Rare BRIO Wooden Railway Items: 80's and 90's vintage
There are a number of hard-to-find items in the BRIO Wooden Railway system. eBay actually makes for a pretty good litmus test for what qualifies as "rare" and it's probably fair to describe an item as such if it only turns up for sale a few times a year. In this article, however, we look at the really rare items from BRIO from the 80's and 90's: the products that are more than just scarce, and are practically never seen at all. These are the rarest of the rare.
Note that I am specifically excluding promotional and other non-catalog items, and taking a U.S-centric view by also excluding products that were not available in the U.S. market. That's a lot of caveats, but the line must be drawn somewhere.
Also note that "rare" does not necessarily imply "in demand". While the two generally do go hand in hand, it is not always the case.
This set consists of the rare, red electric engine with pantographs, three tipping trucks, and the hopper. The individual components are actually not all that hard to find, except perhaps for the engine, and conceivably one could build it by assembling the appropriate parts.
The goods shed appears in the 1980-81 BRIO consumer catalog and is described as a "goods shed with loading platform". The platform consists of two wooden ramps which are the same ones found in the Railway Station (as #3367 / 31405-67 and #33367, and its mid-90's successor #33378). It disappeared from the Wooden Railway lineup in 1982 or '83.
Arguably one of the least attractive of the vintage BRIO train sets, the passenger train consisted of the classic BRIO steam engine and three tall, box-shaped cars with black roofs. The featureless styling, strange proportions, and lack of any graphics such as the windows found on #3310 / 31405-31 meant that this train looked even less like a passenger train than #3316 / 31405-30 which also carried the same name. Not one of BRIO's better efforts, and probably one reason why there are so few in circulation.
This set consists of a yellow dumptruck with green bed, a green trailer, a blue car with a red trailer, and lumber and cargo loads. It first appeared in 1987 and was in catalogs through 1992. Despite this relatively long life, it is the rarest of the vehicle sets.
Consisting of a quay, crane, barge with white wheelhouse and a tugboat with black and yellow smokestack, the Small Harbour appeared in 1988 and was last seen in 1991. It's bigger brother, the #33210 Harbour Set, got a great deal more love. Both the barge and the tug are unique to this set, though the barge would reappear with new graphics in 1995.
This is the same truck from the 1987 Trucks & Cars set #33520. The truck had two variations over it's lifespan: one with three grooves for the grill, and one with just two (these had slight different styling for the truck bed, as well). Why was the truck released as a separate product? Probably toy reuse. The Trucks & Cars set had only two unique pieces: the red trailer and the truck. For whatever reason, BRIO probably ended up with more of the latter than the former, and rather than waste the extra parts the truck was likely spun off as its own product.
The #33414 Steam Engine without its tender, painted light blue instead of black. Another short-lived oddity from BRIO that was probably a result of parts reuse. The #33414 Steam Engine consisted of two components: the engine and the coal tender. The Western Set used the tender but not the engine, leaving BRIO with some number of steam engines with no tender. What to do? Paint the engines a different color and sell them as #33429.
This train had three unusual components: the BRIO classic engine #33610 entirely in red, and two wagons with plastic trays, one yellow and one blue. The plastic tray wagons woud find new homes in starter sets and the #33509 Cargo Train, and the red engine would return, with a matching red tender, with ELCR markings in a UK set made for the Early Learning Centre.
The rarest of the Trains of the World collection, and amazingly rare in general despite having been in production for several years. The X2000 is modeled after the Swedish X2000 high-speed tilting train. Either its aesthetics did not resonate with the public, or it was not widely distributed (or, perhaps, a little of both). The end result is that this is a really hard find, and an even harder one if you want the box.
The only BRIO track to make this list, the Middle Straight track bearing the track ID A3 is the 72mm straight piece that was manufactured from 1998 through about 2000 or 2001. This is probably the only real tragedy on this list, as a track that is one-half the length of the A track (the straight track that is also the base length for switches) is desperately needed in the BRIO system.
Only distributed outside of the U.K. this was the alternative to the U.K.-exclusive Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends Windmill, #32481. This version had brown sails, detached wooden steps, and came with a blue, plastic figure. The Thomas and Friends Windmill used the same sails, only made with green plastic instead of brown, but had a rotating, two-piece body.
Even rarer than a #33382 Windmill is a #33382 Windmill with undamaged sails. Like its U.K. counterpart the sails are easily bent. The odd shape of the building made it difficult to store properly, and all but guaranteed that the sails will eventually be damaged. Almost every used windmill, assuming you can find one (which you probably can't), has stress lines in the plastic.
These items are fairly rare, but do turn up a few times each year (either intact or in part) on eBay.
3313 / 31405-33 Express Train (year unknown)
33578 City Park (year unknown)
33320 Minicars (rimmed wheels, 1987)
33240 Hospital (1988)
33275 Prairie (1989 or 90)
33270 Western (1989 or 90)
33366 Big Engine Shed (1991?)