Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kenner Sky Rail Project Part 8 - American Bricks, Lino, and Block City

The Kenner Sky Rail Restoration Project is technically over. the Capital Miniature Auto Collectors Club held their July meeting. The program featuring building sets used with toy cars was well-researched -- and well-received. For those who are interested, below are the sets that were presented and discussed. Parts 7 and 8 feature the sets my dad, er, volunteered me to bring in, assemble, and give a brief history of. Parts 9 and 10 feature sets other members brought in. It was quite a night! (click on images to enlarge)

Read all the posts about this project here.

American Bricks

American Bricks were building toys originally made by Halsam, beginning in the 1950's. Each brick was made of pressed wood, with six pegs on the top, and six corresponding holes on the bottom. The bricks look like flattened Lego bricks (which they predate). The bricks had almost the same dimensions as a domino -- and that's no accident. Halsam was one of the premier manufacturers of dominoes, using the same pressed wood technique.

Included in the sets were embossed cardboard roofs and embossed window and door inserts. These inserts had small tabs that fit into slots in the bricks. Needless to say, with continual play, the tabs eventually gave out. In the model I built, I had to prop up the panels from behind to keep them from blowing in every time someone passed the display!

There were only a few different types of brick: long bricks in red, with a smaller number in yellow for accent, half-sized red bricks, and triangular pieces for the roof line. Nevertheless, the scored sides of the bricks made for a very realistic finish to the structures.

Lino, not Lego 

Lino bricks were made by the Deluxe Game Corp in the early 1960's. Although they were basically a Lego knock-off, there were some unusual features with their sets. The church I built, for example, was with Lino bricks and accessories. The steeple originally had a blue rubber cross (now missing), matching the blue plastic arched windows, arched wooden door inserts, and town clock. The roof pieces remind me of terracotta tiles. And while Deluxe Game may have been in the US, the distinctively European look to this structure suggests Lino was imported rather than developed here.

Lino was offered through the major department stores, along with the more expensive Lego sets. I believe mine came from Montgomery Wards. In the process of building this structure, I discovered that there were slight differences between the Lino and Lego bricks. Although they looked the same, the Lino bricks were slightly smaller, making the two systems incompatible.

Block City

The history of Block City is long and varied. The Tri-State Plastic Molding Company started with Block City in the early 1950's. My set comes from that era, and you can see the post-war styling in the structure, especially with the window treatments. Over time, Block City would evolve into Brick Town (more on that in part 9). Block City sets originally came in long tubes, with roofing paper rolled up inside. One cut the roofs to size for each model, which meant unless you built the same thing over and over, you soon ran out of material. For our display I substituted an old file folder.

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