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Milbro Coaches

 

*This section was last updated in October 2017*

 

Milbro coaches and similar vehicles

 

This section provides some general information on Mills coach construction and characteristics, and includes catalogue extracts and photographs that illustrate (selectively) what was available from the factory. For purposes of comparison we will also comment briefly on some features of coaches offered by Milbro's competitors and successors, and hope to enlarge material on this later (with a few examples from R Models, Exley, Leeds, etc.) 

 

Some opening examples from the Milbro coaches range

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 Illustration C1  Milbro GWR restaurant car. This vehicle provides an example of a coach that has "flush panelled" sides rather than having sunken/recessed panels. 

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Illustration C2  Mills 6-wheel bogie, attached to a Milbro LMS dining car. A modeller has added the steps/footboards and passengers. Although complete 6-wheel bogies and unfinished castings may be found occasionally (see below for pictures), relatively few coaches seem to have been sold as twelve-wheelers. The bogies appear to have been first catalogued quite early on, and at that time the firm offered four types of coach with these bogies, both in 0 Gauge and Gauge One. An accompanying catalogue illustration showed a twelve-wheeled 'Dining Saloon'. Many thanks to the owner of the above coach for sending me this photograph. 


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Illustrations C3a and C3b   Another LMS diner for Gauge 0. Although the roof has been repainted, this model is in excellent condition. Like the vehicle above it shows some of the standard features associated with Milbro coaches. These include a nice paint finish, sides assembled from Mills coach parts, individual glass window panes fitted into slots (running above and below the windows), heavy steel wheels in brass bogies, and distinctive 'representational' door handles. The panels on this coach are of the 'sunken' type. Interior detail (as seen here) was added by the firm to some vehicles, but many did not have this. There is another picture of this coach in the Introduction section of this site (see Illustration 5).

 

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Illustrations C4a and C4b   LNER coaches. There is some variation in the colouring of the teak coaches that Milbro made, but the darkness of the one in the first picture here may have been intensified by its having been given a relatively recent coat of varnish by a previous owner (and it has a slightly 'sticky' feel to it!). The finish on the restaurant car is very smooth (and it seems to have reflected the light a little for my photo).


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 Illustrations C5a and C5b  Gauge One GWR six-wheeler (also shown in the Introduction section of this website and in Illustration C15 below). A previous owner gave this model some replacement plastic ventilators on the roof; these have been removed and it is awaiting some soft metal ones.

 

Components, parts and construction

In the company's earlier years there was mention in the catalogue of "scale model tinplate passenger rolling stock" (for MR, LNW and GN), with tinplate bodies, solid brass wheels, and "bogie frames, fixed on wooden bogie stretchers". Buffer beams were of wood. This seems to have been a cheaper line of products than the wooden coaches for which the company became well known, and mention of these tinplate models disappeared fairly quickly. I have never so far seen anything that fits their description.

As far as I can tell from the limited information I have, it seems that the wooden coaches were initially just advertised as finished products for Gauges 0 and One. They included not only standard coaches with 4-wheel bogies, but also some 12-wheeled vehicles and Pullman cars. Before long, however, coaches were available in three forms: complete from the company or via another retailer (fully finished and fitted with bogies, etc.); as unpainted bodies; or as kits. Parts could also be purchased as separate items. Amongst its range, the firm was offering some articulated sets of two or three coaches, and both six- and four-wheel short coaches alongside the larger vehicles. Enthusiasts have tended to admire the LNER coaches in particular, perhaps because the company built these "from Teak" and finished them "in the natural teak colour as in actual practice". The quality of wood used for coaches in general seems to have been high. 

Catalogues through the 1930s showed the approach to construction, with standardisation of wooden and other components. As the firm's texts and pictures explained, coach sides were built up by sliding small panels and "the different mullions and glasses" into slots within upper and lower sections of the wooden sides (see diagrams immediately below). Panels could be for flush panelled coaches or for "sunk panelled" ones (although in the earliest period reference was simply to "sunk wooden panels").  The coaches produced in this way were relatively robust, despite glass being included.  Perhaps the method was especially convincing for Gauge One items (such as the GWR 6-wheeler shown above).

 

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Illustrations C12a-C12e   Catalogue pages showing some of the main materials sold by the company for the construction, detailing and painting of coach bodies. The dynamo on the bottom page may perhaps have been supplied from LMC, and the "carriage door side or commode handles" shown are not usually seen on the 0 gauge coaches.

 

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Illustration C12f  This close-up shows the vertical direction of the wood grain in panels on the side of a standard Milbro LNER coach, contrasting with the direction in the horizontal sections above and below the panels. 

 

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Illustration C13  Typical Mills coach construction. Factory-built coaches often have one or more flat rectangular reinforcing pieces of wood joining the tops of the two sides just below the roof section (or more rarely fixed to the underside of the roof and acting as a 'spacer' for the sides). This can be seen here in a Southern suburban vehicle.  The patches of white colour showing intermittently along the upper part of the coach side (above windows) result from deterioration of the embossed silvered card 'louvres' (see also Illustration C30). This coach has no internal details.

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Illustrations C14a, C14b and C14c  The upper two pictures show a GWR coach with interior detail that includes wooden partitions. The lower illustration contains an example of the partitions designed to run length-ways inside coaches, and made up of standard parts in the same way as a coach side (albeit without glass here).

 

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Illustration C15  Some factory-made coaches have a piece of lead fitted at each end of the roof, as seen here on the Gauge One GWR six-wheeeler shown earlier.

 

Coaches made in the factory tend to have a section cut out underneath the vehicle at each end to accommodate the couplings. A triangular or rectangular piece of wood was removed from the lowest layer of the floor, as can be seen below (although I do not think this necessarily applied in some very early wooden coaches). Small wooden blocks might also be positioned behind the buffer beam opposite each buffer (although these may have been lost with the passage of time).

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 Illustrations C16a and C16b  Two examples of details underneath the coach ends on factory-produced models.

 

Standard coaches were given "Truss rods and accumulator boxes", but these were of very simple construction. The accumulator boxes were made from plain pieces of wood (coloured black), and the rods were similar to those underneath bogie wagons. Thus, pieces of bent wire passed through (and were held by) split pins fixed into the underside of each vehicle. The style can be seen immediately below in the Pullman catalogue picture photograph, and in the picture of two Pullman car sides (Illustrations C17a and C17c below). This did not apply to four- or six-wheelers.

The construction of Pullmans differed in some ways from the standard coaches, with roofs and body-work being distinctive. The earlier Milbro Pullman coaches appear to have been shorter (only fourteen and a half inches long) and less realistic than the later ones. It seems likely that a very limited range of names was normally used into and right through the 1930s, and these were also available as transfers in Gauges 0 and One:  Bessborough, Grosvenor, and Princess Helen (along with transfers for "Pullman", and "Scrolls for Pullman Cars").

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Illustrations C17a, C17b, C17c and C17d   Catalogue picture and photos of construction features of early (short) Pullman cars for 0 Gauge.  The two Pullmans shown on their sides in the third picture above (C17c) are early Milbro vehicles that have been damaged and are awaiting repairs. The second picture (C17b) is of the underneath of the longer vehicle, from which the door and part of the buffer beam are missing, and where the wood is cracked. The lower picture (C17d) is of the end of the shorter vehicle seen from above.

 

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Illustrations C17e and C17f  Two more pictures of the shorter vehicle shown above. It is a rare very short "brake end" (or similar) vehicle made by Mills (and it carries clear evidence of having had a 'Milbro' transfer). A Pullman "brake end" was catalogued as part of the entry for early Pullman Cars, but I would have expected that to be of the same length as the other early gauge 0 Pullmans (fourteen and a half inches), whereas this model is shorter. In the absence of any more specific information, I would guess that the vehicle illustrated here is a very early factory product, and it may perhaps be unique, but it is also possible that the first Milbro Pullman Cars produced in the 1920s were generally of this length.

Early wooden Milbro coaches may have been a little different from the standard vehicles of the mid- and late-1930s, but as I have only handled a couple of pre-grouping examples I am unable to generalise safely. One might expect a slightly more bulky style for the earlier years, as was the case with early Mills wagons, and there is some evidence for that in the pictures below. These show a few features of a pre-grouping coach. Unfortunately the coach body has been separated from its lower parts by a previous owner (who also cut large sections off the then separated wooden 'underframe')! I have photographed the end of the LNWR coach lying on its side, with the bottom edge of a later standard Southern full brake to its left. The LNWR coach body is a little bit wider at its base than the later vehicle. For the next picture I have propped up the detached lower sections (the remains of the wooden 'underframe') and put them alongside the same standard Southern vehicle. The wooden framing from under the pre-grouping body is much more massive than on the later coach. There is additionally a photograph of one of the two shaped wooden units which carried the bogies. These confirm that the coach is an early one (and a similar use of wood components is discussed for bogie wagons in the wagons section). It can also be seen that screws have not been added to hold the coach ends on for the LNWR vehicle, even though I have never so far seen a later standard coach without them. Although it is not clear from my photo, the windows are of glass. Instead of the embossed silvered card 'louvres' noted previously, this early example has shaped wooden versions along the upper sides of the coach instead.

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Illustrations C18a, C18b, C18c and C18d. There are some bulky components on the older (LNWR) coach shown here (which was partly dismantled by a previous owner). The third picture (C18c) sets the massive wooden 'underframes' section and truss rods alongside the features below the main body of a later (SR) coach.

                                                                                                                

 Coach bogies

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Illustration C19  The two kinds of bogies usually fitted to Mills factory-built 0 gauge coaches. The left-hand one is of the American type, and is less common (but occurs on Pullmans as well as some LNER and GWR vehicles). Both bogies are made of brass.

 

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Illustrations C20a, C20b and C20c   Catalogue pictures of the three main Milbro coach bogie types. The fittings to hold bogies to coach undersides matched those used on bogie wagons, although there were variations in exact shape (as can be seen in the illustrations here). Early coaches can also be found with pieces of wood used instead, as with early freight vehicles (see the section on Milbro wagons elsewhere on this website).

 

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Illustrations C20d and C20e   Arrangements for constructing articulated coach sets involved adapting standard bogies as seen in these two photos of Milbro LMS 3-coach suburban set vehicles. A piece of metal projects from each end of the central coach (shown in the lower picture), and drops over a vertical bolt running up through the centre of the bogie (seen in the picture above). The bogie unit itself is held to the end of the front or rear coach by another piece of metal joining that coach below the centre of its buffer beam.

 

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Illustration C21  An advertised type that was more elaborate. As far as I know, I have never so far seen this version fitted to a Mills coach, but I assume it was used for some Pullman cars when purchasers were prepared to pay extra.

 

In the early 1930s Mills also referred in their catalogue to the availability of fully sprung "English Passenger Coach Bogies" fitted with "built-up leaf springs". I have not seen any picture illustrating these.

Castings were available for the standard coach bogie types (just as they were for freight vehicle bogies), and some examples are shown below.

 

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Illustration C22  Brass castings for six-wheel bogie sides, parts for the standard 'English' 4-wheel bogie, and parts for the American bogie. 

 
 

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Illustration C23  A Gauge One American coach bogie shown alongside a standard 0 Gauge 'English' bogie and one of the 0 Gauge freight wagon bogies.

 

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Illustration C24  Mills Six-wheel bogies for Gauge 0.

 

Catalogue illustrations of coaches;  pictures from the early models to those of 1939/1940

I do not currently have any catalogues from the pre-grouping era, but will begin with some illustrations from what seems at least to be a catalogue from very soon after the grouping. This shows two LMS coaches, an LNWR one, and a Pullman. There is also reference to GWR standard wooden coaches. The accompanying lists of variants include 'passenger' vehicles, brake ends, dining saloons or restaurant cars, and corridor coaches, all in Gauge One as well as Gauge 0.  The length given for the 0 Gauge version of the Pullman at this time was only fourteen and a half inches long, but this vehicle was offered in Gauge Two-and-a-half as well as Gauges 0 and One.

A slightly later catalogue showed LMS standard wooden coaches, Southern ones, GWR ones, a longer version of the 0 gauge Pullman (although illustrated by the same picture as before), a twelve-wheel LMS dining saloon, unpainted wooden bodies, and parts and kits. There were also triplet articulated sets (as illustrated above in relation to the bogies) and two-part ones offered, along with six- and four-wheel 'suburban coaches'. Standard LNER coaches were also listed, although not yet shown. Descriptions of standard coaches now referred to corridor and non-corridor ones, and mention was made of 1st or 3rd types. Gauge two and a half items were now included for most of the standard factory-built coaches.

It can be noted that these two early catalogues were issued by the company from an address at Ellesmere Road in Sheffield, whereas subsequent ones were published from St.Mary's Road, which then remained known as the firm's address for most of its existence. 

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Illustrations C25a and C25b  Illustrations from an early catalogue, probably issued soon after the grouping. I have been informed of MR and GNR coaches as well as the LNWR ones, and there may have been others too.

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Illustrations C26a-C26e  Some pages from a slightly later catalogue, although still with simple 'Milbro Trade Mark' and 'Models' titling at top and bottom of the pages.

The style of edging on the tops and bottoms of catalogue pages became more ornate and decorative by the end of the 1920s, but the range of coaches available in the early 1930s still remained much as before (see below, Illustrations C27a-27e). The first catalogue page below indicates that the firm now saw flush panelling as the normal type to offer, although both were available. 

 

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Illustrations C27a-C27e The pages in this catalogue now included the more decorative designs at top and bottom.

 

The next two page illustrations are from a catalogue produced in 1933/34. By now the firm was featuring an expanded range of  scale model locomotives (and ten examples were shown).The wooden SR electric motor coach and Metropolitan electric loco were also included in this catalogue, having been introduced just a little earlier. By the early 1930s, catalogues were showing the changed (longer) version of the Pullman car (the updated model that had been introduced previously). It had oval windows in the doors. I cannot say exactly when the new illustration first appeared, but probably in 1931/32. In the same period, illustrations for the standard coaches changed, so that specific vehicles were now shown at a slight angle rather than directly 'side on'. A full range of standard coaches was available for the LMS, SR, LNER and GWR, although initially no LNER picture was included.

 

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Illustrations C28a-C28b  Pictures from a 1933/34 catalogue. The Gauge 0 Pullmans offered here were seventeen-and-a-half inches long. The firm was also advertising not only unpainted wooden bodies but also parts and kits for its regular coaches range. The section on suburban articulated sets noted that these were built "exactly as our famous bogie corridor coaches".

 

The electrically-powered motor vehicles mentioned above were built on similar lines to the wooden coaches. For the SR electric motor coach and the Metropolitan motor vehicle, see our website section on Locomotives. At this time the firm was advertising a range of coaches from the four railway companies, plus Pullman Cars for which the above picture of a longer vehicle was now in continued use. This had oval windows in the doors.

During the second half of the 1930s there were important additions to the range illustrated. An LNER coach picture was added in 1934/1935 (and reference was made to LNER stock being built "from Teak and finished in the natural teak colour"). In 1935/36 full brakes, kitchen cars and sleeping cars also appeared, and in 1938/39 a mail van and buffet car. At the time of the last large catalogues (probably 1940) there were still pictures similar to those used in 1933/1934 for LMS, Southern and GWR standard coaches and the Pullman Cars, as well as the familiar images for the six-wheelers and the suburban articulated set. In addition, however, there were also the LNER coach illustration, an articulated dining car set, a mail van, a buffet car, a full brake, a sleeping car and a kitchen car.  Unpainted bodies were available for corridor coaches, dining cars, non-corridor coaches, and Pullmans. Through the 1930s there seems to have been some ongoing standardisation, insofar as similar items might be available with different liveries, although there were some variations (for instance in numbers of panels, door positions, etc.). Nonetheless, the range of what was available and catalogued was more extensive than in the early 1920s. I believe that the factory also produced some items that were not pictured, notably some slightly shorter coaches.

At the end of the 1930s the decoration at the foot of each page became a streamliner hauling an express.

 

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   Illustrations C29a -C29f  Catalogue images from about 1940. 

The above survey and summary from the catalogues is tentative at some points, and the account given remains subject to subsequent correction. Unfortunately, my set of catalogues is incomplete and the earlier ones are not dated. I hope I have got the main points right. The plan is to add more pictures or examples to this section of the website later on, when time permits. 

It might be useful to note that certain of the less standard catalogued items are quite scarce, and may be almost impossible to find in a specific livery. 

 

Distinguishing factory models from kit-built ones

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Illustration C30  A close-up of the Milbro suburban coach shown above. Note the two flat wooden sections that run along the whole of the coach, one resting on top of each coach side. The one closest to the viewer can be seen to have been edged in white paint. It passes through the coach end, where a specific slot has been cut to accommodate it.

 

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Illustration C31  The arrangement can be seen again here. We can also see the heavy corridor connection generally supplied by Milbro, and included on one of the catalogue pages above.

 

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Illustration C32   A kit-built model that comes very close to a factory-made one. This seems to have been primed by its previous owner but there is no evidence of it ever having had any applied railway livery. Apart from a couple of small features underneath, it perhaps conforms to what might be expected for a complete unpainted body supplied by Milbro (and one possibility is that it did come from the factory). In particular it is worth noting that the feature referred to in the two pictures above is repeated in Mills style here as well.

 

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Illustration C33  This construction contrasts with the examples in C30-32, and is sure evidence of a kit-built model. In particular, there is no slot by which the flat piece could be carried through the coach end, and that piece has been cut short to match the length of the side below it. This difference - or the complete omission of the flat piece from each side - may be one of the things to look for when determining whether a nicely-made coach is kit- or factory-built.

 

Some of Milbro's competitors and successors (... UNDER DEVELOPMENT ...)

Bond's ...................

Exley .....................

Leeds .....................

 

'R' Models of Cheltenham produced some very interesting coaches using wood for the bases but cardboard for the sides, and perspex windows, etc. These must have been economical to make in materials terms, yet they were surprisingly sturdy and had excellent artwork. Collectors of more modern coach models might like to make comparisons with Newman's coaches (which are quite highly regarded today).

 

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Illustrations C35a, C35b, CV35c, and C35d  The first two pictures show features of a standard coach type, and the bottom photo shows a luggage section on another coach. The third picture is of the firm's label (magnified), on the underside of one of these coaches. It was also applied to wagons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Illustration C40  There are close similarities between the approach to construction developed by Milbro before the war and CCW in post-war decades. One thing to examine that may help differentiate their coaches might be the roof profiles. The two on the left here are both by Milbro (although the left-hand one is from a kit), and I think the two on the right are from CCW. The right-hand example is for constructing a clerestory coach. I cannot be absolutely certain that Mills didn't make clerestory vehicles in 0 Gauge, but I have never seen a catalogue picture of one or any verifiable example. I have seen a photo on Ebay, however, of a Gauge One clerestory coach that was apparently by Mills, and such a coach seems more likely to have been factory-produced than in the smaller scale. 

Note the two screw-holes in the end of the roof from the Mills factory-made coach here (the one painted white). Two screws normally went through each thick coach end and into the roof of each standard coach (although this may not have applied to very early coaches, and Pullman roofs were different). I have sometimes found the screws badly rusted and very difficult to take out, and this can make access to the interior for purposes of repairs difficult. 

 

 

 

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