About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

HR is for Harry Renolds

Although his dad was called Zanger! By now some of you will be familiar with these (if you're not - you still haven't subscribed to Plastic Warrior magazine and are well behind the curve!) as I gave them to Paul, the Editor there for a 'first' because all the major breaks in the plastic output of HR (or their mouldings) has been done by the magazine and its subscribers. However - they've all had their copy for a while so it's time tell the full story.
I saw these on feeBay over Christmas and realising what they were must admit to having got a bit excited about them, even to the point where I bid against myself twice to a silly total, there was one bid against; he went a pound under my first bid - which was clearly the true value - a bargain!
In my old handwritten A-Z manuscript I had HR Products listed twice, once as the US aftermarket white metal producer [possibly] still going - originally in stand-alone figures, then war games products, now {or until quite recently) mostly ships fittings I believe (I'll post a link below anyway), the other was a note to the effect that Harry Reynolds made small scale plastic figures for railways.
"Fair enough" I [don't] hear you say, "You're showing them to us now after all?", well, the thing is, I don't know where I got that note from, as it isn’t in Garratt's encyclopedia nor Joplin's big book of hollow-cast so it must have been a short-lived series of vintage accessory manufacturer articles in an equally short-lived model railway publication back in the 1980's called British Model Railway Collector or something similar? It merged with another of the smaller mag's - if I remember correctly? Both the aforementioned books do list HR Products, but only to talk of the large scale metal production.
Anyway, as time went on and my knowledge grew, I increasingly began to think I must have got my wires crossed with the US firm, and that if the UK outfit did produce small scale railway figures they must have been metal. Then these turned up! Phew!
The seller went to great lengths to describe them accurately, but missed the fact that two of the sets had had their blisters swapped at some point, and while it was difficult to see what the contents were (I was sure I could see a goose or swan recurring in several of the above - it was actually bits of cow and bits of reflection!) I knew they were 'new' to our corner of the hobby - even if the railways guys had noted them in a much older article?
As they arrived - you can almost still imagine geese or swans in there somewhere! They were filthy, but it was almost all on the blisters, I suspect a combination of the opposite of 'smoke free'; i.e. a 'smoker's home' (you never see that in an auction description!) along with the static properties of the plastic blisters.
With the eye and a bit of a shake it was easy to see that A) there were no geese or swans! And B) there were the contents of three identical and one other sets; as I had hoped/suspected when bidding.
Sorted out the two sets are both of five items (mirroring - but probably preceding - Merit's little matchboxes); two human figures, two larger animals and one 'medium' animal. I would love to think there are more sets to be found, and one can't right it off at just two, because after years of looking one finds only two!
But . . . given the paucity of sets in the larger scale metal range, and the fact that all the plastic figures to be found by the PW community so far are taken from that small 'known' metal range . . . I fear this may be it, just a few to populate your model railway farm . . . competing with the similar OO-guage compatible metal 'solid' figures of Crescent and Britains Lilliput (Horton)
On the right I'm gently wiping the cards with Q-tips dipped in distilled water, the 'ear-buds' are dried on a towel first so that they don't soak the card, and very little pressure is applied, gentle strokes in one direction then another to make sure they get covered twice, and I keep changing the cotton-buds.
The brown paint had reacted at some point and stuck to both cards and blisters, for the cards a gentle prizing with a scalpel was all that was needed to 'ping' the lumps of 60 to 70-year old (?) paint off!
While for the blisters; a quick blast with watered-down Bar-B-Queue cleaning fluid and a gentle rubbing with a child's (soft) toothbrush, further softened under the hot tap is all that's needed.
Carefully keeping the flat of the blisters against the flat of the hand, and rinsing under hot (but not scalding) water, using a little fingernail to push-out crushed corners and a thumbnail to 'scrape' out any dinks in the boarder-flaps, while the plastic is softened by the hot water.
Finished. One day I may iron the cards, but they had taken enough mucking around for one day, and are not bad for their age, even that 'gravy' stain on the Set 2 has all but disappeared.
The other thing to note at this point is that the cards are HR Production not HR Products, and all the sets seen in Plastic Warrior have been HR Production too (Paul thinks there's HR Product as well?) while the boxes in Joplin's work don't have the brand labels visible. Anyway - it will be easier to differentiate them (UK and US companies) in future books and the A-Z
Set 1 - Two cows which I think I can state are beef not dairy with those heavy flanks; although similar sculpts they are separate with one painted Aberdeen Angus-like and the other a generic North European black & white breed. The brown one seems to be male (heffered?) the B&W one a breeding female? And - you don't see cows that shape any more; the 1950's is another planet when it comes to cattle breeds!
Along with them is a fat little piggy-wig, a farm-hand and a milk-maid and all five sculpts seem to be unique, borrowing from neither other hollow-casts nor later plastic sculpts; whether they are Norman Tooth's work (he did report working for Reynolds) or not I can't say, but the human figures could be said to have similarities with some of the Timpo farm figures maybe? In fact - thinking about it as I write - the pig IS similar to the Timpo one too, so shall we assume Norman Tooth?
Set 2 - The farmer and his wife, he looks similar to the Britains Lilliput farmer, but - again - has more in common with the Timpo policemen and women - that stilted walking march? They are joined by a grey sheep and two horses, both quite 'heavy'; one seems to be a proper heavy-horse or cart-horse (again - Timpo similar), the other a more generic working horse (and a poor sculpt), heavier than the horse in the movie War Horse which is of a type you'd never rope to a plough!
Hey, if I live for another 40 years I may never have cause to mention HR again on the Blog so I might as well tare the arse out of the imagery this time!
The milkmaids suffer from a moulding defect that causes them to bend forward, I have a few in storage (more of which in a mo') and they are all to a degree the same.
Painting was not of the highest order, but figures of this size were bloody rare back then, a few Skybirds, the odd Crescent and Britains, a few Märklin imports, that was it, so any out-painters were dealing with the impossibly small after years of chunky-great 54-mils!
The Plastic is a hard but stable polystyrene (maybe not stable-enough for the brown paint!) in various shades of blackish, grey or brownish material, flecked with other 'bits' suggesting recycled plastic, probably cheap waste from a larger production process elsewhere? The same sort of stuff Merten and Marx made their figure trays from!
I knew I had a few of these in the attic, but could I find them; could I hell! I went through most of the boxes twice and had given-up hope of finding them, thinking I'd miss-remembered a similar but larger lot in storage, when I found them looking for something else!
They were hiding with all those Blue Box-Marx 'Majestic Series' tiddlers we looked at before Christmas, but although I keep them together here, I didn't blog these as I knew they were in a different league!
As I say I have a few in storage too, maybe a dozen or so, which like these four have come in over the years in mixed bags usually from Sandown Park with other railway figures or from Trevor Rudkin's bags o'bits - while these four may be from Sandown, Trevor or Gareth Morgan so thanks to both for saving me the gash!
We see a very different paint treatment of the milkmaid, a lighter grey sheep with a white face and a colour reversal on the horses' browns, so there must have been a few batches of these once, they may even have been quite common in model railways shops in the early to mid-1950's? Early 1960's at the latest I suspect?
In all the samples I have I'm pretty sure I only have the poses seen in the two sets here (there may be a goat but I susspect I'm thinking of the late Hornby vinyl one!) which is further evidence of only the two sets being made.
As I collected the loose few in ones and twos, threes or even this latest four over the years I thought they may be Danish or similar! I have the Reisler HO's and there's a similarity with these which suggested another company sharing 'local' influence!
Also and more importantly there is also a look of the Timpo 20mm pilot in composition about them.
Which raises a serious point: As far as I know, 'the hobby' states that the composition figures known to be attributable to Timpo were 'Zang for Timpo', or 'Timpo by Zang', and it's been the line I've taken, it's the line taken on Forum Gratuit, on the plastic Timpo 'Solids' website in German and elsewhere. However - Joplin states that old man Zanger (John) was involved in the Timpo composition thing? Garratt - sadly - is no help on this!
Clearly there is a conflation of Zang and Zanger and connection with Timpo and/or [through] Tooth which needs greater clarity than I have at my fingertips - I'm sticking with Zang for the while (as I'd have to correct dozens of posts!) but will put a similar note on the composition page (which was nearly published a while ago, but seems to be back in edit while I sort-out santons, Senton, soap and sugar!) to make clear that it's err . . . not clear. Similar notes will have to go on all the A-Z pages until something more empirical and/or final turns-up.
While looking for the loose examples I found this chap! He's also HR Productions; Long John Silver from the Pirates set (clearly a Tooth sculpt), I don't know where he came from and he is such a nice, relatively rare figure I asked Adrian Little if he was missing one (thinking he might have been swept into one of my 'junk' trays at a show), but Adrian assured me he wasn't familiar so I must have got him in a rummage box at a fair and just forgotten him; indeed he may have been in the attic all along.
Anyway here he is - the other end of HR's production - a chunky 54mm hollow-cast lead figure; from the sublime to the ridiculous and I'm not saying which is which!
So let's finish with a first edit of the eventual A-Z product list.

Novelties (large scale - designed by Norman Tooth)
- Grouse
- Pheasant

TV Related (designed by Norman Tooth)
- Bumblies (x3, after a creation by Michael Bentine)

54mm Metal Hollow-casts
- Romans (x2 [known], designed by Norman Tooth)
- Vikings (x5 designed by Norman Tooth)
- Knights (x2 [known])
- Divers / Frogmen (x1 [known])
Treasure Island (x5 pirates - designed by Norman Tooth)
- Black Jack
- Captain Hook
- Cutty Carver
- Long John Silver
- Wall Eye Jim

- Cowboys (? Existed in plastic)
- Indians (?)
Policemen (Norman Tooth designs)
- Mounted Policeman (similar pose to Barrett & Sons example)
- Standing - Hands Behind Back (similar to Timpo version)

- Standing - Directing Traffic, Standard Uniform (similar to Timpo version)*
- Standing - Directing Traffic, Hi-visibility White Coat
- Standing - Directing Traffic, Overcoat/Greatcoat

54mm Plastics
Super Box
- Plastic Romans (as metal)
- Plastic Vikings (as metal)
964505/037405 - Plastic Cowboys (boxes of 5, at least 4 ex-Crescent poses)
- Plastic Indians (?)
- Plastic Divers / Frogmen (?)

- Beat Policeman (as 3 above, blue/black plastic, possibly vehicle set accessory)
- Traffic Policeman (as 4/5 above, white or blue/black plastic, possibly vehicle set accessory)

OO-Gauge Compatible Plastic Farm Sets
Set 1 - B&W Cow, Brown Cow, Pig, Farm-hand, Milk Maid
Set 2 - Horses (x2 different), Grey Sheep, Farmer, Farmer's Wife
* Pose seems to have been copied by Wardie/Mastermodels in their zinc die-cast OO-gauge compatible civil range and further copied/passed to Merit (J&L Randall) for their magnetic Driving School board games in pink, cream or red polystyrene.
PlasticWarrior Magazine (to stay ahead of the curve!)
A-Z Blog Entry
US HR Products website (seems to be dying?)

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