Wood Toys, Inc (Keystone Mfg Co.) of Boston MA was one of the first companies to
add wooden railway sets to their line of toys in the post World War II period.
From 1922 to 1965, Keystone was known primarily for its camera equipment
and its line of pressed steel toy vehicles and ride-on toys, although they
actually produced a wide range of products.
first Keystone train set pictured here (ca. 1950-51) is probably one of the
company’s earliest attempts at making this type of toy. It
clearly had some rather curious design “idiosyncrasies”.
train is wonderfully crafted from hardwood.
It has a very attractive, quasi-realistic design and a lightly varnished,
natural wood finish. Single-piece,
flat metal hooks run through a cavity beneath each car, and are retained in
place by the thick metal axles. But
the metal rings used to link the trains, pop off the hooks rather easily. (When
this set arrived in the mail, one of the rings was already floating loose in the
box.) These pill-sized rings were
probably prone to being lost … or worse … being swallowed.
addition, the track appears to be made from styrene plastic.
Unfortunately, this is the same type of hard, brittle plastic used in
making model cars, boats and airplanes. Track
breakage … particularly connectors … probably occurred at a rather alarming
rate during “vigorous play”. One
could also question the durability of the thin wooden wheels.
second Keystone train set pictured here (ca. 1952-56) shows several design
differences compared to the earlier set. The
trains now had one-piece hook-eye couplers, and the wooden wheels were made
significantly thicker. However, the
train design itself was more simplistic … not as sculptural as the earlier
set. These later trains were
finished in bright, glossy paints, rather than the natural wood finish of the
the track in this later set was made from a much more flexible and durable
polyethylene plastic. Although these
trains will fit nicely on most two-groove tracks of any material, the plastic
track sections are not compatible with any known wooden track.
also offered a series of colorful wood and fiberboard buildings to add
“realism” to their layouts. In
addition, they made small, but attractive wooden cars and trucks that worked
nicely with their train sets.
ceased making toys in Boston around 1958. Reportedly,
parts of its toy business were sold to other companies.
The camera equipment portion of the company was bought by Berkey Photo in