BRIO Wooden Railway Blog

Replacing those missing smokestacks

Without a doubt, you are familiar with the BRIO #33374 Town set.

This set has a rather long history, dating all the way back to the very early 1960's at least with multiple variations, though it is the 80's vintage set shown above is the one most familiar to BRIO enthusiasts today. It shows up on eBay fairly regularly both individually and as a part of lots, and I'd say about four out of every five of these is missing its smokestack.

Missing pieces are always frustrating, especially for products that went out of production over two decades ago. One of the primary means of replacing missing parts is, of course, to use two partial sets to build a single complete one, but what do you do when the piece you need is the one that is most commonly absent? And such a tiny piece at that?

In lieu of actual replacement parts, the answer is to replace them yourself. The smokestack from #33374 is really just a 12mm x 60mm wooden dowel, painted black.

Finding a dowel

As shown in the photo below, BRIO was at one point using fluted dowel pins for this purpose, with a sort of diagonal cut to the grooves.


If you are in the U.S., where Imperial measurements are still the norm, it's going to be a challenge to find a metric dowel pin with these exact specifications (I know: I've looked, and the best I've been able to do is 12mm x 40mm and 12mm x 100mm), and even harder to find one with this groove pattern. What you can do is find dowels pins in either a 7/16" diameter, which are a little too narrow, or a 1/2" diameter, which are a little too wide, with a 2-1/4" or 2-1/2" length. Personally, I'd go with the 1/2" diameter since the hole for the smokestack in the factory is actually bored out to 13mm, which is wide enough to accept a 1/2" pin. You might even be able to find a 15/32" dowel rod, which you can cut to length yourself, though of course it won't be grooved.

If you live in the part of the world that uses metric measurements--basically anywhere other than the U.S.--a 12mm x 60mm dowel pin should be an easy find. The grooves? Not so much. Sometimes, though, especially when you are trying to replace parts that no longer exist, you have to just give in and accept that "close enough" is close enough.

Are the grooves even necessary?

Probably not. As shown in the box photo below, BRIO didn't always use fluted dowel pins:


So, there's plenty of precedent for a smooth dowel without beveling around the edges. This, frankly, makes the search for a replacement smokestack even easier, since any dowel rod of the appropriate diameter and cut to length will do.

So don't despiar if your Town set is missing its smokestack. Grab yourself an appropriately sized dowel pin, or a dowel rod and trim it to length, and paint it black with a black lacquer paint. In no time flat, you'll have a newly complete Town set!


Warning! These spray lacquers are solvent-based paints that may not be suitable for toddler toys. At the very least, the paint should be allowed to cure for 30 days so that the solvents fully evaporate before being handled by young children.

EDIT: According to Rust-Oleum, their paints are safe for children's toys once they have cured.

Posted in Restoration.

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