Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Distler vs. Nomura, Part 2

The American importer Cragstan brought in a tinplate toy passenger train from the German firm Distler in the late 1950s. In the early 1960s, they imported a tinplate toy passenger train from the Japanese firm Nomura. 

Were they the same? In Part 1, I compared the rolling stock. But the real answer was in the locomotives.

Even placed side by side, it's easy to see some differences in the lithography between the Distler and Nomura locomotive. Superficially, though, they appeared almost identical.

Nomura diesel (top) and Distler diesel (bottom)
Distler (left) and Nomura (right) - there are slight variations in the design.
When I turned over both locomotives, it was easy to see that the mechanisms were more than a little different.

Nomura (left) and Distler (left). Note the Distler motor casing.
The Distler motor was encased in a thick, clear plastic shell.

The Nomura motor was more basic.

Distler was famous for their motors, and I can see why. The contacts were stronger than Nomura's, and the clear plastic casing kept the motor dirt-free. The gears are more precise, making the motor work more efficiently (although, like Nomura's, it only provided enough power to pull the two cars that came with the set).

The Nomura shell (left) had a metal weight, while the Distler (right) had just
a thick cardboard one.

Both locomotives had weights in the back to help the powered wheels maintain traction. The Distler motor was heavier and required less excess weight.

My original speculation was that Cragstan moved the manufacturing from Germany to Japan because of lower costs. I think that's now partially true. I don't believe Cragstan moved stampers and lithograph plates from one company to another. The differences in the locomotive decoration suggest that Nomura copied the Distler design (but not exactly). 

I think the lower costs were achieved by cheapening the product. The Nomura motor was certainly less expensive than Distler's. And by using a tighter radius curve, they reduced the circumference of the loop. And that made the track was less expensive, too.  

 And both companies continued to use their versions of this set. Nomura made freight sets and added flashing lights to the locomotive.

Distler, according to Spur00 originated the design. They offered this German prototype train in 1957, along with the Santa Fe set. As you can see, only the nose was changed. 

The Distler TD5000 set featured a powered and dummy locomotive.

This TD5000 set came in several configurations. The train was available in either brown or green. All the sets featured a powered and a dummy locomotive. Some only had the two pieces, while larger sets added a passenger car (with a different frame than the Cragstan-commissioned set). 

As I said in Part 1 -- there's nothing like first-hand research. Through it, I was able to better understand the relationship between two toy companies with a common importer.

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