All About Aurora Postage Stamp Trains
Company Profile: American Tortoise

Very little is known about American Tortoise Inc., other than it was originally a German-owned toy company that used to make a line of wooden construction sets. The image below left was taken at the 1953 Nürnberg Toy Fair. The logo is the same as the one on the toy box, below right, which was made in the US by American Tortoise, leading one to assume the former was the parent company of the latter, but I'm still researching this.

Anyway, in 1970, ATI created Trix Trains, a "Division of American Tortoise Inc." which disappeared shortly thereafter (not to be confused with the current-day Trix Trains). Evidently, ATI—or its parent company—had put in a bid for ownership of Trix and lost to Mangold GmbH & Company, although ATI did retain exclusive distributorship of Minitrix in North America. Interestingly, ATI's Trix Train Division and Aurora Plastics of Canada Ltd. were both located in Rexdale, Ontario, raising the possibility that ATI took over Aurora's Canadian distributor.

Meanwhile, along came Michael Tager, cited as having worked for ATI, Athearn, Atlas, Aurora, K-F Industries, Mantua, Matchbox and probably others. In 1967, Tager launched American Train & Track Corp. in the former offices of a Canadian-American distributor of Tri-ang, located at 200 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Model Power emerged from the collapse of ATT in 1970. A few years later, Model Power either bought or merged with ATI, moving to 180 Smith Street in Farmingdale, NY, in the process.

Then, Model Power either bought or merged with Precision Miniatures Inc. (not to be confused with Precision Miniatures in South Africa), who moved from Brooklyn to 180 Smith Street in Farmingdale. Known mostly for die-cast automobiles, PMI also rebranded Faller kits (scroll down) among other HO and N Scale model railroad products. All of which explains why the same Roco rolling stock items can be found with Aurora Postage Stamp, ATI, PMI and Model Power labels (as well as Atlas, Con-Cor, MRC, Parkway and others). Model Power eventually failed and was purchased in 2013 by Model Rectifier Corporation. Incidentally, the Precision Miniatures brand appeared on other random items at the time, like the transformers included with Parkway Industries N Scale train sets, suggesting Parkway was somehow related to this stew of businesses as well...

In 1970 ATI launched an aggressive marketing campaign for a product line they expected to own but evidently never did. In addition to releasing a new color catalog, ATI placed ads in Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and others. ATI also made an especially emphatic statement in the August 1970 issue of Playthings magazine (below left). Elsewhere in the same issue was a press release for ATI—note there's no mention of the scale (below right). Click for enlargements.

ATI also developed some serious merchandising collateral to support a product line that wasn't theirs (below left) and a large-format, 12-page service manual for their train sets (below right).

Of particular interest in the Playthings ad is this statement: "MINITRIX has the most exciting new TRAIN SET packaging in the field... packaging that lets you SEE what you're getting!" Note that the "exciting new packaging" (right) was substantially similar to the Postage Stamp yellow flat boxes, and many of the set contents were identical, right down to the blue plastic power pack.

At some point, ATI changed their train set packaging color scheme from black and yellow to blue and yellow, and then they self-branded their sets. Since ATI was the "official" North American distributor of Minitrix beginning in 1970, it's unclear what their legal and/or business relationship was with Aurora when the Postage Stamp sets reemerged in 1973, although they were all surplus stock, so it might not have been an issue.

As a curious footnote, ATI later re-branded Minitrix products as "Minitrains," possibly because they didn't own rights to the Trix trademark. But Minitrains was also used by AHM among others, and currently belongs to Standard Light GmbH, makers of a line of HOn30 products imported by Big City Hobbies International.

As the company transitioned from ATI/Minitrix to just ATI to Model Power, the packaging clearly reflected the lineage. (Note the three vastly different controllers included with the same uncouplers.) Incidentally, Model Power eventually dropped Minitrix track and switched to the same supplier as Atlas.

Today, all that remains of the ATI legacy are vintage products for sale on the Internet that aren't worth much because they're not unique, in spite of the fact that ATI-branded items are quite rare.

Model Power Rebranded Kits

The known Faller structure kits sold by Aurora under the Postage Stamp brand that Model Power rebranded include:

Precision Miniatures Rebranded Kits

The known kits that PMI rebranded include:

  • 4119-125 Station Platforms & Accessories
  • 4122-125 Two Suburban Houses
  • 4123-125 Two Houses Under Construction
  • 4163 Small Chapel (never released by Aurora)

See Also...

Return to: Beginnings & Introductions

Postage Stamp Trains is a Trademark of the Aurora Plastics Corporation.
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