Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Seeking Sakai, Part 2

In part 1 I shared the details about an early H0-scale tinplate set I found. It was manufactured by Sakai, a company that was founded in Japan around 1947.

Recently I found out quite a lot about this set from a variety of sources.

Turns out this is Sakai also.
There was a Japanese company called Seki that operated before the war. They competed primarily with Marx in the US, offering some interesting variants on Marx and low-end Lionel and American Flyer 0-gauge sets.

Seki and Sakai are sometimes confused, but they were different companies. Seki ceased operation during the Second World War. Sakai Seisakusho Ltd. began operation after the war, offering different products.

From a Seki/Sakai online group, I learned that Sakai manufactured the mystery train set (at right) I've talked about before on this blog. They also made an 0-gauge tinplate train set sporting "Hudson & Pacific" livery that's quite desirable.

I've seen boxed examples on eBay of their H0-gauge switches and tracks. They survived into the 1960s, offering plastic H0 rolling stock and at least one locomotive.

And eventually, I found what I was looking for -- an example of my set in its original box. The set was made by Sakai for Macys Department stores and offered under their Stalwart house brand. Although the example I found only had the train, I'm sure it came originally came complete with track and transformer.

No question. It's a match. Too bad this example's missing the track and transformer.

The headline reads "Macys Own Stalwart H0 Electric Train Set"
But when was this set offered? There's no copyright notice on the box to indicate the year, and I don't have access to an archive of Macys catalogs. But I did find a newspaper ad from 1953, featuring the set. So there it is. This set was made by Sakai for Macys, imported and sold in 1953 for $9.98.

Don't be fooled by the price. In today's dollars, that set would sell for $89.61. This was a premium set offered for a premium price. And well worth it, I think. The quality of the materials and details of construction are in keeping with what one would expect from Macys. Nomura, Straco, and Bandai battery-operated toy train sets may have been good enough for Woolworth's and Western Auto, but not for Macys.


  1. Yes, I played with train in my childhood. Your post refreshed my childhood memories.

    ~Dr. Diana

    1. Glad to hear it. I had the Nomura set (which I still have) that you see parts of in the comparative photos. I really like this Sakai set, though. The craftmanship and metalworking is really first-rate.

    2. Dan Rohrback3:53 PM

      I own one of the "mystery" B&O diesel sets you describe. You might mention that the set is not HO gauge, but is instead S gauge. I did some of my own research and believe the set was made by a company named "Daikin". Thanks for presenting this blog which includes these vintage toy trains. It has helped me identify several of the pieces I have collected.