Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Distilling Distler Info

I didn't plan on it, but somehow I ended up with a Distler Santa Fe box car. And, as always, it came with as many questions as it does answers.

Distler was a German toy firm who manufactured H0 scale tinplate trains from about 1953-1960. Their postwar history is intertwined with Trix, another German firm, but that's beyond the scope of this post.

I knew that Distler had made a Santa Fe passenger set in 1957 for the American importer Cragstan (see: Distler vs. Nomura, parts 1 & 2). I was only aware of two Distler sets imported by Cragstan - the 1957 tinplate passenger set, and an early 1960s plastic freight set. Both were battery powered.

The seller billed this box car as coming from a "department store set."

But where?

I did find some references to an H0 tinplate train set made a German department store by Grötsch, another toy manufacturer. Grötsch rolling stock is similar to Distler's but they're based on European prototype (including a German-style goods wagon with New Haven markings!)

Fortunately, the German site Spur00 had the answer. In 1957 Distler offered both a freight and passenger train set.

Was the freight set ever imported? That I don't know.

Comparing the box car with the Cragstan/Distler passenger cars proved interesting. Both had the same "Made in Western Germany" markings. The frame, wheels, and trucks are identical, although they're painted black on the box car.

There is one difference. The box car has an angled roof, while the passenger car has a rounded roof. That's an additional manufacturing expense.

The comparable box car and passenger car from Japan's Nomura company (also imported by Cragstan) don't have this distinction. Both have a rounded roof, requiring only a change in lithography. But that's not surprising since Nomura was all about keeping costs down.

According to Spur00, the 504 Freight Set had three cars; an orange Santa Fe box car, a brown NYC gondola car, and a black flat car with two plastic vehicles.

So one down, and two to go. Although I'm not optimistic about finding that flat car with the vehicles still with it...

I know, the box car never came with the passenger set. But they're all
Santa Fe rolling stock, and I think it makes a great photo.

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