Early experience (pre-1919)
The early experiences of Walter, William and Arthur Lines, the three brothers who together founded Line Bros., prepared them for running one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers. On leaving school at the age of 14 all three went to work for their father, Joseph Lines, in the family firm of G&J Lines Ltd. (William starting in 1894, Walter in 1896 and Arthur in 1910). Here they gained first-hand experience in all aspects of toy manufacture. Walter, for example, attended evening classes for design, building, carpentry and cabinet making.
In 1905 William and Walter (at the age of just 23) became joint managing directors of G&J Lines when their uncle, George, died. During these early years, Walter also demonstrated his flair for design, assisting an architect with the design of the new, purpose-built Thistle Works in Tottenham, North London. This was built to streamline production, and was designed as “…a series of contiguous process workshops.”
With the outbreak of war, the brothers’ leadership qualities were again tested. Walter and Arthur joined up and saw active service in France and Italy, where Walter, having risen to the rank of Captain in the Royal Horse Artillery Company, was mentioned in dispatches. William, too old to fight, remained working for the family firm.
The Birth of Lines Bros. (1919-1923)
On their return from the war, and after disagreements over how best to manage G&J Lines, Walter, Arthur and William decided to leave their father’s company and set up their own toy manufacturing business. Their new company, Lines Bros., was registered on 1st May 1919. Walter, who was the public face of the company and the main driving force behind it, became managing director, with additional responsibility for the design department. William looked after sales, and Arthur ran the factory. Amongst the first directors, in addition to the three brothers, were R.C. Munro, whose company R. W. Munro Ltd. was well known in the engineering world, Sir Ralph Freeman, a civil engineer and brother-in-law, and Mr. George Campbell, another brother-in-law. To start the business, the brothers borrowed £28,000 from Lloyds Bank and bought the Hatcham Works in Ormside Street, Old Kent Road, London in June 1919. This was named the Triangtois Works and had an area of 45,000 sq ft. The first range of toys was designed by Walter, and sold under the Triangtois trade name.
The company’s order book soon began to grow impressively, with orders quickly received from customers such as Harvey Greenacre & Co. Ltd of Durban, South Africa and also Harrods in London, who were especially glad to receive good quality toys after the war. Orders also came in due to the advertisements that Walter had taken out in national newspapers, at the time a progressive approach to sales and marketing. Lines Bros. also exhibited at the British Industries Fair in February 1920, where they took approximately £40,000 in orders, and throughout the same year opened between 20 and 30 accounts every month. As a result, their net profits in the first year of trading were nearly £8000. These profits were further boosted by the new and highly efficient factory that Walter again designed. It had approximately 30 separate departments, and this level of division of labour allowed the specialisation of workers on specific tasks, which in turn allowed the company to pay lower rates, thus reducing overheads and maximising profits. In addition, the company invested heavily in modern machinery. As a result, their rate of production exceeded their competitors. For example, on average each Lines Bros. employee produced 625 dolls prams in 1923, compared with a figure of 181 per G&J Lines Ltd. employee. The continued success of the Company brought with it a continued need for expansion, and a further factory, providing an additional 60,000 sq. ft. of floor space, was acquired in 1922 at 761 Old Kent Road, London. This was operational by July of that year, having been fitted out again according to Walter’s designs. In addition, the Company also had London showrooms, acquired in 1921, at 9, Fore Street.
By this time, the influence of Lines Bros. in general, and Walter in particular, was being felt in the toy manufacturing industry. In March 1922 he was elected Chairman of the Toy and Fancy Goods Federation, which he had played a significant part in forming. Although this organisation was short-lived, Walter’s involvement in the toy manufacturing industry’s professional organisations was to continue throughout his life. He took the lead in establishing the British Toy Manufacturers Association in 1944, remaining as its chairman for a decade until his resignation in 1955 due to a disagreement over policy. He also successfully represented British toy manufacturers in talks with the Board of Trade during the Second World War, negotiating an increase in the quantity of iron and steel being released to the industry.
Walter was also taking on new responsibilities in his personal life, marrying Henriette Hendrey in 1922.
Continued Expansion (1924-1939)
Even though the Old Kent Road factory had only been operational for a little over a year, by the end of 1923 it had become apparent that Lines Bros. was growing at a rate that required even bigger premises. In December, a contract was placed for a new purpose-built factory in Morden Road, Merton, South London, on a 27 acre site. Typically for Lines Bros, the construction of this factory was quick and efficient, as was the Company’s relocation, and within 18 months of the contract being signed the move into Morden Road was complete.
The factory was again designed by Walter and was originally called Triangtois Works, renamed the Tri-ang Works, when the name ‘Tri-ang Toys’ was registered. It initially housed approximately 500 employees, and covered 191,000 sq. Over the next three years this was increased by 110,100 sq ft., and then from the period from 1929 to 1935 again expanded by a further 164,000 sq ft. A description of the factory from October 1932, when approximately 2000 employees worked there, lists an imposing exterior to the factory, with a commissionaire on the gates and a wide carriage drive leading to the general offices, numerous canteens, a first-aid station, a number of tennis courts, a cricket pitch and two full-size football pitches. The article also describes the numerous ‘ingenious’ machines being used on the production lines, and a ‘city of conveyors’. As with their previous premises, Lines Bros. had thought carefully about, and invested heavily in, the design and fitting out of the factory.
This expansion was driven by the need for factory space to accommodate new products and subsidiary companies at Merton. The Pedigree name was registered by Lines Bros. for their subsidiary doll-making company in 1931, and International Model Aircraft Ltd. was formed early in 1932, with Joe Mansour, an aircraft modeller. Arthur Lines became chairman of this new company which pioneered model aircraft, producing the first ever range of flying scale-model aircraft, FROG (flies right off the ground). Pedigree Soft Toys, also operating out of Merton, was formed in 1937. In 1934 Lines Bros. acquired exclusive rights to manufacture K-boats, steel-hulled models of sailing boats and electric cabin cruisers, and another important addition was the MINIC range of toy cars and vehicles, introduced in the early 1930’s.
During this period, Lines Bros. also acquired a number of other premises and companies. In 1927, it bought The Unique and Unity Cycle Co., which was founded in 1888 and based in Birmingham. The company had originally made bicycles for adults, although the market for children’s bicycles and tricycles grew to such an extent that production of full-sized bikes was eventually stopped altogether. Lines Bros. rebuilt and modernised the factory, in Camp Lane, Handsworth, in 1935. In August 1931, as the largest single individual creditor, Lines Bros. took over Hamleys Bros. Ltd. when it ran into financial difficulty and the receivers were called in. Lines Bros. quickly closed down all subsidiary branches of the toy shop, retaining only the Regent Street branch. Hamleys received its first Royal Warrant, awarded by Queen Mary, in 1938. In 1932, after the death of Joseph Lines, Lines Bros. acquired the trade names and trade marks of G&J Lines Ltd., the firm where the three brothers had served their apprenticeship in the toy manufacturing industry.
This success and expansion also resulted in Lines Bros. becoming a public company, issuing 200,000 first preference shares on the 7 June 1933 (to be followed by ordinary shares, made available in 1936). Up to this date, the chairmanship of Lines Bros had alternated between William and Walter, but with the creation of Lines Bros. Ltd., Walter became the Chairman of the Company, the three brothers remaining as joint managing directors.
In January 1935, the London showroom moved from 9, Fore Street, where it had been since 1921, to 18 New Union Street, EC 2, a new premises three times the size.
Sten Guns and Gliders (1939-45)
During the Second World War Lines Bros. Ltd. stopped making toys and concentrated all their efforts on production to help the allied war effort. Approximately 7,000 people were employed to make a range of military hardware, including 14,000,000 magazines for Hurricane and Spitfire aircraft, as well as shell cases, land mine cases and special optical apparatus to help troops see in the dark. Walter Lines also re-designed the Mk. III Sten Gun, making the Mk IV lighter and reducing the amount of material required for its production. Over 1,000,000 of these machine guns were produced at Merton. Also produced, and in part designed by Joe Mansour of IMA Ltd., were four different types of gliders, used for target practice and laying smoke screens, two of which were powered by solid-fuel rockets. The Merton factory was itself partially bombed in 1940. King George VI visited the factory at Merton to inspect the munitions production as part of the war effort on the 10 June 1941 and the Duchess of Kent also visited on 28 May 1943.
Back to Business in the U.K. and Overseas Expansion (1946-59)
After the war, Lines Bros Ltd. immediately returned to toy manufacture, and continued their programme of expansion. In 1945, after planning permission for further expansion at the Merton site had been turned down, Lines Bros. (South Wales) Ltd. was formed, housed in a former munitions factory in Cyfarthfa, near Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. On 16 October 1946 Countess Granvill officially opened a new factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland for Lines Bros. (Ireland) Ltd. This was called the Pedigree Works, and produced the bulk of the Company’s soft toys. To keep the cost of production in wood to a minimum Lines Bros. also acquired W. Pearce (Bentwood) Ltd., a sawmill and woodwork factory.
Also in 1946, Lines Bros. Ltd. started on their overseas expansion programme, acquiring Joy Toys Ltd., manufacturers of dolls and soft toys, in Whangerei, New Zealand. This acquisition of overseas companies, which continued for the next 20 years, was necessary for the continued growth of Lines Bros. as it allowed the Company to get inside tariff walls restricting the imports into certain countries. In 1947, Lines Bros. (Canada) Ltd. was founded. This was housed in a 170,000 sq. ft. factory on the Lachine Canal, Montreal, which was fitted out by Lines Bros with modern plant and conveyors. It commenced production proper in April 1948, and used the Thistle trademark, previously used by G&J Lines, to manufacture a Canadian product line, having discovered that the British domestic product designs did not sell well. Lines Bros. continued to grow in Canada, acquiring a saw mill in Sutton, some seventy miles from Montreal, as well as showrooms in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
In 1951 Lines Bros purchased fifty percent of the Australian toy company Cyclops, which became Cyclops & Lines Brothers (Australia) Ltd. The remaining 50% of Cyclops was purchased in 1955, and this company in turn took over Moldex Ltd., based in Melbourne. Included in this new acquisition was a range of plastic moulding equipment to produce Tri-ang scale model railways and Pedigree dolls, and which also included the largest injection-moulding machine in the Lines Bros. organisation and Australia.
1954 saw expansion into South Africa, with the formation of Lines Bros. (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd. and the take-over of the Jabula Company, Johannesburg. This was followed with new factories in Durban, Natal and Mokeni, producing toys and Pedigree carriages, and showrooms in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Salisbury (in the then Rhodesia).
Back in the U.K., the Lines Bros. headquarters at Merton was by now the largest toy factory in the World, with an area of 750,000 sq. ft., and over 4,000 employees. An article in 1950 provides a vivid description of the factory:
“The casual visitor rubs his eyes in astonishment at the sight of one of the largest tool rooms in the Metropolis containing more than 200 expert toolmakers who make tools and dies for over 500 power presses up to 300 tons pressure, and the 1,000 hand presses, injection synthetic moulding and other machinery. In the paint laboratory as many as 2,000 gallons of paint are made each week, but much more is purchased outside; the factory boasts it’s own 1¼ acre sawmill and the Lines Bros. Group turns out all its own [packing] cases and crates, fells its own timber, converts it, dries it in kilns and does its own turnery. All sawdust and wood cuttings from the sawmill are exhausted direct from machines to gas producers; the gas heats boilers, whose steam is used first to run high-speed engines which drive air compressors, then the exhaust steam is used to heat production plant, such as plating tanks and conveyor drying ovens, and to heat the premises and to supply hot water.”
The article goes on to talk about the half-mile of railway sidings, and the fact that International Model Aircraft Ltd, the Lines Bros. subsidiary company which by this time is producing Pedigree dolls, is the only factory in the world which can produce complete dolls, including their wigs, shoes, dresses, voices, paint dyes and moving eyes.
Despite the scale and complexity of Merton, Lines Bros. Ltd. continued to acquire companies and premises around Britain and across the channel. They further extended the Unique and Unity Cycle Co factory in 1950, (later renamed Tri-ang Toys (Birmingham) Ltd.), and the following year took 100% of the share capital of Rovex Plastics Limited of Richmond, which was set up in 1946 by Alexander Venetzian and which produced electric train sets, mainly for Marks and Spencers. This was re-named Rovex Scale Models Ltd, and produced the Tri-ang electric model railway system. In 1954 it moved to a new factory in Margate, Kent, and the original Richmond facility was used as an overflow for Merton, housing Lines Bros. (Richmond) Ltd. and producing mainly musical toys, later becoming involved in the development of electronic toys. In 1957, Lines Bros. Ltd. acquired Simpson Fawcett, makers of prams, and moved production from Portsmouth to the Lines Bros. Cyfarthfa works. The following year, in November 1958, they bought Minimodels Ltd., a Havant company founded in 1947 which had introduced its Scalextric racing system in 1957. They also acquired Young and Fogg, manufacturers of rubber toys, and the retail chain Youngsters.
By the end of the decade, Lines Bros. had 39 separate manufacturing units around the world, including those which they had begun to acquire in France. In 1959, they purchased a factory at Givors, near Lyons. A year later they acquired 100% of Ets. V.B. S.A, a French company making model railways, whose production was transferred to a new factory being built in Calais for the newly formed Ets. Lines Freres S.A. Then, in 1962, they took control of Aube Plastique, Paris, and converted it to making parts for these two other Lines Bros. factories.
Change and Consolidation (1960s)
The 1960s began with the opening, on the 1st January, of Tri-ang House, Lines Bros.’ new 14,000 sq. ft. showroom at 53-54 Haymarket, London. The decade saw continued expansion, both of the Lines Bros. product range (for example, Sindy was launched in 1962), and subsidiary companies, as well as a period of change and consolidation. The highest-profile acquisition came in August 1964, when Lines Bros. Ltd. bought Meccano Ltd. and Dinky Toys from Hornby. The Liverpool factory and Meccano name was retained, and the Meccano range of products expanded (to include Play-Doh, Cliki and Cliki-Plus, similar to Lego) to increase its sales and bring the brand more up-to-date. The Hornby-Dublo range of train sets, which had been manufactured by Meccano, were consolidated with Tri-ang’s own railway system and sold to Rovex Scale Models, who continued production under the name Tri-ang Hornby Railways at their factory in Margate.
There were a number of other acquisitions in the 1960’s. In 1961 Lines purchased a controlling interest in J. Schowanek GmbH, a German manufacturer making wooden toys. A branch of this firm became J. Schowanek Ltd., operating from the Lavant premises previously occuipied by W. Pearce (Brentwood) Ltd. In 1963, Lines Bros. acquired controlling interests in two baby carriage manufacturers; Shuresta (A.Mirecki) Ltd., who produced ‘Cumfifolda’ baby carriages and ‘Shuresta’ bike stands, and Walker Industries Ltd., which became known as Lines Bros (Dublin) Ltd. Meccano (France) was also acquired, and Lines Bros. reached an agreement with the De Luxe Reading Corporation of America to become their sole agent outside the American continent, and to take over assembly and manufacturing facilities in UK and Holland. In 1965, they also bought a 49% share of Subbuteo Ltd.
Overseas expansion also occurred, with the acquisition of a 51% interest in Steelcraft Ltd., a manufacturer of strollers and folding baby carriages in Melbourne, Australia, and a 50% interest in Regal Trading, at the time the largest toy wholesaler in South Africa. By 1966, Lines Bros. had agents in 63 countries and showrooms in the United Kingdon, Europe, North America, Africa and Australasia.
They also branched out into publishing, entering into a partnership in 1964 with the Thompson organisation to form Tri-ang Publications Ltd., to launch the Tri-ang magazine in September of that year. Pedigree Soft Toys was also reformed as a separate company, after being subsumed within Lines Bros. (Belfast) Ltd. in 1947.
The 1960’s were also a period of change and consolidation. In July 1964 Lines Bros. International Ltd. was formed, with W. Moray Lines as Chairman, to supervise the management of the many international companies within the group. The numerous companies within the Lines Bros. organisation were also consolidated into two larger entities. Firstly, the name Rovex Industries Ltd. was registered late in 1965, becoming in 1966 the parent company to Rovex Scale Models in Margate, G&R Wrenn, Pedigree Dolls, Spot-On Models in Belfast, Minimodels Ltd. in Havant and Minic Ltd, in Canterbury, and then changing its name to Rovex Tri-ang Ltd. in 1969. Secondly, Triang-Pedigree Ltd. was formed in June 1970, and included the Merton, Merthyr and Birmingham factories for Tri-ang Toys, Pedigree Soft Toys Ltd in Belfast (at the time know as Pedigree Westline), Lines Bros (Ireland) Ltd. and Lines Bros. (Richmond) Ltd. Meccano Ltd in Liverpool became Meccano-Triang Ltd, another subsidiary of Tri-ang Toys.
Changes also occurred to the company’s management. Walter Lines retired as Chairman in 1962, becoming instead its Life President. His son, W. Moray Lines, became Chairman, and W. Graeme Lines became joint Managing Director. Also in 1962 both Arthur and William Lines, two of the three original founders of the Company, died.
Fall and Division (1971 – 1972 )
In the Autumn of 1971, due to failing business overseas and uncertain demand in the UK and accumulating losses, Lines Brothers, at the time the biggest toy manufacturer in the UK, collapsed. It had recorded a record £4.5 million loss the previous year, but had been confident of a rescue offer, to the tune of £5 million by the American tobacco giant Gallaher. When this offer was withdrawn in August no option was left to the Company but liquidation, and the various elements of the Lines Bros. Group were separated and sold off.
Rovex-Triang Ltd became Rovex Ltd, and was sold to Dunbee-Combex-Marx for £2,259,000, plus £741,000 for the factory site. G&R Wrenn, which had managed to retain its independent identity whilst within Rovex, returned to being a family-run company, and Tri-ang Hornby Railways continued as Hornby Railways (then, from 1990, as just Hornby).
Tri-ang-Pedigree was bought by Barclay Securities for £3,600,000 (plus £1,678,000 for freehold of Merton and Birmingham factories, and the Merthyr factory),becoming part of the Barclay Toy Group, which had been founded in 1971 and which also included Sebel, Chad Valley, Chiltern and Chas. E. Methven. The teddy bear range was taken over by Canterbury Bears and the Pedigree Soft Toys production manager, Jim Mulholland set up his own factory in Belfast named Mulholland & Bailie. Within 6 months, Barclays had begun to further dispose of Triang-Pedigree’s component parts, selling the adult cycle business to Raleigh for £800,000, and the wooden toy business to Good Wood Playthings (a company which had been started by Walter Lines when he retired from Lines Bros., and which was managed by his daughter Peggy). Meccano-Triang Ltd. gained sufficient financial backing to transfer its assets into a temporary holding company known as Maofords Ltd., which was later renamed Meccano Ltd. and sold to Airfix. Overseas, Tube Investments acquired Cyclops Tri-ang (Australia) Ltd. (which consisted of 10 companies in Australia and New Zealand) for £2.25 million.
Soon after this, on 23 November 1972, Walter Lines, the driving force behind Lines Bros., died at his home in Surrey.
 Walter remembers the time; ‘My brothers and I were hard at it in the factory within a couple of days of leaving school. We carved pole horses and rocking horses and loaded vans, and by far the most horrible job of all, cleaned the raw cows tails before they were cured for nailing to the rear ends of rocking horses.’ Lines, Walter. Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards. Lines Brothers Limited and its subsidiary group of companies. London: Lines Bros. Group, 1958. [V&A Museum of Childhood, Lines Bros. Ltd. archive, LINE 3/3/9].
 Brown, Kenneth. The British Toy Business. A History since 1700 London: The Hambledon Press, 1996. p124.
 Ibid. p145.
 The July 1925 edition of Games & Toys advertises the fact that Lines Bros. are now installed in their new premises.
 At the Sign of the Red Triangle. Games & Toys, October 1932. pp. 64-66.
 The first model is the F.R.O.G. Mark IV Model Interceptor Fighting Plane, which was marketed between Sep and Christmas 1932. A production facility was purpose-built at Merton in 1934, and Lines Bros. bought the rest of the company the following year [Brown, Kenneth, 1996, p. 133].
 By the early 1950’s, Pedigree dolls were being manufactured by International Model Aircraft Ltd, at Merton, while the production of Pedigree soft toys had moved to the Pedigree Works in Belfast when it opened in 1946. The name Pedigree Soft Toys (Belfast) Ltd. was re-established in 1965.
 The first range of model cars, ‘Series 1′, were made up of 14 models, filling a gap in the market between expensive large scale models and the die-cast Dinky Toys. Push and Go models were added to the range in the 1950’s, battery operated models in 1961, Minic ships in 1959 and Minic Motorways in 1963.
 Lines Bros. continued to own Hamleys until 1977, when it was sold to the retailers Debenhams. Walter’s daughter Peggy became Chairperson of Hamleys in 1962, and then in 1970, in addition to this role, become Joint Managing Director.
 The four types of glider produced at Merton were: the Admiralty Glider Target, the Towed Glider Target, the Rocket Glider Target and the Swallow, which was launched from a catapult, powered by four solid-fuel rockets and controlled by a clockwork-driven camshaft and gyroscope. Merton, David. Lines Bros’ Wartime Pilotless Aircraft. In: Merton Historical Society Bulletin no.163. 2007. pp. 6-9. 2007.
 Largest Toy factory in the World. Tri-ang Works Silver Jubilee. Games and Toys, August 1950. pp. 79-81.
 Brown, Kenneth. Family Failure? Lines Brothers Ltd, Deceased 1971. In: Joseph H. Astrachan, ed. Family Business Casebook Annual 2005. Kennesaw: Cox Family Enterprise Centre, Kennesaw State University, 2005. pp.81-100. ISBN 0975389319.
 The original Hornby-Dublo tools were acquired by G&R Wrenn, a controlling interest in which was bought by Lines Bros. in 1965 These are used to launch the Tri-ang Wrenn range.
 Brown, Kenneth. 1996. p190-191.
Brown, Kenneth. The British Toy Business. A History since 1700. London: The Hambledon Press, 1996. ISBN 1852851368.
Brown, Kenneth. Family Failure? Lines Brothers Ltd, Deceased 1971. In: Joseph H. Astrachan, ed. Family Business Casebook Annual 2005. Kennesaw: Cox Family Enterprise Centre, Kennesaw State University, 2005. pp.81-100. ISBN 0975389319.
Games and Toys. Trade magazine
Kiss, David. A Kiss of Rocking Horses. A Directory of British Rocking Horse Makers pre-1950. (Shropshire: The Rocking Horse Workshop, 2008. ISBN 9780956032607.
Lines, Walter. Looking Backwards and Looking Forwards. Lines Brothers Limited and its subsidiary group of companies. London: Lines Bros. Group, 1958. Walter Lines’ self-published memories of the history of Lines Bros. [V&A Museum of Childhood, Lines Bros. Ltd. archive, LINE 3/3/9].