Today Toys & Stuff goes Continental with the Hornby Mecanno Signal Box (Switch Tower). Frank Hornby began producing his line of Mecanno construction toys beginning in 1901 and introduced his first clockwork (wind-up) train in 1920. Through the years both electric and clockwork trains would be manufactured in O-gauge and electric trains in OO-gauge. In 1964 Hornby was bought out by its competitor Tri-ang Railways and merged into Tri-ang Hornby. In 1972 they were purchased by Dunbee-Combex-Marx. Even though the 1980s were brutal years for British toy manufacture, through a series of sellouts, acquisitions, and re-namings Hornby survives today as Hornby Hobbies Limited.
Well, that's the quick and dirty from Wikipedia but the particulars of today's toy eludes me as I have (as yet) no books specific to Hornby. For that reason I don't really know when these were produced. I gotta tell ya that I'm not a big Hornby collector and have only recently begun to expand upon the few pieces I have. The goal is not to have a huge pike but rather a small, but nice, 2-rail clockwork layout. To that end I've slowly but surely have been acquiring pieces for it. With exception. The Signal Box shown here today was bought several years ago and although I had wanted to incorporate it into my 3-rail layout, The Marxville and Plateau, it was simply too small for my personal tastes and I sold it last year! At first appearance it may seem incomplete but it is designed to be placed up against the wall or backdrop and so is more like a 'flat' than a complete structure. Fortunately, before selling it I took a some photos. Unfortunately I didn't take measurements (or perhaps lost them) but I will say it's small, being perhaps about 5" (12.7cm) high. Being the fickle collector I am perhaps I'll re-acquire one of these. The good thing is that Signal Boxes in good shape can still be purchased for a reasonable price. Until then - Enjoy!