Dapol's name is a play on its founders David and Pauline Boyle's names. He owned a model concern Highfield Birds & Models. In 1981 he first tried to buy the Airfix and Mainline ranges.
The Dapol brand name was first used in a Railway Modeller advert of September 1983. The first Dapol wagons (for OO) were announced to become available on the 20th November 1983. From 1 March 1984 ex Airfix railway kits became available.
Later in the year the Railway Modeller carried a two page profile of the new concern with the upbeat title An exciting new model empire. A lot of David Boyle's background was explored. Some of Dapol's ambitions were frustrated. That article said that the Austerity 2-8-0 and the LMS Beyer Garratt were both under development for 1985 but they never appeared from Dapol. However the L&YR Pug, the Austerity 0-6-0ST and the GWR Hawksworth County which were announced early in 1984 were all produced promptly, well reviewed and have had long model lives. At this time the operation was headquartered in Navigation Road, Northwich.
It was announced in the Railway Modeller of February 1989 that Dapol had bought the former Trix/British Liliput range from Ernest Rosza. The Dapol 1989 catalogue also showed that the Model-Land building range had been bought.
In 1994, while the company was moving to its previous location at Llangollen in North Wales, a huge fire destroyed the old site at Northwich in Cheshire, and large quantities of products and historical Wrenn material were destroyed.
In 1998 the company came under the control of a new board of directors headed by George Smith, who retired on 1 October 2010. The company remains in the ownership of the Boyle family who founded the company.
In 2001 Dapol sold the little-exploited Wrenn product line (bought in 1993 from Wrenn) and trading name to three Wrenn collectors.
From 1988-2001 Dapol also produced a wide range of Doctor Who action figures. In 2002 the BBC declined to renew the license. The Dapol site also hosted the 'BBC Doctor Who Experience' exhibition until 2003.
In 2004 Dapol were awarded the 'UK Small Business of the Year' award.
In 2007 Dapol were awarded the Model Rail (magazine) 'N-gauge Manufacturer of the Year' award.
In 2010 Dapol were awarded the Model Rail (magazine) 'N-gauge manufacturer of the year', 'Best N gauge steam loco of the year' (Terrier), 'Best N-gauge Diesel locomotive of the year' (class 67), Best N-gauge Rolling Stock of the year (MK3 coach) making a 'clean sweep' for all the awards for N gauge.
In 2010, following the retirement of previous MD George Smith, Dapol welcomed a new managing director, Joel Bright, a director for the previous eight years and uncle of the current owner, Craig Boyle.
Dapol manufactures a growing range of N gauge locomotives, coaches and wagons, and is the main competitor of Graham Farish in the British 'ready-to-run' market. Continuous improvement in model specifications has led to the introduction of 40:1 gearing in locomotive drive mechanisms, NEM couplings on all stock, and LED lighting strips for coaching stock (yellow for 'older' coaches, to represent incandescent illumination, and white for more modern coaches and EMUs to represent fluorescent fittings).
In 00 gauge, Dapol manufactures ready-to-run locomotives, wagons and kits.
Kits are moulded in grey plastic (polystyrene) and the range features buildings, road vehicles, wagons and locos. Some of the kits use moulds bought in 1993 from the Airfix company, some of which in turn originated with Kitmaster prior to being bought by Airfix in 1962. Others have come from the Lines Brothers Model-Land range.
The first OO scale locomotives to be entirely originated by Dapol were the L&YR Pug 0-4-0ST, the Austerity 0-6-0ST and GWR County 4-6-0 generated in 1984/5. The next was the LB&SCR Terrier. This was shown in the 1988 catalogue having been announced at the 1987 Toy Fair.
Recently, Dapol has become more well known after producing a track cleaning vehicle, which features motorised cleaning pads and a powerful vacuum cleaner. This wagon is non motorised, but to be used on a DCC layout still requires a decoder to control its motor.
- Ramsay's British Model Trains catalogue edition 6, by Pat Hammond, 2008 p101.
- Railway Modeller magazine September 1983 issue page 6a.
- Railway Modeller magazine advert November 1983 p12a.
- Railway Modeller magazine March 1984 p25a advert.
- Railway Modeller September 1984 p364ff.
- Model Railway Constructor magazine June 1985 page 328 and November 1985 page 565 describe the transition.
- Railway Modeller magazine February 1989 page 91.
- Dapol 1989 catalogue page 50ff where the model are labelled Dapoland.
- Rail Express magazine October 1996 page 65 report.
- Railway Modeller magazine January 1984 issue p40.
- Ramsay's British Model Trains catalogue edition 6, by Pat Hammond, 2008 p102-103
- Model Railway Constructor magazine March 1987 p127.
- Ramsay's British Model Trains catalogue edition 6, by Pat Hammond, 2008 p102.