Toy tender, for Robilt ‘Series 52’ steam locomotive, 0-gauge, metal, made by Robilt Products, Sandringham, Victoria, 1949

Made 1949

This toy tender made by the Victorian firm of Robilt between 1949 to accompany the Series 52 steam locomotive. The Robilt toy tender is significant because it is an Australian-made and designed toy representing rolling stock seen in Australia. Before the Second World War Australia boys only had access to British, German or American-made toy trains featuring locomotives and rolling stock from those countries. After the War a number of small toy manufacturing establishments, of which Robilt is sai...


Toy tender, for Robilt 'Series 52' steam locomotive, 0-gauge, metal, made by Robilt Products, Sandringham, Victoria, 1949

This toy tender was made to accompany the Series 52 steam locomotive made by Robilt. In full-size steam locomotives the tender carried the coal and water for the engine. The toy tender is a straight sided box construction with four ¾ inch (20 mm) diameter spoked diecast wheels. It also features pierced pairs of axle guards with diecast axel boxes. The tender bodywork is tin plate and the vehicle is finished in red with gold fine lining and a gold decal 'V.R.' (Victorian Railways) on the side. Tender decals also came in 'NSWGR' (New South Wales Government Railways) and 'SAR' (South Australian Railways) for marketing in these states.


80 mm
60 mm
160 mm


Robilt Products was established in Melbourne in 1946 by Ronald Titchener (1915-) who gained engineering experience in various precision workshops. After serving in the RAAF in World War II Tichener returned home and realised the shortage of tin plate toys in Australia due to the embargo from overseas. Titchener set up a factory in a terrace of shops in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale, at 2C Willis Street, and with a limited amount of equipment began making prototype models.

The first model made was an 0-gauge 2-4-0 locomotive of which this 0-4-0 example is a later model. The early model was fitted with a non-reversing clockwork mechanism thought to be made by the firm and is different from the later models in that the cab had a single cut out window and a pair of ¾-inch (20 mm) diameter diecast leading bogie wheels at the front. The early models also had a raised firebox section and were made of sheet brass, which was then more readily available than tin used for the re-designed version. The locomotive carried the number '52' and became known as the 52 series. Early versions of the 52 series locomotive tender featured a box-like body on a chassis formed as a shallow inverted tray 5¼ inches (133 mm) by 2 inches (50 mm). The pierced axle boxes were replaced in 1950 with diecast ones which incorporated the sole bar. Another change was the material for the sheet metal sections altered from brass to tin plate.

Robilt's other early products included a petrol tank wagon, open goods wagon, goods van and timber wagon. Several items were available for Christmas 1946 with distribution by Joy Toys, a manufacturer and distributor dating back to 1930. The Robilt firm went on to produce a bogie timber wagon then a combined bogie breakdown van and crane. A quaint first class bogie passenger coach with cut-out windows was also produced. In 1948 Robilt added the Victorian Railways' 'Spirit of Progress' train to their stock of toy trains. Marketing and distribution changed from Joy Toys to Messrs Geo Wills and Co Pty Ltd and a clockwork crawler tractor was introduced in 1949.

Robilt also made various model railway accessories including stations, named 'Richmond', 'Brighton' and 'Windsor', a water tower, level crossings and signals. A number of tank wagons in long and short versions featured the various local oil companies COR, Plume, Golden Fleece, Shell, Atlantic and Caltex while some private owner vans included Peters Ice Cream and Atlantic Products. A four-wheel Victorian Railways' Z-type brake van followed.

In 1950 Robilt was bought out by another Australian company, Playtime Toys, a manufacturer of clocks and children's toy domestic utensils including a metal tea-set decorated with 'Alice in Wonderland' characters. The firm was owned by Jack Ryding who was a watchmaker by trade and who had been supplying gears to Robilt. Production moved to the Rytime company's factory at 218 Bay Road, Sandringham, in Melbourne. In 1952 the firm traded under the name Rytime-Robilt and by 1954 Robilt Products. Electric trains were added to the catalogue with 20-volt mechanisms, later reduced to 16 volts supplied by Davis Electra Co of Maroubra, in Sydney. A reversing facility was added to the clockwork locomotives in 1954. By this time the firm were making their own tin plate track with a rail rolling machine. (In 2005 this machine was owned by Alan Middleton who continues to produce authentic 0-gauge track for local model railway enthusiasts). The mid-1950s represented the peak period of production at Robilt with 10 workers employed, but from there on the slowdown commenced. By the 1960s toy production had wound down and the company eventually made small gemstone finishing machines for the hobbyists.

Macdonald, Bruce, "Spring, Spark & Steam: an illustrated guide to Australasian toy and model trains", Australian Model Railway Magazine and Eveleigh Press, Matraville, NSW, 2005.

Cite this Object

Toy tender, for Robilt 'Series 52' steam locomotive, 0-gauge, metal, made by Robilt Products, Sandringham, Victoria, 1949 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 November 2017, <>
{{cite web |url= |title=Toy tender, for Robilt 'Series 52' steam locomotive, 0-gauge, metal, made by Robilt Products, Sandringham, Victoria, 1949 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 November 2017 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
Know more about this object?
Have a question about this object?