In 1948 Hans Biller decided to transpose a typical construction site equipment as a sandpit toy. His choice was a narrow gauge industrial railway with non-permanent track and with tipper lorries, at that time found in the roster of every large construction enterprise. Probably Biller was inspired by the debris railways carrying debris out of German cities after World War II, which were also in use in Nuremberg where his enterprise was.
Thus Biller created the first tinplate loco with a totally enclosed clockwork and the loco shed with wind-up mechanism whose key could not be lost in the sandpit. From the beginning all accessories like turntable, turnouts, folding rails, supports and mobile pivoting frame were available - but for a period of five years the only rolling stock available are the green diesel loco 013 and the tipper lorries.
So Biller became the first producer offering a reproduction of a narrow gauge field railway as a system with track and acessories.
But Biller never saw his railroad as a model railroad system but as a tinplate toy close to an existing prototype. So the excavator 750 and the gantry crane Gigant were not meant to be add-ons for the Billerbahn but as individual toys even if they match the Billerbahn very well.
Choosing a field railway as a prototype made sense in 1948. Potential customers, the children, could see field railways daily as debris railways in every major German city. But already in the first half of the fifties debris railways were gone from german cities, and field railways were more and more replaced by trucks and were no longer visible to everybody permanently. Therefore Biller began looking for a more popular prototype, the "real" railroads. Visible signs of that re-oriemtation were the introduction of the first four-axled cars and the blue and orange Diesel loco about 1956/57.
This meant turning away from a field railway with model railroad character towards pure toytrains without real prototypes. Neither the different steam locos nor the colourful Diesels built from 1956 on not the four-axled cars have real prototypes. The cars do not match a specific scale.
Thus the Billerbahn entered competition to "real" model railroads in (at that time emerging) H0 scale, a fight the Billerbahn could not win in the long term. The well-thought-out construction and the complex production with a large part of manual work raised sales prices when at the same time customers' interest in clockwork powered toytrains decreased.
In the sixties cheap toys especially from Japan pushed onto European markets. On these toys plastic was used as materiel quite early. The customers accepted the new materiel willingly as a sign of modern times; the acceptancy of tinplate toys diminished. Considerably cheaper production costs in Far East and resulting low sales prices forced all producers to rationalize their production.
biller only made a few attempts into that direction; the body of the plastic steam loco from 1962 and the plastic bodies and gears of some cars prove that. But a profound change of production methods remained undone.
In 1977 Biller went into bankruptcy. The buyer of the bankrupt's assets, the enterprise Tucer und Walther, offered a couple of rolling stock assembled from leftover parts. Attempts to sell the production tools into low-wage countries failed. Today the tools are lost.
Source: Biller Bahn collector
Dave - January 15, 2013
I just came accross an old train set I used to play with when I was just a kid... It's a wind-up Biller Set..... I would like to find out what it is worth, and perhaps sell it.... Can you tell me how to do this??? Thanks!!Dave in Massachusetts
►reply: Sure Dave! Put it on ebay, if its in good shape you can get a good price I think. If you want to find out more about your set, take a look on this collector's page for identification.
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