Carriage trains

The Birmingham Dribbling or ” mat train ” ( “carpet railways” in English) are the first models rail to emerge. 1 However, the steam locomotive does not move on rails , simply rolling on the floor, hence its name.

In some cases, the front wheels are steerable so that they can roll round without a railroad to guide them. These mats trains appeared in the 1840s and became very popular toys of the Victorian age 2 .

The steam locomotives were very simple, usually made of brass , with a pair of oscillating cylinders driving the wheels. They are composed of a boiler mounted on wheels, a simple decoration (generally bands of lacquer) sometimes applied.

The boiler is filled with water, the burner is on, and when the steam is produced, the locomotive is placed on the ground and moves until there is no water or fuel, or the machine is immobilized against the furniture. Very quickly, after a number of models exploded, the locomotives were equipped with safety valves.

These models quickly acquired the nickname of Birmingham Dribblers (or sometimes ” Piddlers “), because many of them are made in Birmingham , England, and they had the annoying habit of leaving a trace of water behind them after to have crossed the room. Very often, that leak was fuel, and there were many incidents, or worse, fires from shocks and releases of fuel to the ground. As time went by, embellishments were added, such as a shock transom, buffers and steam whistles .

Recent models

All Birmingham Dribblers are not Victorian antiques. Between the late 1970s and the 1990s pre-assembled brass hits were produced by Maxwell Hemmens Precision Streal Models in Yorkshire, UK. 3 Models are still available from John Hemmens. 4


  1. ↑ Birmingham Dribblers  [ archive ] at
  2. ↑ Clive Lamming , miniature trains: discovery of a passion , LR Press, ( ISBN  290365140X , OCLC  421804624 , read online  [ archive ] )
  3. ↑ ” Scratch built and model live steam engines ”  [ archive ] , (Photographs of Maxwell Hemmens ‘made and un-made kits) , on (Photographs of Maxwell Hemmens’ made and un-made kits) (accessedNovember 26, 2010 )
  4. ↑ Birmingham Dribblers from John Hemmens  [ archive ]

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