Thursday, October 04, 2012

Collecting - and Collecting Information 6

Judging by the photo, these two Cragstan/Nomura trains
are virtually identical. In reality, though, there are
some important distinctions.

Although some things can be researched online, there's nothing like hands-on examination for learning. In this series, Collecting - and Collecting Information, I've been chronicling my adventures in accumulating knowledge about a topic that there seems to be little information about -- Japanese toy cars and trains. I'm doing the research for a talk my dad volunteered me to give, and it's a topic I know little about. But I'm learning more, teasing out information a little at a time.

In 2010, I posted The Straco Express and the Mystery Train(s). I didn't know much about the Japanese tinplate train I had as child, and was hoping someone online would. They didn't. But since that time, I've learned that the train I had was imported by Cragstan, and manufactured for them by Nomura, probably around 1961. (click on images to enlarge)

And recently I learned something else -- this particular model was made earlier, and underwent some design changes along the way. I found a similar set online and purchased it. The cars had different graphics, and I was thinking of making a longer train.

Placed together, it's easier to pick out the newer boxcar. Note the
difference in the style of the graphics.
When they arrived, I was surprised to discover that they had a different coupler arrangement. Instead of the simple eye and hook of my set, this one had a complex open box and ratchet setup. It's a little difficult to tell from the photographs, but these cars were older than the ones I already owned. In addition to the difference in patina, the lithography also has more of a 1950's rather than 1960's graphic design to them (actually, I think they more closely resemble 1940's commercial art).

A simple hook (left) vs. a complicated ratchet-and-box
coupler (right). No wonder Nomura made the change!
In all other ways the cars are identical, so this was probably a running change. And it makes sense. The newer couplers are simpler, so they're easier to make and they require less material. A definite cost savings.

So now I know a little more about this Santa Fe set. And the information wasn't readily apparent from the photos of the train. Only after I had the train in hand and could do some side-by-side comparisons was I able to see a little of Nomura's history.


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