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BRIO Wooden Railway Blog

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  • Understanding the Tip Converter

    In 1994, BRIO released the #33389 Tip Converter accessory for the wooden railway system. It is arguably the most baffling of all the wooden railway products, with a name that does nothing to help people understand what it is or what it's for.

    BRIO 33389

    Here's how it works: you move a tipping truck into the center of the mechanism, and then turn the knob on the side. This causes the mechanism to lift the tipping truck into the air and flip it over, as if dumping its contents to the ground below. You then turn the knob to lower the car back into place.

    Believe it or not, this accessory is modeled after an actual piece of railroad equipment: the rotary car dumper, or wagon tippler as it's known in the U.K. They do exactly what I just described: rotate the track segment and car together to dump out the car's contents. In a real railroad, these are used with gondola cars rather than hopper cars (what BRIO calls tipping trucks) as the latter have sloped sides and hatches for unloading.

    Rotary Car Dumper

    Image credit: Heyl & Patterson Inc, WikiMedia Commons

    For more images of rotarty car dumpers, do a Google image search.

  • New arrivals for the U.S.

    In the United States we are saddled with Schylling as a distributor for BRIO toys. I use the term "saddled" deliberately: we tend to get "new" releases anywhere from six months to a year after they have already been out in the European markets, assuming we even get them at all. Schylling picks and chooses which items it's going to bring in from BRIO's catalogs, and we are stuck with their choices and their timing. The good news is, there are options for you if you are interested in some relatively recent Wooden Railway products.

    First, Schylling has released their catalog supplement for 2015 and it looks like the Fun Park theme will be available in the U.S. for the holidays. Also showing up will be the all new #33766 Railway World Deluxe Set, a huge starter set with a nice mix of some recent accessories. Based on Schylling's dealer pricing, expect the latter to run about $400.

    If you want some of the Fall 2015 products, a few 3rd party sellers from Europe are listing items on Amazon's U.S. site, and selling at very reasonable prices with either free or very cheap shipping. This week, I noticed LeVida Toys listing most of the Horse Farm theme, including the large #33791 Horse Stable. A couple of other sellers have these items listed as well. Be sure to look around.

  • Charlotte the Container Ship?

    I recently gained access to some old marketing materials from 1999 that BRIO sent out to its U.S. retailers. The most interesting of these was a flyer advertising upcoming releases and it featured an early prototype in the Theodore Tugboat™ lineup for product #32718 called Charlotte the Container Ship:

    #32718 Charlotte the Container Ship

    As you can see from the footnote, the final character and product name was still not known at the time this was printed. The Theodore Tugboat television series, produced by Cochran Entertainment Inc., was in production from 1993 through 2001 so it's possible that the name wasn't finalized in the series at the time the prototype was created. Or there may just have been some confusion or miscommunication between BRIO and Cochran, and BRIO needed to get the product announcement out before they could get clarification.

    Either way, the final toy would come to market as Chester the Container Ship, and would look quite different from the prototype shown in the flyer.

    #32718 Cheaster the Container Ship

    Major changes between early prototypes and final releases are not uncommon in the toy industry, though having them appear in catalogs is less so. After seeing this flyer, I went back through my catalog collection and noticed that Charlotte shows up in the 1999 wishbook, as well. Though the name is still printed on the side of the boat (or, rather, stuck on with paper...this is an early prototype after all), the official product name is given as just "Container Ship".

    #32718 Container Ship

  • Something for the holidays

    If you celebrate Christmas, you might be interested in this: the BRIO Advent Calendar. New for 2015, this advent calendar can also double as scenery in your layout and it includes some holiday-themed accessories, including a two-piece travel train, figures, a snowman and magentic "present" loads. The front flap of the box folds down, revealing the calendar doors in the front of the building, and forming a scenery "base" for the accessories.

    So far I have only seen this sold in Germany, so I got mine off of eBay from Spielkiste. This seller seems to be offering the best international shipping to the U.S. so far, though of course other sellers may be less expensive if you live elsewhere in the world.

  • Fall 2015 lineup is out

    BRIO's new products for the fall of 2015 have been released in Europe. If you aren't familiar with the 2015 product lineup be sure to check out the catalog on Issuu.com. Those of you who live in the United States won't get these until 2016 at least, so for now you'll have to find international sellers that will ship to the U.S. Amazon and eBay are good starting points.

    Here's a summary of what's new (click to enlarge):

    Product lineup thumbnail

  • Deluxe Railway Set bargain

    Over the last couple of weeks, some 3rd party sellers on Amazon in the United States have been listing the #33052 BRIO Deluxe Railway Set for $200, and Amazon has been price-matching that. This set has an MSRP of $299 and typically retails for between $260 and $270.

    This is a very significant price drop and this particular set has a tremendous amount of value even at full price. Included are three of the red, tied-arch bridges (which are themselves only available in starter sets), a light-and-sound Metro Train, a Travel Train, many components including the ship and crane from the Harbor Set, two stations, some road pieces, an engine and some boxcars. It even comes in a vinyl-lilned box that unfolds into a sturdy playmat.

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