14 May 2012
David Boxall takes a trip down memory lane and studies the Playtown Service Station, which was made by Playcraft and available during the 1950s. ...
Playtown Service Station
The Playtown Service Station is one of a series of toy buildings made by Playcraft and available during the 1950s. Many of the other buildings in the series can be seen on the side of the Service Station box. The black and white photograph depicts the layout of a small town with various cars and vehicles busying themselves about the community.
This particular Service Station was produced in yellow plastic with a green roof and red doors, windows and lettering. The two large doors to the front and left of the building open in the same way that a real ‘up-and-over door’ would open. Sadly, one of the doors is missing on this model but the empty frame shows how the doors and windows merely press into the recess of the structure. Similarly, the lettering above the doors is incomplete and should read ‘Playtown Service Station’.
The ‘kit’ came with its own accessories in the form of petrol pumps. The walls are ‘pulled’ together with shaped metal rods. These rods slot down the inside of the corner of two adjoining sections to hold walls together. A small triangular metal plate fits into each corner at roof level, then the roof, which has a corresponding peg in each corner fits into each hole in the metal corner plates.
The construction is simple yet ingenious and the whole Service Station can fit back into the box whilst still complete. The roof can be taken off and inverted to accommodate the lid of the box. This would have been a fabulous toy to enhance any diecast toy collection.
We usually associate Playcraft with the production of Corgi Toys, as its name features on each Corgi Toy box: ‘Playcraft Toys Ltd London’. The Service Station appears to pre-date the release of the first Corgi diecast toys in 1956. There are no clues on the box except the maker’s name: ‘Playcraft – British Made Hobby Kits’.
A second look at the Service Station, however, reveals that the cars in the photograph on the side of the box are mostly Dinky Toys – apart from the fire engines. This surely dates this construction kit as pre-1956, the year that Corgi Toys first appeared. Further inspection of the image reveals an early ‘open door’ taxi, a standard Vanguard model No 40e; and an Austin A90 Atlantic, model No 140a.
The Standard Vanguard with open rear axles (no spats) was available between 1948-50, while the Austin A90 Atlantic was available between 1951 and 1953. This must give an approximate date of the Service Station as between 1951 and 1956, when Corgi Toys - ‘the ones with windows’ - were first launched.