The Development of Piers
For today’s story we go down to the seaside. Put on your sun-hat and tuck into that candy floss, while we go for a stroll along the Tri-ang Minic pier!
The first seaside piers were created in the early nineteenth century as bare landing stages giving access by boat to fledgling coastal resorts. It quickly became obvious that people liked the experience of promenading above the sea, and were willing to pay for it.
As the introduction of railways in the middle of that century opened up these resorts to mass tourism, people hungry for entertainment flooded in. Entrepreneurs responded by building an array of piers designed solely for pleasure, and thus piers became an essential part of the holiday experience.
Pleasure piers, as they became known, were increasingly covered with buildings, including toll booths at the landward entrances to collect entrance charges, shelters to provide cover from the elements, and pavilions of various types for entertainment and refreshment. The popularity of piers established during the Victorian era continued and developed into the next century, subsiding only as cheap package holidays tempted away many holidaymakers to resorts overseas where the sun could be guaranteed.
The Minic Pier
A Minic pier is an impressive sight. Predominantly white, but adorned by structures in bright primary colours, it jauntily stretches from the ornate entrance archway past occasional shelters all the way out to the enticing end-of-pier entertainment. On a bright summer day, with a calm sea glittering in the sunlight, who wouldn’t want to take a promenade…
The pier is, in fact, a modular structure which is assembled from component parts including entrance, centre and head sections. See my investigation into the Minic quay for further examples of this modular approach in the Minic range.
A fully assembled Minic pier using a single centre section measures 226mm in length overall. This makes for a represented length of 270 metres, roughly comparable to the current Bournemouth and Eastbourne piers that are both about 300 metres long. The longest pier in the UK is Southend at a whopping 2,158 metres – there is even a train service along it! To build this using Minic parts you would need no fewer than 24 centre sections…
The Pier Building
The focal point of any visit to a pier is the end-of-pier entertainment building. Historically, such buildings have contained theatres, restaurants and cafes, dance halls and amusement arcades. So, what does the Minic Pier Building have to offer?
Tri-ang Minic M852 Pier Building
Year first produced: 1960
L58 x W28 x H19, Metal 33g, Scale 1:1200, Features: 0
The pier building is a three-part mazak casting, consisting of the main structure, roof and dome. Each part is painted before assembly – the dome silver, the roof blue, and the building white, with side canopies that are sometimes painted yellow. The dome has a shank that slots through the other two parts and is secured from below with a locking washer, thus holding the assembly tightly together. It is finished with transfer lettering on the front and rear, and underneath are the usual Minic identification marks.
The building is intended for fun. At the front (landward) end there is an open entrance for the crowds of holidaymakers to enter, presumably for the advertised dancing. In the centre of the roof, no doubt above the dance floor, sits a raised structure – maybe an area of glass windows to provide illumination and ventilation? The far end of the building curves outwards, and one imagines the diners at the restaurant situated there sitting and looking out to sea through large windows. Along the sides an overhanging canopy provides shelter from the sun or rain for those dining al fresco or simply taking the air.
Victorian pier buildings were often exotic and oriental in appearance, and the tradition has lingered a little with the silvered dome, arched facade and decorative turrets. As far as I know, the model does not copy an actual building, but it may have drawn some inspiration from the theatre built on Bournemouth pier in 1960.
Now of course, as the building is part of the Minic modular harbour range, you can locate it on a harbour quay if you like, where it will serve quite happily! But the building is intended to sit comfortably on top of an M849 Pier Head, which also provides a landing stage area where customers can join pleasure cruises.
From Pleasure to Work…
The story of the pier building is not quite done yet. I find it slightly amazing that Minic in their wisdom decided to repurpose it. After all, what other use could you put such an exotic and unusual structure to? Well, obviously, a factory. Say again? Yes, a factory. The M853 Factory Building was created by simply replacing the dome of the pier building with a squat tower surmounted by a tall plastic chimney.
Needless to say, the end result is not very convincing. This is no grimy anonymous dockside factory, especially given the rather fancy pink and beige colour scheme. It’s obviously a building meant to impress, and so perhaps it could pass as a rather prestigious one-off Art Deco show factory-cum-headquarters building?
To build a ‘standard’ Minic pier, you will want one or more of the following:
- M847 Pier Centre Section
- M848 Pier Entrance Section
- M849 Pier Head
- M850 Shelter
- M851 Entrance Archway
- M852 Pier Building
M850-M852 are not listed in Minic price lists, and are always illustrated in catalogues as part of their ‘parent’ components M847-M849. Thus, they may not have been for sale separately.
To carry holidaymakers on tourist cruises from the landing stage at the end of the pier, Minic provided three paddle-steamers: M728 PS Britannia, M729 PS Bristol Queen and M730 PS Cardiff Queen. Paddle-steamers were widely used for the purpose, being manoeuvrable shallow-draft vessels. As usual, a single casting is used, only the name and finish varies.