Many years ago I was told that Mills Bros . Had been the makers of the “MILLS BOMB” – the hand grenade of choice for the British Army during the Great War, but this firm was not Mills Bros of Sheffield. I actually have one of these – made safe of course! – and the screw in brass fuze in the base is stamped “Mills Bros.” but it transpires that this was a Birmingham firm.
“Mills Bros Model Makers, Sheffield” was founded after the Great War by Frank and William Mills, model engineers who entered the model railway market in the 1920s, principally catering for gauges “0” and “1” with a few items stocked for 2 1/2” with a sightly wider selection available to order.
Locomotives were only supplied in “0” gauge, and were built to order. The GWR was represented solely by a “3232” class 2-4-0. There were no Southern offerings. The LNER had two unusual prototypes offered “No. 10000” at £17-17s (about £875-0-0 at today’s values) and the Stirling Single with correct tender at £12-17-6 (£650-0-0) The LMS was better represented, with amongst others, a “ Royal Scot” and a “Claughton” both at £13-19-6 (£700-0-0), a “Compound”, a “George V” “Jinty”. Judging by the photographs, the standard of realism was higher than for example Bassett-Lowkes contemporary offerings. There are no brakes or brake rodding modelled, but the bogie wheels are a much more realistic size than othe makers were offering.
The firm’s best products were their hand made wooden coaches with glazed windows, unlike other maker’s lithographed tin or paper. They were painted in the livery of the customers choice, except the LNER ones which were real teak! Seats, tables and lamps could be provided at extra cost. Dining Cars were £1-15-0 each (£80-0-0) . The freight rolling stock was also notable for its comparative realism, although the cheaper items lacked underframe detail, merely having a wheel at each corner! Many scenic accessories were offered, and the firm would build “Scenic Model Railways” to order. This marked a change in the hobby from the 1920s, when the emphasis was more on prototype signalling and operation with interlocking of points.