... now what, Daddy?

'''

That young father also told me of other illuminating experiences not so far from that point.

His son, in early teens at most, had made a weather-vane, and welded it himself - with Dad's supervision. The boy came home distressed by the teacher (ir?)responsible insisting, "No you didn't. Your dad welded it! " Not a good idea, calling an autistic lad a liar to his face, without troubling to establish the truth first.

The same teacher also reprimanded the son for using a sacrificial board tightly below a laminate, to minimise chipping on breaking through - as Dad had taught him. Apparently he was supposed to just ram the bit through the material and into fresh air. The teacher seemed only to follow remotely-set scripts and educational theories. Dad was a time-served machinist, fitter and welder working under high QA schemes; very practical with home building tasks, and a model-railway builder with an eye to fine detail.

Would seem something's lost in the toy kits - initiative and imagination maybe? And in the woolly name "Design and Technology" - pride in skiil and good working practices, perhaps?

Dave Wootton15/04/2021 19:53:27
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I agree with all the previous sentiments I'm horrified and bemused that the Bassett Lowke name has been so cheapened by attaching it to such an awful product. Have these people no sense of the history of the company they have taken the name of ?

I'm sure Mr Bassett Lowke is slowly revolving in his grave.

Dave

Graham Stoppani16/04/2021 05:56:34
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Forgive the slight hijaking of this thread, but as a Northampton lad (W.J Bassett Lowke's home town) can I recommend if you are ever out this way you pay a visit to 78 Derngate.

W.J Bassett Lowke commissioned Charles Renee Mackintosh to design his home, the only house ever to be designed by Mackintosh. The final result was an amalgam of ideas from the two men.

**LINK**

Hopper16/04/2021 06:57:24
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Posted by Graham Stoppani on 16/04/2021 05:56:34:

Forgive the slight hijaking of this thread, but as a Northampton lad (W.J Bassett Lowke's home town) can I recommend if you are ever out this way you pay a visit to 78 Derngate.

W.J Bassett Lowke commissioned Charles Renee Mackintosh to design his home, the only house ever to be designed by Mackintosh. The final result was an amalgam of ideas from the two men.

**LINK**

Well if Mr Bassett Lowke had anything to do with that wallpaper he deserves to have his name dragged through the mud by small boys mounted on steampunk locomotives. laugh

As far as the steampunk toys go, I think they are great. Kids of today will love them. Better than looking at smartphones all day long. And kids of 50 or 100 years ago would have too, if they had been available instead of the boring old square Lego blocks.

Besides, we never had Lego. Luxury that was. Old sticks was all we had. Pater used them to beat us to death every evening when he got home from work. But up until then we had a wonderful time playing with them. With a bit of imagination they could be everything from a sword to a bludgeon. And did double service for poking the cat as well. And cousin Albert built his own aeroplane out of them that almost got off the ground before it rolled out in front of the Number 10 bus and he was crushed flat. Oooh Pater was wild that day to see our sticks all covered in sticky red blood. Beat us all to death twice for good measure.That's how it was back in those days.

But try telling that to the young people of today and they won't believe you.

Edited By Hopper on 16/04/2021 06:59:01

Edited By Hopper on 16/04/2021 07:10:02

Nigel Graham 216/04/2021 09:48:47
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I looked to see what Wikipedia has to say about Basset Lowke.

This Wiki's own Abstract:

" Bassett-Lowke was a toy company in Northampton, England, founded by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke in 1898 or 1899, that specialized [sic] in model railways, boats and ships, and construction sets. Bassett-Lowke started as a mail-order business, although it designed and manufactured some items. "

Further Wiki quotes signified by same formatting.

I am aware that W. is not always as authoritative or complete as it appears, but its information this time does not carry warnings of such, or requests for proper citations..

'

What this revealed is that Bassett-Lowke was not a manufacturing concern but primarily a retailer of both other's products (including Marklin and Bing), and of ones it commissioned from a number of other companies.

In its early days it was particularly noted for waterline scale models of merchant and naval ships, evidently faithful enough for the Armed Services to use the larger scales for ship-recognition training. These were all made by contractors.

It raises an interesting question Wiki does not address. Who actually designed and built the live-steam locomotives, up to 15" gauge, sold under the Basset-Lowke name?

What is fact did B-L make?

'

Decline -

Wiki's sources point to this starting in the 1950s, from various reason but particularly people using B-L's free catalogue to select models they could now buy in very similar form more cheaply elsewhere, and from a decline in the popularity in technical models and toys from the late-50s on. They note similar in the USA, affecting equivalent companies there.

1964: B-L ceased retail operations, sold its shops in 1964

1965: BL closed completely.

1966: Bassett-Lowke acquired by Messrs Riley and Derry (no mention of their line, nor a link).

1969: Ivan Rutherford Scott, Allen L. Levy and Roland H. Fuller tried to revive the model railway business.

Late 1980s, Northampton businessman Nigel Turner, bought the business, based it alongside his existing "Turner's Musical Merry-Go-Round".

1993: the name was revived with short-run white-metal models: a Burrell-type traction engine and steam-roller, Clayton undertype steam-wagon, and London B-type bus.

1996: Corgi bought the name for its live-steam 0-gauge locomotive range.

" Key competitors to Bassett-Lowke were Hornby and Exley."

2008: Hornby acquired Corgi, continued the 0 gauge models for a while.

2020: Hornby introduced its 00- gauge steampunk models " based on existing Hornby toolings ".

2021: " brick-based construction models with steampunk themes... under the Bassett-Lowke branding as the 'brickpunk' range aimed at both children and adults ".

Oh! So does this mean the Steampunk engines are not really Basset-Lowke at all, but Hornby? So why has Hornby, with its own long history of model-railways, attached the name of its one-time competitor to them and to a wholly-new model range, rather than its own?

'

So what of the larger steam locomotives B-L built, or commissioned?

This was a separate business, under a different name; and most of the locomotives were designed by Henry Greenly. Wiki though does not say if it physically built the machines, or had them made by engineering contractors. 

" In 1912 W. J. Bassett-Lowke, Robert Proctor-Mitchell and John Wills set up Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd (NGR) to promote and run 15-inch (380 mm) railways. An earlier company, Miniature Railways of Great Britain Ltd, went into voluntary liquidation in 1912. NGR's first railway opened in 1912 at Luna Park, ... Geneva.. In Britain, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway was taken over, converted to 15-inch (380 mm) gauge and re-opened in 1915. The Fairbourne Railway followed in 1916. "

At least some of these locomotives are still running. One of the 1912 Luna Park engines was saved by the Transport Museum from being scrapped in 1974, and is now displayed in Zánkafürdő Railway Station, Hungary.

''''

So would Wenman Joseph Basset-Lowke be spinning in his grave?

Possibly not at the railway vehicles, and new architectural range, in steam-punk styles; but he may be in full-gear at the way competitor Hornby has used his name for products derived from its own, past, range.

======

The comment about declining interest in technical models seems paralleled by the hobby of electronics. Until perhaps the late 1970s, building, and indeed designing, electronic equipment of all sorts was a popular hobby supported by magazines like Radio Constructor and Practical Wireless, and by many independent and chain components-retailers. The lack of similar publications and traders now suggest amateur electronics now survive only in a few niches such as in model-engineering (motor-controllers and CAD/CAM projects) and amateur radio. The electronics magazines now seem dedicated only to reviewing computers and music equipment, and perhaps sorting out technical problems, but building anything? Oh no!

Edited By Nigel Graham 2 on 16/04/2021 09:52:58

Neil Wyatt16/04/2021 12:55:49
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Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 15/04/2021 16:46:53:

I recall a conversation with a work colleague not ever so long after his son was no longer assembling Lego kits, that the people who now run such companies - or perhaps remote owners -now set out on principle to cramp the child's style. (It was also not long after the years trying to buy worthwhile Christmas presents for an expanding tribe of nephews, without compromising my mortgage.)

To be honest, I don't think that's the case at all, although I once thought that way I have changed my mind.

Look at this website:

ideas.lego.com/

In short, Lego actively encourages 'users' to come up with new creations which get voted on and the most popular are put into production.

I also think that it's easy to be dismissive of 'Steampunk brick ,models' or Airfix click-together models, but I think that these things help plant the seeds of making models in the minds of youngsters who might otherwise just assume everything comes ready-made off the shelf.

I do wonder if it's the best use of the Bassett Lowke name - branding for steampunk models, as it doesn't make any reference back to the band's heritage and will mean nothing to the youngsters of today. At best the double-barrelled name has a slight Edwardian feel that suits the subject.

As for steampunk, I'm quite fond of it as an aesthetic/artistic/fun theme for people to use as part of various creative hobbies. A family friend who used to build and operate Daleks for the BBC (among many other things, he made the Face of Bo) paid my Dad a visit a few days ago. A job doing that sort of 'imaginary engineering' would have been my dream as a teenager. Steampunk has a similar appeal.

Neil

SillyOldDuffer16/04/2021 13:59:12
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Like everything else toys are a thing of their time, and time flies. Meccano made models that looked like the truss bridges, cranes and other riveted structures common before 1950. It's not so good at representing streamlined objects like aircraft, spaceships, and sleek concrete bridges! Meccano and similar are out of step with the young mind, as are transistor radios and yoyos, and no doubt games consoles will eventually bite the dust too.

I'm a little concerned that so many forum haven't noticed that the world moves on. As Mr Robert Zimmerman made clear in 1964:

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin

Mr Zimmerman, better known by his brand-name 'Bob Dylan', was famously called 'Judas' by his fans when - shock, horror - he switched from acoustic to electric guitar. A few of my friends have never forgiven him, yawn.

Silly Old Duffers always think the young lack imagination and energy. Not so, they've just moved on. They're more interested in drones, extreme-sports, computing, internet trends and 3D-printing than the obsolete artisan skills that tick my box. Don't worry, the march of time will bring today's youngsters back to the mother lode. Retired gentlemen enjoy manual skills and retro-technology. I do! Steam engines and mechanical clocks are irresistible!

Dave

 

 

Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 16/04/2021 14:01:46

V8Eng16/04/2021 15:33:31
1634 forum posts
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The only thing I can really find to criticise is the rather strange ‘About Bassett-Lowke’ page on the website
link here:- Bassett-Lowke

In amongst the fiction they specifically use his real name linking it to controversial real world stuff.

Surely an ‘about’ page should only contain factual information?

Edited By V8Eng on 16/04/2021 15:36:49

Nigel Graham 216/04/2021 16:00:01
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I was not accusing young people of lacking imagination and creativity, and I realise that what attracts them will not be the same as for us.

That was not my point though. It's not what they want to make that matters,

You can't compare a single-model Airfix or Tamiya kit with what were conceived as highly-flexible systems for building ranges of models. Instead, my colleague as a father, and I as an uncle, had seen an apparent drive to reduce the latter into a sort of palimpsest of the former; wherein the set is designed around one particular model so potentially limiting rather than encouraging, creatively exploring the system's capabilities. The subject of the model is not important.

As for "steam punk", yes, it's fun and highly-imaginative - fine if recognised as an art-form not representing real, past engineering, even though needing engineering skills to create well. I was impressed by some examples in ME some time last year - such as the supposedly-Victorian hi-fi complete with an eyeball "reading " a CD. The genre might be just a short-term artistic fad, but only time will tell on that.

My worry with the Bassett-Lowke connection is that modern customers (mainly adults if only as the money-suppliers!) may simply associate the B-L name with a modern range of particular models, losing what had been a long and illustrious past. I wonder what led to Hornby's decision, but I hope it will in time also introduce realistic, modern-themed models under the Basset-Lowke name.

Thank you Neil for that detail about Lego. I had not known about that scheme, nor when they started it. My colleague said he found a use for it in model-railway building, to make temporary form-work for assembling card and balsa buildings etc..

Nigel Graham 216/04/2021 17:09:49
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V8Eng -

Your post appeared on here after mine had!

Stem-punk prose there I think, on that strange site; written by someone with an 'ology' in media-studies perhaps, but not history, and probably barely knows a locomotive from a train.

Notice it gives no meaningful connection whatsoever between W. Basset-Lowke and Hornby; and it almost seems as they are trying to ruin his reputation..

Cynical or what.

Please Note - I am in no way criticising Gauge Master, the shop Neil cites at the beginning. They are simply the retailers.

V8Eng16/04/2021 20:16:31
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Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 16/04/2021 17:09:49:

V8Eng -

Your post appeared on here after mine had!

Stem-punk prose there I think, on that strange site; written by someone with an 'ology' in media-studies perhaps, but not history, and probably barely knows a locomotive from a train.

Notice it gives no meaningful connection whatsoever between W. Basset-Lowke and Hornby; and it almost seems as they are trying to ruin his reputation..

Cynical or what.

Please Note - I am in no way criticising Gauge Master, the shop Neil cites at the beginning. They are simply the retailers.


Whilst not wishing to criticise any particular person or company I do think the Tea Plantations lines (no apparent factual record of this) might cause harm as those things have apparently been linked to slavery and colonialism.

In times when things appearing on the web are taken as fact (by some) this sort of thing is very worrying.

 

Edited By V8Eng on 16/04/2021 20:33:55

Peter Cook 616/04/2021 21:16:43
166 forum posts
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Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 16/04/2021 13:59:12:

Like everything else toys are a thing of their time, and time flies. ...


I'm a little concerned that so many forum haven't noticed that the world moves on.

SoD's comments remind me of a piece by Lee Hutchinson on ArsTechnica a few years ago, which I think puts thing well.

"You've almost certainly never seen the place where I grew up, and you never will because it's long gone, buried by progress and made unreachable by technological erosion and the fine grind of time. What I did and learned there shaped me, but that knowledge is archaic and useless. I am a wizard whose time has passed — a brilliant steam engine mechanic standing agape in the engine room of the Starship Enterprise."

Hopper17/04/2021 06:45:55
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When those kids get a bit older they might graduate to some steampunk model engineering like this example, which I though was rather good.

punk.jpg

punk2.jpg

Roger Best18/04/2021 15:40:14
306 forum posts
36 photos

sad not sure about the fake Lego. Or the prostitution of a historic brand. Or the miss-use of Steampunk.

Its a shame they can't use the BL name for something better.

Nick Clarke 318/04/2021 19:33:47
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Scanning through the posts I am a little surprised at the fervour over a name.

Basically Bassett Lowke were a company from the past when I was growing up. I remember gazing through their window as a pre-teen on a stay in London but my brother and I far preferred our Triang 00 stuff - BL was just too big. Several people have clearly tried to revive the name without success - but what they sold was not wanted enough to sell profitably. Similarly Bond's o Euston rd - just not what children wanted (although their last shop became the first Morgan Camera Co - far more interesting!)

The comment regarding the Hornby name is another - they were taken over by Triang who sold the model train part to Wrenn - and went bankrupt themselves a few years later, so todays Hornby isn't related to any similar company in the past.

So basically there is no history behind this model - but if it gets someone assembling things they may go on to make other models in the future!

Nigel Graham 218/04/2021 19:59:38
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I think we can all agree with your last point about encouraging anyone to make models, and that what they make is a matter of taste, but I think the problem here is the way the Bassett-Lowke name is being used and abused.

The argument that modern model-making is more likely to follow modern engineering is no doubt right, but a red herring here.

It looks as if whoever owns the Hornby name now has applied what had been an honourable rival name in model railways in the past, and written that sneering web-site, a way calculated to cheapen and denigrate it.

They introduced a range of new models to their own designs, with only the most tenuous relationship even to Hornby let alone Bassett-Lowke, but lack the courage to invent their own brand.

RMA18/04/2021 20:42:38
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Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 16/04/2021 09:48:47:

What this revealed is that Bassett-Lowke was not a manufacturing concern but primarily a retailer of both other's products (including Marklin and Bing), and of ones it commissioned from a number of other companies.

In its early days it was particularly noted for waterline scale models of merchant and naval ships, evidently faithful enough for the Armed Services to use the larger scales for ship-recognition training. These were all made by contractors.

It raises an interesting question Wiki does not address. Who actually designed and built the live-steam locomotives, up to 15" gauge, sold under the Basset-Lowke name?

What is fact did B-L make?

'

BL did manufacture things. One of my older brothers worked there for a time after leaving the Northampton Technical College. They had a showroom in Kingswell Street, Northampton, and a workshop where my brother used to help make the steam locomotives. As a young boy I used to drool over the displays in their showroom. I haven't lived in Northampton for many years and I think the location has long since disappeared.

Unfortunately a lot of brand names have been bought and used for products which bear little resemblance to the original.

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