The origins of Jouef are both obscure and humble. Georges Huard made fancy goods in the Franche-Comté region of France, near Dijon. Plastic and metal household utensils were then his stock in trade. In 1944 he set up the 'Le Jouet Français' (The French Toy) company and produced his first toys in tinplate, which he originally registered under the trademark of JF and which became known as Jouef around 1950. Production of the household utensils continued until around the beginning of the 1960's, but they rapidly became incidental alongside the growing success of Jouef trains.
The range of tinplate Jouef toys was not very large. It remained neglected and there were no official catalogues of what was available. It is thought that the range included several models of planes, cars, both motorised and push-along (a very simple Panhard Aronde (sic), racing cars, a Delahaye, etc), a surprisingly futuristic 'aile volante' (flying wing), several small boats, a cooker and a range of saucepans and a pair of clockwork boxers (the 'Boxing Boys'). But Jouef also made sophisticated toys like the racetrack sets with clockwork cars (known as 'La Panaméricaine' and 'La Panabifur') and a large electrically- driven racing car made from aluminium.
There is no official record of any trains being produced by Jouef before 1950. At this time the first catalogue in the shops showed the ' Algiers to Timbouctou' railcar, the celebrated 'Trans Saharan', in lithographed tinplate. However certain experts remember that this train appeared between 1947 and 1948. It was a perfect example of a traditional nursery toy: not a very accurate model, exotic (the silhouettes shown in the windows wore traditional Algerian costumes) but to no particular scale. The first examples of the 'Trans Saharian' were equipped with a crude elastic band propulsion system, which performed equally well either on or off the rails.
About 1950, 'Le Jouet Français' or 'JF' becomes 'Jouef'. Since 1952, a complete range is proposed including tracks made of lithographed sheet metal (red then then gray), two passenger coaches with two axles (1st class in red, 2nd class in blue) also made of lithographed sheet metal, 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 covered wagon). 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 BoBo 9003 SNCF which was replaced very quickly by the BoBo 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 trainset 'Sud-Express'.
Another important change in 1956, the tank-engine 0-4-0 no. 708, 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 Jouef 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'. Remains 'Jouef' which is then buyed back by a subsidiary company 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 the Englih-made white metal kits from the english brand 'Keyser'.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Jouef price guide: sold listings for a value indication.