Monday, March 04, 2013

Japanese Litho Train Sets 4 - Straco, Cragstan and Distler

My informal postwar Japanese lithographed train sets databasing project continues, and I continue to turn up some interesting oddities. Last time (Cragstan, Distler and Nomura) I wrote about two virtually identical HO train sets, one made in German by Distler, the second in Japan by Nomura -- and both imported to the US by Cragstan.

Distler made another HO gauge train set for Cragstan. (click on images to enlarge)

This set features an EMD NW2-style switch engine, a box car, a gondola car, and a caboose.

I own a very similar set made in Japan and imported by F. J. Strauss Co., Inc. I've written extensively about the Straco Express, which consists of an EMD NW2-style switch engine, a box car, a gondola car, and a caboose.

Straco and Cragstan were two different companies, and probably competitors. So it's a different situation then having an importer just change manufacturers. And there are some distinct differences between the sets. The Distler set is mostly plastic, while the Straco is all tinplate construction. The cabooses are distinctively different.

Of the two, the Straco Express is a more elaborate -- and therefore costly -- set to make. Perhaps Cragstan contracted Distler to make a knockoff?

And the track for both sets is identical, which is something I find curious. All of the HO toy train sets I've run across -- whether made by Straco, Bandai, or Nomura -- use this same track. And the Cragstan/Distler sets do, too. So where did it come from? Is it possible these competing companies used the same sub-contractor? Or was the design for this track "borrowed" as well?

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