I’m pleased that journalist Ian Jack gave us a mention in his weekly column for the Guardian this Saturday. His evocative account of eating a cheese toastie at the desolate sounding Hornby Visitor Centre, Margate, was prompted by news that Hornby are suffering because not as many of us as anticipated wanted to buy little die-cast and enamelled Wenlocks and Mandevilles this summer (they put their train and toy expertise to producing Olympic souvenirs).
Jack gives a fascinating potted history of the Tri-ang company and the complicated acquisitions and mergers of the British metal and plastic toy manufacturing industry through the C20th—Meccano, Airfix, Hornby train sets etc., which even manages to bring in the inventor of the Li-Lo (Nicholas Kove, apparently).
He describes the 1959 works built by Lines Brothers to manufacture Tri-ang toys,(now the Hornby Visitor Centre) as “an extensive factory fronted by two-story offices in red brick with square metal-framed windows and the name Tri-ang set large above the door” He goes on to note that “ there had been three Lines brothers and three lines make a triangle, hence the name.” and that “Architecturally, all of this is much as it was” . He then suggests that this is “a perfect object of study for the Twentieth Century Society”. I couldn’t resist the urge to see if I could find out what this looks like (see above).
So (and the risk of insulting model train enthusiasts everywhere), we are undoubtedly being mentioned in a slightly nerdy context, but I love the fact that Jack didn’t feel he had to tell Guardian readers what the Twentieth Century Society is, and assumes a shared knowledge of our existence and role. Thank you Ian!
I am sending him a copy of our 70s Journal (and I’m buying his collection of essays entitled The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain—looks good—will report back on any architectural content-hope I’m not dissapointed) . Jack edited the Independent on Sunday from 1991 to 1995 and fabulous Granta magazine between 1995 and 2007. I know he’s criticised the fashion for slicing up history into 10- year periods, “each of them crudely flavoured and differently coloured, like a tube of wine gums” (nice image) , but I think the diversity and breadth of our volume will appeal. Hope so.