Friday, September 2, 2011

Toy Cars and Buses

An LGOC B-type bus from my showcase

Often, we young boys did not need a toy bus or a car to play the game of driving.  Just some running space was enough!  What a pleasure and feeling it was to 'drive' barefoot, making the most pleasant sound of the engine using the lips - 'brrrr brrrrrr'  and sometimes 'bbrrrooooom', when we sped!  While we had to make a horn, the engine had to 'stop'!  The 'vehicle' can be made to turn in sharp angles as well without changing gears.  When there was an opportunity to travel by a real bus or car [taxi in my case], I wanted a front seat to listen to the engine sound and watch the driver steering the wheel, changing gears and applying brake.

In childhood, toys are part of growing up. Cars, buses and things other than dolls greatly fascinate boys.   Rarely do the toys outlive boyhood and almost never make it to showcases 'later on'.  It is true in my case also.  I did not possess a destructive mind but a curious one.  I  was renown for opening them up for 'inside investigation'.  This killed many a toy, among many items other than toys, that included a couple of wrist watches!  Blame the brittle plastic in the 1960s.  Once broken was permanent enough.  'Quick Fix' was not always useful for multiple fractures!  There were also other toys made of thin metal sheets. They lasted longer and could take the 'shocks' better by taking in dents!  All of the toys that passed through my hands have met their expected ends.  But for two special ones.  One is that LGOC Bus [shown above] and a Franklin Car.  Will show and tell about them as I go on.

My grandfather was of the opinion that if the child plays with a toy for one minute and breaks it, the purpose of him buying it was served!  He, nor my father could buy costly ones.  But we used to envy our tenant Bhima upstairs who for his girl-kids, had bought a big van [about 8-9 inches long], neat looking, nicely shaped, ran on propulsion of the rear wheels and produced a pleasing sound as it was let go. We often used to hear this sound through our ceiling also!   This toy was like Rolls Royce in our eyes!  It looked something like this:

~Image borrowed from Web.~

Our cheaper toys were spring wound and it took off from 0-300 cm. with the blink of an eyelid often crashing to the wall or legs of furniture. It was fun to put our heads beneath furniture to fetch them! Before the body of the toy broke, the spring winding mechanism would go kaput and that was a funny feeling to wind the slipping key! I had to see inside, why it went kaput and that was the end of the toy.

The biggest toy car I had seen was lying on the opposite house balcony [Capt.Srikantaiah]. It was a huge pedal type sheet metal toy car which one child could sit and 'pedal-drive'.  The young user-owners had outgrown it.  It was in very bad shape, rickety, very rusted and exposed to all weather for many years.  Yet, it used to work!  We kids used to climb over their attic and out on to the small balcony to have a 'feel and thrill of driving'  - just for a few feet distance! It was something like this:

Grabbed this pic from the web.

A family friend in Bombay gave us this little white model truck (Mahindra Jeep) when we visited there in 1969.  What a delight it was!

I bought this school bus on the pavement at Bangalore for Rupees Seventeen many years ago for my little daughter.  Since she played with it carefully, it still works and so carries a good resale value, despite losing a rubber tyre on its rear wheel!

For her birthday, I had bought this self-winding van (Maruti Van design) for Rupees twenty.  This is also in reasonably 'playable' condition.

As the kids grew up a bit, they added new ones to the small fleet.  By now sturdy little metallic models that could withstand and survive wall and furniture-leg crashes were available.  They have what is called 'hot wheels'.  A little push with the finger, and it zips across!

My gardening friend Debi from the US wanted to send some gifts for my little daughters.  She had packed up among a few interesting knick-knacks, this lovely big 'Barbie' car, much to their delight.  This one would have dwarfed our tenant Bhima's van!

Coming back to our "B-type" now, I used to play with it very carefully whenever it was allowed to be removed from the showcase.  I knew it was a special item, but I know not who played with it originally - but it could be some grand uncles or grandaunts or even my father.  Its roof-top seats had become loose and the 2-3 which were left, vanished over time.  But I took care of the lovely stairs so that it wont detach and disappear!  It was fun to rotate the steering wheel and see the front wheels turn. It has a spring winding mechanism to make it run, but as expected, is worn out.  Its slim wheels move very freely.  Its rubber tyres have not survived. 

People all over it!

I recently happened to closely look at what is printed on our red toy bus  - "Motor Omnibus Company Ld."  I knew it was a British toy and had also observed such buses in vintage picture postcards from England, in our album.  From that I guessed the period of this toy to be between 1910-20. 

My 'googling' resulted in some information about that company in London which thrived a hundred years ago. It is the "LGOC B-type bus" [click on wikipedia link].  Some more interesting information in brief is here

Imagine the days prior to the petrol engines when the buses were "real horse-powered" with set routes!  

~Another picture postcard from the collection~

Lastly, I will show my other favourite car which still gets a special place in the showcase.  It was a gift from a relative's family in the 1960s to me since the only child in their family had outgrown it. The child's father [C.Srikantia] had bought it during his stay in the US  for higher studies in as early as 1930s.

Look at this beautiful 'Franklin'!

It had lovely little head lamps, a tail lamp and a spare bulb underneath.  Everything was in tact when it came to me.  All the four bulbs did not survive my handling and other experiments. Below the chassis, there was a place for batteries to be connected to glow these bulbs.  This car was also powered by a spring.  The front wheels can turn left and right and what a sight!  My 'googling' took me here to some information on a Franklin. Bhima's van was quite inferior!

No outgrowing at all!  The carpet border design was the road for my indoor car play - 'brrrrrrrooooom'.  When it idled, 'brrm.....brrrm..... brrrrm....'

I tried to make a bus using bottle caps and toothpaste cartons, buttons and a match box, but later I had made an electric motor bus in high school for the science exhibition using a toy motor.  I will tell about this little adventure in a separate post.

The real car is not as fascinating as toys!  Traffic snarls though part of urban life, is never a pleasure!

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