PGP, the train sets of three Italian mechanics

PGP, the train sets of three Italian mechanics

Le Pulci
(Dedicated to Daniel Tuffery)

due a-mici
THE “Marché aux Puces de St Ouen”, the largest and most famous of the three flea markets of Paris is divided in turn into several “markets” of which each has its own characteristics.
In one of the oldest and most authentic, the Marché Jules Vallès ….

….  until a few months ago it was the stand of a longtime friend, Daniel Tuffery …

… .specialized in old toys.

Unfortunately, Daniel has been missing at the beginning of this year and since then no longer I went to Jules Vallés because I would tighten my heart to see his stand ….

… empty or occupied by others.

With his white beard, his garish ties and his monumental braces, this man, at first glance a bit gruff, he was a connoisseur of miniature cars and  … vintage trains.
Often on his stand it appeared written or cartoons, such as “…. I bet you will tell me that is cheaper on the Internet .. “or” … . all that money for a tin train that I had when I was young … “
You could meet not only collectors, but people of all kinds …

Magic Face
Artists and directors and writers when they needed  vintage toys for their films turned to him.
He had his delusions, such as the display of cars and trains with all its other criteria, at times, for example, by color ….

Was particularly appreciated by Pierre Fernandez Arman … ..

…. that charged him years ago to find , for example, 15 patterns of red Ferrari all identical and of very precise dimensions for one of its particular compositions ….

… Or in ’94 brought him 250 cars all green for a composition entitled “Embouteillage Ecologique” (ecological bottling).
Since I met Daniel Tuffery, always attentive, professional and active in research, he has contributed not only to my collection of trains, but also to my knowledge.
In January 1992, during one of my Sunday visits to his stand, I saw for the first time a strange propelled tin green two axes with spring charging …

When I asked , Daniel replied that it was a railcar PGP and that he would explain me better what it was during the lunch .
Every time I visited him, we used to go there for lunch au “La Pericole “

… .in front of Jules Vallés.
That day, while blaring songs of Brel and Brassens ….

… Amused ..I listened with growing interest the strange story of PGP.

In the immediate post-war, were working as maintenance workers in a mine near Lille ….

… three young Italian mechanics all three named Giuseppe,


but nicknamed Papi, Geronimo and Paride.

Papi was the oldest, was a bit stocky, wore a beard and mustache, Geronimo


owed his nickname to his passion for westerns, Paride however, besides being the most handsome of the three, corresponded with an Italian girl named Elena ….

Elena e Paride
The three friends, inveterate bachelors,  and nicknamed by all “PGP trio”, finished the work week, and as very few opportunities for recreation in the northern mining ….
…. so sad that even the gray channels, as sung by Brel, lost, or even hang themselves in the gray sky ….
So the three friends had taken the habitude of coming once a month in Paris.

Arriving at the Gare du Nord ….

… with the express of Lille, often in tow of the mighty Hudson 232 designed by Marc de Caso … ..

…  staying in a room of Faubourg St Dénis and attended the nearby Pigalle district.

Moulin Rouge

All three had in common the passion for trains and were attracted to the toy stores and models at that time in all districts of the city.
They stopped to watch the trains in the windows, sometimes came, but they could not afford to purchase them.
One day, talking to the manager of the shop “au Pélican” (to which we referred in the article on La Maison des Trains),


given that at the era did not exist in France in economic scale model trains HO / OO affordable for all budgets, they had the idea of ​​asking if the store was interested in buying a piece of material.
The answer was negative, but their party referred them to two of the neighborhood toy stores. Evidently the shopkeeper had thought it would be useful for the development of its activity creating potential customers that would begin with buying cheap train and then ….
they provided to the two stores a first sample, dealt with the price asked in advance to buy the basic tools, they founded a small company whose name has been lost in the gray sky of the north and they began to produce small mechanical railcars using sheet iron scraps.
Soon these “contraptions” were called “PGP railcars” although I believe that such a mark was never officially existed.
According to the story of Daniel, the three had shared the tasks and: Papi took care of drawings and lamination blanking, Geronimo of the mechanical part, Paride assembly and painting.
Maintained their habitude to travel to Paris once a month,

can can

but also by transporting large suitcases full of trains, and, without giving up attending Pigalle, they turned to toy stores to sell railcars and trams “PGP”.
I do not think that ever existed catalogs or brochures.
I know six models around, but, obviously, I can not exclude the existence of other PGP trains.

Examination of bodies of railcars and trams … ..

…. it is seen that, for their assembly, were used in all but eight different parts, made of sheet sliced ​​and deep drawn, all assembled with tabs.
All railcars … ..

… except the one articulated ….

…. They are constituted of only two different parts: the sides, which, apart from the hole for the key, are the same

Paguro eremita

and the roof which forms a single piece with the front.

There are two versions


of the spring mechanism ….

… Both with one forward gear and locking lever.
The wheels, first metal then plastic, were linked together, in the most recent versions, a coupling rod.

Even the trailer structure is very simple …

The same applies for the two models of tramway know that: the first, equipped with trolley ….

… .fixed to the roof with two rivets …

… The second with a pantograph in iron wire ….

… like to that of the “electric driving” …

After purchasing from Daniel


the first green railcar, looking deeply this material, I have also found a complete package … ..

… Which includes a circle of rails with cross bars in cardboard ….

… .on which the red railcar with its trailer can stretch their clattering wheels and wriggling ….

All PGP material …

…simple, robust, cheap and made to play, it has now become quite rare because at the era was certainly not considered worthy of being collected.
If you can find in a flea market or a junk shop, remember then, Papi, Geronimo and Paride, the three Italian mechanics who are at the origin, and my old friend Daniel Tuffery without whom I certainly could not tell their story .

NB. The magnificent 232 U1 designed in 1938 by Marc de Caso and said, “The Divine” (yes, she has a nickname !!) is preserved in the “Cité du Train de Mulhouse”.


and now read something about

Pierre Fernandez Arman


(@ may 11, 2016)