Jouef model railways HO scale

Jouef model railways - Jouef compagny history

- Jouef compagny history

The firm "Le Jouet Français" was created in 1944 by George Huard who manufactured plastic kitchen utensils. It also exists some penny toys which includes cars , boats and playsets of horses. Before 1949, a first railcar, the famous tinplate "Transsaharian Algiers-Timbuktoo" railcar appeared. First models were fitted with a rubber band as engine. The reduction scale was HO (ratio of reduction 1/87), whereas the majority of the other model trains makers produced mainly on the O scale (ratio of reduction 1/43). About 1950, "Le Jouet Français" or "JF" becomes "Jouef". Since 1952, a complete range is proposed including tinplate tracks sections (orange ballast then grey ballast), two tinplate passenger coaches with two axles (1st class in red, 2nd class in blue), and a clockwork steam locomotive "Diabolic" evoking the careening locomotives of pre-2nd world war period. The transsaharian railcar is now fitted with the same clockwork mechanism used in the "Diabolic" locomotive. Next year, appear the first passenger coaches with bogies, a 1st class model and a 2nd class model pointing out the compemporary DEV cars of SNCF, and a Pullman car. 1954 is the start year for plastic injected models which allows low cost production of goods cars (a dropside wagon, an open goods wagon, a tank wagon and a goods van). 1955 is a milestone in the Jouef history: it is the kick-off of electric model trains by Jouef, with the first electric locomotive, the BB 9003 SNCF which was replaced very quickly by the BB 9004 SNCF after the full scale locomotive beat the world speed record on rails (331 km/h on March 29, 1955). These models were fitted with one bogie motorized with the famous and bulky motor "Saucisson" (French nickname for the shape of the engine). The power supply system (6 volts) used a battery generator hidden in a signal box or a transformer. The tracks was made with two brass rails fixed on plastic ballast. Then electric model trains became popular in France with the train set "Sud-Express". Another important change in 1956, the tank-engine 0-4-0 n708, first in clockwork version, started its long career of more than 40 years. More 2 millions models were manufactured. With the years, Jouef model trains become increasingly accurate, with the strict respect of the scale but the quality of operation of models is not always present. In addition of the electric model trains, Jouef also manufacture racing circuits. After having changed its owner in 1972, the Jouef company become integrated with "Le Jouet Français" group which includes also "Delacoste" (manufacturer of balloons and toys for first age), "Solido" (specialist in the miniature cars ), and "Heller" (plastic models). This group went into liquidation in 1980 and rule of Court in May 1981. The different companies of the group "Le Jouet Français" are repurchased by various speakers of the toy market: "Majorette" buys "Solido", "Vullierme" buys "Delacoste", "Borden" buys "Heller". Remain "Jouef" which is then buyed back by a subsidiary compagny of the "CEJI" group (Compagnie Générale du Jouet). This subsidiary compagny "Joustra" (Jouet de Strasbourg) manufactures primarily radio-controlled toys, and the Jouef company is integrated within the CEJI group. At this time, Jouef adds an activity of import goods by marketing in France, white metal kits from the English brand "Keyser". The model range includes French models like the VH Renault railcar, several steam locomotives (2-8-2 TC, 4-6-0 G Paris-Orleans,.), and electric locomotives (BB 1200 Paris-Orleans, BB 16500 SNCF, 2D2 5500 SNCF). These last two models (electric locomotives BB 16500 SNCF and 2D2 5500 SNCF) used a Jouef motorized frame. The bad reputation of these kits made that the production stopped in March 1984. In early 1980, competition against video and electronic toys is hard, also the scale models market is speed loss. The "CEJI" group collapsed for bankruptcy in 1986. The "Jouef" is recovered by independent contractors, and then starts in a new policy of diversification for activities (miniature cars on the 1/43 and 1/18 scale, radiocontrolled cars ) and a very agressive marketing with many links with other partners (Bachmann, Lilliput, Rivarossi, Ibertren, Lima). But it also collapsed one more time for bankruptcy in late 1995. The Jouef compagny is bought on 1996 by the Italian Rivarossi and is integrated in its group which also includes others model railway makers (Lima bought in 1992, Arnold bought in 1995, and Rivarossi). The production of Jouef models was still done in France. In the meantime, the Rivarossi Group (which includes Rivarossi, Lima, Jouef, Arnold and Pocher) became Lima Spa. June 1st, 2001 is a very bad day in the Jouef history: the Lima Spa group became "Idee Commerciali II" and they announced the final closure of the historical factory of Champagnole (France, in Jura), marking the end of the industrial manufacturing of model trains in France. The industrial tool is bring down, many moulds were sent to Italy, may be to the East further.
In 2002, Jouef is nothing more than one trade mark in the Lima Spa group dedicated to the low range models. Some old Jouef model trains are again marketed from end of 2002, with new running numbers under the brands Lima and Rivarossi, according to the catalogue available at Lima France. At the beginning of 2003, a new marketing policy is put in place: the brand Jouef is condemned to disappear, only the word Jouef is appearing in the capital letter " L" of the new Lima logo. Unfortunately for the "Idee Commerciali II" group, this marketing policy is suicidal and it is not enough to think that the French market will agree to buy anything at any price when previous Jouef models were away for six months from the market. If you add a strong unjustified increase of the prices, models brought out which are not corresponding to the market expectations (the BB 13002 SNCF for example), the maintenance of the production equipment in Europe with high manufacturing costs, there are the principal causes of a main failure on the French market but also on the other European markets. By adding treasury weaknesses, the "Idee Commerciali II" group is put under the obligation to be placed in liquidation in July 2003. The losses are estimated around 1,4 million Euros per year, and the shareholders are in disagreement to set the compagny on its feet again. During this time period, the market still exists for the model train of the several brands of the group (Lima, Rivarossi, Arnold or Jouef) but the production has to be stopped because a company in liquidation cannot take new orders any more. Then, the market is free for the competitors. At the end of February 2004, the shareholders of Lima accept the preventive legal settlement which authorizes the sale of Lima to the English company Hornby PLC.
The Hornby PLC offers to purchase Lima for an amount of 8 million euros is accepted in October 2004 and definitively confirmed on December 16, 2004. Hornby wants to restart the production which will be delocalized in China, as well as the marketing of the Lima rnage models during the second half of 2005. For the French market, it is the MKD company, already in charge to import Hornby trains (Eurostar train sets at 1/76 scale) and Scalextric racing circuits, which will be responsible to import and distribute all of the range of trains from the ex-group Lima. The brand name of Jouef will be used for the French re-issued rolling stock.