Working out who makes what for who in China.

ONE OF THE subjects that is always cropping up on forums and e-mail groups, at least on the British and North American lists that have been a member of, is the thorny subject of Chinese model production. More specifically, customers want to know specifically which of the various ready-to-run manufacturers use which East Asian factories.

While the firms involved don’t exactly broadcast the information, it’s all out there in credible places on the Internet for you to find, so I’m not about to broadcast any trade secrets. However, as most threads I’ve seen on the subject seem fairly short of presenting the whole picture, I list some of my findings below, which covers the major US and UK outfits, along with a select few Europeans.

Perhaps the best known of the factories is Sanda Kan Industrial Hong Kong Ltd. Pretty much everyone knows that this is the manufacturer for Hornby and Life-Like Industries, LLC. The latter firm, which has now been taken over by WM. K. Walthers, was one of the first to use China for production and is probably better known to most modellers through its Proto 1000 and Proto 2000 brands. It is unclear if Walthers has continued to use the same facility since the buy out (see below).

As well as the above, Atlas, Intermountain, Red Caboose, Lionel, Brawa and Märklin, all use Sanda Kan, and, of course, the likes of Lima/Rivarossi, Jouef and Electrotren, which all now fall under the Hornby umbrella. Athean has also used them in the past. In fact, things are getting so tight at this factory that some firms are turning elsewhere for non ‘core’ items such as scenic accessories. Check the back of the recent range of Hornby Skale Scenics trees and you’ll see they are made in Vietnam (as are similar items in Bachmann’s range).

Not confirmed is that Roco has also used Sanda Kan for some items in recent years.

Kader Industrial Co. Ltd is obviously the producer of Bachmann USA/Europe/China/etc, Graham Farish, Aristocraft, Williams, Woodland Scenics, DPM, Lilliput and Tenshodo, at its Guandong (China)-based factory, while another Hong Kong-based firm, Creative Master Bermuda Ltd., which is part-owned by Tamiya, is the manufacturer for Athearn. The latter is one of their top five customers.

A number of European start-ups have been using Modern Gala Industrial (ShenZhen) Co. Ltd., also in GuangDong. These include ACME, LS Models, RailTop and Alpha-Trains.

Finally, the other big name is Regal Way Co. Ltd. Like most of the others, its head offices are based in Hong Kong, while production is in China proper. This is or was the manufacturer for at least part of the vast WM. K. Walthers range. In the past Walthers has also used Danish company Heljan, but Regal Way now produces most of Heljan’s European trains, along with the latest items (last couple of years) from British manufacturer Dapol.

If you can add to the list, or if you have any corrections, please leave a comment.