Jack Built Toy Manufacturing Company
Jack Built Toy Co. of Los Angeles CA was a very prolific producer of wooden
railway sets and other toys during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. They
are most remembered for their “Snap Train” line of wood toy products.
The company offices were located at various times in LA and Burbank, and
they maintained a showroom/sales office in New York.
Most … perhaps all … of their wooden railway sets were manufactured
snap trains look very similar to the trains made by Skaneateles Handicrafters.
They were identical in size, had wooden wheels affixed by round-head
tacks and had a natural wood finish. Perhaps
it could be said that snap trains were a tad more sculptural in design.
developed and patented intricate “floating” snap couplers to connect both
their trains and their track sections. The
snap couplers allow the trains to be easily linked or disconnected without being
removed from the track ... while providing enough grip to prevent those
frustrating “accidental” disconnects. The
snap track connectors provide a measure of both lateral and vertical movement
when track pieces are connected, so layout flexibility is quite good.
hardwood trains, tracks and accessories were well-made and durable.
Hardwood blocks of various shapes and sizes were also included in many of
the sets. Child safety was
apparently a high priority for the company.
As their catalog stated, a JB train set provides “train fun that does
not need adult supervision and eliminates the hazards of electricity”.
company also produced a dizzying array of accessories including a water tower,
trestle, tunnel, station platform, signal signs, telegraph poles and a
roundhouse with movable turntable. In
addition, dozens of different vehicles were available including a snazzy
convertible, tank truck, beverage truck, double-deck bus, bulldozer, steamroller
and a cab-over truck with an unusually long flatbed trailer.
JB also made airport and harbor sets that could be used in conjunction
with their railway sets.
order to increase the “play value” of their roundhouse set, JB introduced
pivoting magnetic train couplers in 1958. (US
patent approval was granted for these couplers in 1960.)
This was probably one of the first uses of magnetic couplers on “little
trains” in the US. But this
ground-breaking “magnetic” train appeared primarily in later versions of the
roundhouse set and for a short time as an individual, out-of-set item.
here is a typical snap train set with track and blocks (ca. 1957-58), along with
a close-up photo of the patented snap couplers and track connectors.
Also shown is the roundhouse set with its rare and unusual magnetic train
the early 1960’s, JB appeared to convert from wood to polyethylene plastic for
their railway and vehicle sets. Shortly
after, it seems the company and their great little snap trains just disappeared
completely from the toy marketplace.
Built “Pigeon Hole” Parking Garage (1961)
Perhaps the most unusual accessory set that I have come across in my many
years of collecting is this clever and functional parking garage. (Every
train station needs a garage!) By grasping the round knob at the top of
the metal elevator shaft, you can “lift” each vehicle up to a parking
stall on any level of the structure. Likewise, the vehicles can be moved
down to exit the garage using either of the two ramps.
According to the box art, this set is complete with all vehicles including
the exceptionally cute “finned” sedan and the rare ambulance.
garage was produced right at the end of the production life of the Jack
Built “Snap Train” series. However, it appears to have been made as a
stand-alone toy … compatible with the train sets, but not specifically
mentioned in the train set catalogs. Nor was it necessary to have any
trains to fully realize the play value of this great little set.