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Cover of the 1907-1908 catalog.
The 1908 catalog contained an insert with new items.

The American Miniature Railway Company

By David McEntarfer                                                   Winter 2018 

Probably one of the most obscure and least known of the early Tinplate manufacturers was the American Miniature Railway Company of Bridgeport Conn., which I will refer to as AMRR from here on. AMRR was formed when two Ives tool-makers decided to leave Ives and start their own company. AMRR was in business for such a comparatively short time - making trains from 1907 to 1912 - yet they made a very extensive line that competed with Ives on just about every level.

Top of the line 0 gauge locomotive, this is a No. 21 with brakes reverse and speed governor. This example is Circa 1910 with the 8 wheel tender.

What Edward and Harry Ives were to The Ives Mfg Co., William Haberlin and Timothy Hayes were to AMRR. Haberlin and Hayes owned a tool shop in Bridgeport at the turn of the century. It was to this shop that Edward and Harry Ives went in 1901 for the dies and tools for the first line of Ives clockwork track trains. Later Haberlin and Hayes sold Ives their shop and went to work for the Ives Company itself, as tool makers and designers. They made the dies for all of the early Ives models.

Haberlin had a lot to do with the Ives business during that period and when he saw the way it was growing decided to leave Ives. He left Ives, somewhere in late 1905 or early 1906, and immediately started to make tools and dies for a new full line of 0 gauge trains. Haberlin brought with him several original ideas that he eventually had patented into some of the features of the AMRR line. Some of these included disappearing couplers, solid rail cross-overs, switch stands and a telegraph pole with a miniature reel of wire mounted on the base. In March of 1907 Haberlin convinced his former partner and friend Hayes to join him in this new toy train venture. They obtained financial backing from Herbert French, a retired railroad man living in Bridgeport. French became the head of the new company with the titles Manager and Treasurer. Hayes was superintendent and Haberlin designer, tool-maker and director of manufacturing. William Izman joined the company as bookkeeper and later became a salesman. A factory was obtained on East Washington Ave in Bridgeport and limited production began in 1907. By the fall of 1908 AMRR had 25 employees. For the first models AMRR produced they purchased 500 small and 500 large clockworks from Reeves Mfg. Co. This was the same company that Ives purchased their clockworks from. AMRR continued to purchase clockworks from Reeves until they were able to develop the tooling to make their own. This meant that for a period of time both Ives and AMRR were using the same clockwork mechanism.


A Number 9 locomotive circa 1910-11.

The appearance of the AMRR line was very similar to Ives, but this might have something to do with the fact that in 1907 both Ives and AMRR were using tooling and dies made by the same man, Wm. Haberlin. Not only did they look similar but AMRR used the same catalog numbers. In 1907 AMRR cataloged locomotives 0, 1, 2,3,11 and 17, the tender came with the catalog number 25, the same numbering system that Ives used. The AMRR catalog contained the identical track layouts that were found in the early Ives catalogs, although Ives actually stole them from the Mårklin catalogs, where they had originated. The small 5" passenger cars looked very similar to Ives and some even carried the "Limited Vestibule Express" logo. Apparently Ives noticed all the similarities as in 1908 they retooled their 5" cars and came out with the Brooklyn / Buffalo cars. They also did some copying of their own as all smaller clockworks up until then had been tin. In 1908 Ives turned the 0,1,2,3 locomotives out in their cast iron finery.


Red New York 4 ½" Pullman car from 1910-11

In 1908 AMRR began advertising the fact that Haberlin and Hayes, who were the head of their manufacturing department, were the original designers of the Ives line. At this point I'm sure that Ives was getting more than a little disturbed concerning this upstart company. Ives had featured their models as "The American Miniature Railway System". Harry Ives was big on promoting American goods as contrast to the rest of the market being foreign. Even the name of the new company was infringing on his logo. In January 1909, Ives advertised that "We are the original manufacturers of 'The American Miniature Railways', although others are trying to mislead the trade by using the words 'American' and 'Systems' in different ways. Don't be misled; buy the original, which is the best". Surely it wasn't a coincidence that in 1908 Ives began putting little metal tags on much of their equipment reading "The Ives Miniature Railway System". This practice was discontinued around 1912 - the same year AMRR went out of business.


No. 0 tin locomotive Circa 1907-1909

In 1909 AMRR put the following paragraph in the front of their catalog: "Our product is guaranteed to be equal in construction, material and workmanship to any line of Miniature Railways on the market and superior in many respects to other American lines". Not lost on AMRR was the emergence of Edmonds Metzel, a company from Chicago using the name "American Flyer". By 1910, AMRR was using a logo on most of their correspondence calling themselves the "Bridgeport Line". Possibly another attempt to confuse the toy train public.


Top car is a No. 160 Gondola with 'T' Trucks circa 1910-11, bottom is a No. 161 Coal Car with the simulated brakes on the trucks, circa 1909

Right from the start AMRR packed a catalog inside every train set. The 1909 catalog had a request to recipients to "kindly destroy previous catalogues" as the line had changed so much. Apparently everyone did as instructed; even though all their catalogs are rare, finding one from 1907 or 1908 is impossible. The company always did a fair amount of business but never attained any real success in the market. In the early 1940s when author/historian Lou Hertz was looking for former AMRR employees, he found that only William Haberlin and one of their last salesmen an A.L. Richmond were still alive. At that time Mr. Richmond was purchasing manager for A.C. Gilbert. He had left AMRR in late 1911 to take the A.C. Gilbert job. He stated that at that time the days of the American Miniature Railway Company were numbered. Mr. Haberlin was quoted as saying "If we had business enough to use up what track and what went with it (that we could make) we would still be in the toy business." He also recalls that it was their intention to make all of their track electric, so that purchasers of their clockwork sets would only have to purchase a separate electric locomotive in order to have an electric train outfit.


This is a floor toy version circa 1910-11.
Floor train engines didn't have numbers just the sets.

When the business was given up, the dies were all sold for junk, to prevent their falling into the hands of Ives. Some years later Mr. Haberlin admitted that this was probably a mistake as he had had at least one offer to purchase the dies and start making the line again. The doors of the AMRR factory were closed for good in December 1912.


This is a floor toy version circa 1910-11.
Floor train engines didn't have numbers, just the sets.

Article Concludes Next page

Second Decade.
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