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Hornby Train

Child's Play

How have children's playthings changed over the last 150 years? From Meccano to a Minions scooter, this small display explored the development of toys.
Exhibition information


25 September 2015 - 10 January 2016


National Museum of Scotland, Grand Gallery, Level 1

How much



Children learn about their environment through play and interaction, and toys are one of the major ‘tools’ they use to help them learn.

Developments in science and technology over the last 200 years have dramatically altered the world we live in. Toy manufactures have always been quick to respond to these developments.

New inventions inspire new toys. The advent of the railway in the 19th century led to the creation of simple wooden toy trains. As the railway network grew, the range of toy trains, carriages and track also expanded. 

New materials and production methods led to cheaper, safer, hygienic toys. The invention of plastic injection moulding machinery meant good quality toys could be produced quickly and cheaply, with no sharp edges, and easily cleaned.

From much loved playthings to somewhat bizarre educational tools, this display explored how toys have grown in response to the changing world.

  • Pixie Gramophone 700Px

    Pixie Phone toy gramophone in pear-shaped tinplate case decorated with animal musicians, in maker's carton, by Gama, Germany, 1950.

  • Kingsbury Car 700Px

    Toy car by Kingsbury, representing an American streamlined car and based on the Chrysler Airflow of c.1934.

  • Meccano 700Px

    Model of a cantilever crane, made from Meccano, plastic, metal and string by Albert M.J. Hutchings, Dalkeith, 2012.

  • Spirograph 700Px

    Original Spirograph in box, complete with instruction booklet, paper pack and example drawings, by Denys Fisher (Spirograph) Ltd, England, 1960s.

  • Atomic Power Station 700Px

    Wilesco R200 Automkraftwerk steam powered nuclear power station toy, by Wilhelm Schroder and Co., West Germany, c.1965.

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Header image: Streamlined toy train set by Hornby, representing the LNER Silver Jubilee train of 1935, c. 1936.

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