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A Fandor Pre-War tin Train Set - Something New for me!

Updated: May 16

As followers of my blogs must know by now, I collect and operate* Lionel trains - mostly Post-war (post World War II, 1945-1969), some Pre-war (prior to World War II) and some Modern (made after 1970).

*A better description, IMHO, is "accumulate and play with".


That said, late 2021 I came across a boxed set of trains at an estate sale. I knew nothing about it but fell in love with it at first sight. I wonder if it was originally packed with the straw shown?


There is a beautiful picture of a train on the box cover. The only writing on it is in three languages; German, English and French - In English it reads: "Engine with Reversible Action".

The manufacturer's logo says "Kraus Fandor JKCo N" and "Made in Germany". No set number or any other marking or clues.


The "O" gauge tin lithographed trains inside were beautiful, but what really caught my attention was the "controller". It is partly chrome with a screw socket for several different wattage bulbs**, that were also included. I never saw anything like it. Its power cord has a screw-in adapter that was common in the pre-1930s and was used to screw into a lamp light socket before there were standardized appliance electric outlets. If outlets were available, you simply removed this screw adapter. Another wire coming from it has a large two prong plug on it that plugs into a special power connection section of track.

**I've learned that the purpose of the bulbs were to lower the voltage on the units from 110-120v in the US (or 220-240v in Europe) so that a 20v engine could run nicely. The bulbs come in different wattages, so it is important to use the right bulb.


The set also included 3 rail "O" gauge track (8 curves, 3 straight and 1 straight power connection section). The track looks very much like, and are connected together with pins like, Lionel "O" gauge tinplate track. BUT there are also spring loaded clips on the outer rails to hold the sections together more securely.


The engine and cars were Americanized by Fandor with the addition of a red "cowcatcher" up front (instead of the European type front bumpers), an ornamental bell and "PRR" on the cab and tender. The 3 cars were also Americanized by proudly proclaiming "PRR" and "Pennsylvania Lines", in gold above the windows.


I've also found the couplers to be unique in my experience:


I think my set was made sometime in the early 1920s,


I've learned a lot about Fandor from internet searches and inquiries made to the knowledgeable folks on the OGR Online Forum (check it out - it is a great group).

Here is a summary of what I learned:


There is lots of history between Fandor (Joseph Kraus & Co.) and Dorfan.


Fandor was started in 1910 with Joseph Kraus and his cousin Julius Forchheimer.

Dorfan started in 1924 with Julius Forchheimer, his brother Milton and John C. Koerber. John C. Koerber was Chief Engineer for Kraus (Fandor) and, later Dorfan and Bing.


Fandor was the brand name Kraus used to market their tin toys internationally, It was made by putting together the names of Fanny and Dora, the names of Mr. Kraus' Grandmothers . The acronym was used between the wars to hide his typical German name. Even though the quality of German toys was outstanding, it was thought that a German name could hinder sales outside of Germany.


In 1936, Hitler took ownership of most of the train manufacturers in Nuremberg, which was also home to the Nazi party. Nuremberg was the capital of some of the world's greatest toy train manufacturing and most of it was owned and run by Jewish entrepreneurs. One can only guess what happened in the 1930s to many of them. The US leveled Nuremberg in WWII destroying the old toy and train factories that had been converted to munitions works. It is believed that Josef Kraus was given advance warning that he was in danger so he left Germany and went to England, and later to New York. When he immigrated to the US, Kraus continued building trains and tin toys stylized for the US market (like my set) under the Name of Dorfan (Fandor in reverse).


If anyone has any additional information about my set (catalog pictures??) or can offer corrections or additional information about Kraus -Fandor - Dorfan, I would appreciate having it. I will then update this post for all.


UPDATE: A friend pointed out to me that the TCA Western Division produced a 1 page article on Fandor - Here is a link to it: Fandor Trains (tcawestern.org)

Thank you TCA Western Division!

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