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Brass Imports Model Railroads &Trains

Brass model trains became popular after World War II, when American GIs stationed in Japan took notice of brass model trains made by local craftsmen. Early brass model trains were made by hand, allowing these craftsmen to reproduce custom trains for GIs who supplied pictures of their favorite trains from home.

As these brass model trains grew in popularity, they were manufactured by Japanese companies in small quantities, often fewer than 150 units. The trains were imported to the United States through hobby importers, including Westside Model Company and Pacific Fast Mail. Trains made from the '40s to the '60s are of particular interest to collectors.

Brass model trains were made in Japan until the '70s when the manufacture of these trains was moved to South Korea. The initial trains made in Korea were of poor quality, but as Korean manufacturers learned the business, these trains improved. Korean brass model trains from the mid-80s are considered highly collectible.

Quick Facts

  • The original brass trains were not painted, but were left in their original brass finish. Paint was added in the '50s due to customer demand
  • Brass trains were almost exclusively made in HO scale in postwar Japan. South Korea continued the HO tradition after manufacture was moved, and about 80 percent of brass trains are still HO scale
  • The older brass model trains from Japan have become very collectible. Due to their limited production, some of these trains now sell at auction for $30,000 or more

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