Hartland Locomotive Works (HLW) unashamedly announces on their website that they are “Proudly made in the USA since 1995.” Their patriotism and passion show in the quality and attention to detail in every one of their high quality and affordable G-scale locomotives, rolling stock, coaches, freight cars and cabooses, designed to run on 1 gauge track.
Every piece is designed, manufactured, assembled, painted and packaged in LaPorte, Indiana. Originally the Kalamazoo Toy Train Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Kenneth (Ken) W. Coates Jr bought the company in 1995 and moved it to LaPorte, where he renamed it Hartland. According to his daughter, Becky, he just loved model railroading, and when the opportunity to buy a toy train company that was going out of business came along, he didn't hesitate. To enhance his new venture, he also bought some tooling from Delton Trains, of Michigan.
Ken Coates founded Kenco Plastics in 1972, and injection molding company. Hartland Locomotive Works really was a perfect fit for the company that is a major producer of engineered plastic components. HLW has been located at Kenco's corporate office in LaPorte ever since, but all of its products are sold through the dealer network across the US.
It's easy to see how passionate Mr. Coates was about toy trains! One need only look at the prominent photo on the history page of the HLW website. There is Ken sitting aboard the tender of a beautiful 15” gauge (I believe) garden locomotive with pure joy on his face. Such is the detail in the train he is sitting in that it almost makes the viewer think it's a full size train and he's a giant!
Hartland Locomotive Works trains are very high quality, with an artist's eye for detail and an engineer's passion for durability and operation. The engines used in their locomotives are solid and reliable industrial-grade, high-torque, long-life DC electric motors. The bodies of the engines and cars are all injection-molded out of UV-stablilized ABS plastic, making them very durable and ideal for outdoor use.
HLW manufactures about 200 different products at any one time. New products are continually added, while other are phased out. While they used to build track, as well, they have dropped that out of production to focus on locomotives, cars and parts.
Hartland prides itself on quality, and this can be seen even in the smaller details. For pieces such as boiler hand rails, whistles, safety valves, flag pole pockets, etc, they use solid brass, rather than easily damaged plastic. All the painting is done on site in their own paint booth by Greg, and every HLW product is assembled by Suzie, Maria and Rosalba.
The company also offers personal support for the customers, openly publishing their phone number so that Phil Jensen can answer questions regarding anything to do with parts, service and any other questions about the products, themselves. That is truly amazing, today!
Hartland's signature engine is The Big John, an engine of tremendous power for the toy train industry, able to pull many cars at once. It is a popular feature of the Taltree Arboretum & Gardens' award winning garden railway in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Sadly, Ken left us in June of 2005, but Hartland Locomotive Works continues to be a family business and carries on the tradition of passion, pride and made in America quality. HLW is still the only toy train brand made exclusively in the USA.