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Milton Bradley Bumpalow village

About 20 years ago, I posed a question. What did train enthusiasts use on their train layouts before World War II, when they didn’t have Plasticville? There’s no single answer to that question, but one of the things they might have used was a Milton Bradley product called Bumpalow.

The Bumpalow village

Milton Bradley Bumpalow village

The Bumpalow buildings from Milton Bradley would have looked good on a train layout circa 1931. But as this vintage ad shows, it wasn’t cheap. $4.50 was almost $85 today.

Bumpalow was a building toy produced by Milton Bradley in 1931. It consisted of six buildings, sold individually or as a complete set of six, made of a composite pressed fiber board and assembled with a series of tabs and slots.

The buildings included a church, a school, a store, a house, a cottage, and a garage.

These were toys, rather than scale models, but based on the building dimensions, I estimate they were about 1:32 scale. This makes them more appropriate for standard gauge trains than O gauge, but then again, there is a degree of flexibility with each of these building types. A standard gauge chapel is just a bigger church in smaller scales. Plant a Bumpalow church on a OO gauge layout and it’s a cathedral.

Similarly, a small garage on a standard gauge layout is a garage for commercial vehicles on an o gauge layout.

But for whatever reason, it appears the Bumpalow line was not a huge success, because it was only available a single year. Perhaps they were too expensive. $4.50 in 1931 was equivalent to $85 in today’s dollars.

You can find them on eBay with some patience, and I wonder sometimes why nobody has ever reproduced them.

Buildings sized appropriately for Standard Gauge have always been difficult to find. But hopefully, knowing to look for these will help you if you are building a standard gauge layout and want a town to surround your train station.

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