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Wills Finecast

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Bob Wills’ story and his success in the white metal business has been documented elsewhere in this book, but as far as trains are concerned, Bob’s first loco kit was launched at the October 1955 Model Railway Show. He had started with 0 gauge white metal castings, but 00 gauge components were added at the show. White metal wagons came along and by 1962 there were eight in the range. These still feature in the South Eastern Finecast catalogues.

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Bob Wills’ story and his success in the white metal business has been documented elsewhere in this book, but as far as trains are concerned, Bob’s first loco kit was launched at the October 1955 Model Railway Show. He had started with 0 gauge white metal castings, but 00 gauge components were added at the show. White metal wagons came along and by 1962 there were eight in the range. These still feature in the South Eastern Finecast catalogues.

Bob’s first wagon kit pre-dated the K’s release, but it wasn’t until 1959 that his first two locomotives appeared. By 1964 22 locos were in the range, with a preference for southern and Great Western prototypes.

During the period up to 1980 new releases dropped, but the fine definition of Bob’s kits was now well known and popular. Through this time Bob chose to develop the manufacturing operations as a separate company, known as Industrial Display Company Limited, with him as Managing Director. Whilst this remained the structure for the Wills Scenic Series until 1997, the Wills Finecast range of rolling stock was transferred to South Eastern Finecast in June 1988. By acquiring the Stephen Poole range of wheels, and developing a nickel silver chassis kit for his loco kits, Bob ensured that Wills were still at the forefront of innovation in this field.

The need to upgrade the loco range with etched metal components, and to develop the Scenic Series in a totally different media, led Bob to pass over the business to Dave Ellis, and South Eastern Finecast then carried on the same traditions. The company was sold in April 1997, but Bob Wills remained a frequent visitor to Dave Ellis in Forest Row.

By March 1999, all Wills Scenic Series production was moved to the Ratio factory at Buckfastleigh, which meant that Wills had become a part of Peco.

With the acquisition by Dave Ellis of Wills, the development work associated with incorporating etched nickel silver chassis, re-engineering the twenty year old kit components, and entirely new kits began. Dave used a network of people to assist with design, which included Alistair Rolfe of Modeltec and Paul Vine of Precision Miniature Arts. Paul was originally one of Dave’s Saturday lads working in the shop. Ray Rogers became involved in the mid 1990s, and by 1999 Alistair Rolfe had launched his own range called No Nonsense Kits.

Ron Goult of Little Engines established a working relationship with Dave which entailed Goult redesigning kits for Dave, whilst Dave cast the Little Engines range.

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