Wooden Toy Train - History - Early Companies in The USA

Early Companies in The USA

Marshal H. Larrabee II founded the Skaneateles Handicrafters in 1936. This toy company made wooden toy trains and wooden tracks. The gauge was very similar to that used by most companies today. However, the connections for the track pieces were of a different design than the jigsaw style "peg and hole" system used today. The trains were made of maple and were often left unpainted and unstained. They are compatible with many brands of modern wooden train track. Playskool took over the sales for Skaneateles Handicrafters in 1956. This company retained the design and track connecting system into the 1960s. Marshal H. Larrabee sold his company to the German based HabermaaƟ GmbH in 1980. The company was renamed T.C. Timber and its products were manufactured in Skaneateles. The production line was closed in 2002.

The Jack-Built Toy Manufacturing Company marketed its own range of wooden toy trains under the brand name "Jack Built Snap Trains" around 1956 to 1962. These were manufactured in Japan and used a snap system to join pieces of rolling stock and tracks. Rolling stock from Jack Built Snap Trains and Skaneateles Handicrafters could ride on either manufacturer's tracks. However, individual pieces of rolling stock and track from the two brands could not be combined. This is because the coupling systems for the tracks and trains were different.

California-based Ben Orel filed U.S. patent #2847798 in 1956 and was granted the patent for his "snap coupling" system two years later. He describes how the track could be rotated to create a "rail" and a "road" side in U.S. patent #3013726 submitted in 1960 and granted in 1961. This is similar to the idea that Learning Curve later used for their "Thomas & Friends" range. He also submitted a patent for magnetic couplings in 1958. This patent was granted in 1960. It may have been the earliest attempt to use magnets with a wooden toy train system. Production stopped in the mid-1960s and the company disappeared from the toy market.

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