Collecting Hornby Model Trains

For many decades the Hornby model railway brand has been the stand out name amongst model train firms. Hornby trains may not necessarily be the most detailed of items, or the best built, but they have survived the test of time, and today the firm is still making their Hornby railways whilst many of their competitors are no more.

-The History of Hornby Railways

Hornby railways has its roots back to the start of the twentieth century when Frank Hornby started producing Meccano, a line that then developed into Dinky Toys as well. In the early years Mecanno was producing construction toys but by 1920 the firm produced its first 0 Gauge model, powered by clockwork and associated springs. Five years later an electric locomotive was produced, a rarity for that time. These trains were still produced under the Meccano brand and are highly sought after by Hornby collectors, even more highly desired though is the range of US Hornby models that were very short lived, being manufactured from 1927 to 1930.

Hornby trains have always been very British in style, and have focused on the classic British locomotives for their toolings. As the Second World War approached Hornby decided to focus on their core area of knowledge but rather than continue with O Gauge, Hornby railways began to focus on OO gauge models, and so in 1938 Hornby Dublo models were born. Still made from tinplate the new gauge though enabled a greater level of detail and accuracy to be manufactured in the Hornby trains.

Following the Second World War though Hornby struggled to regain their popularity and they were overtaken by firms such as Triang, who were making greater use of plastic. Slow on the uptake of new technology, Hornby railways were soon seen to be very old fashioned and out of touch with what was wanted by the market place. Triang were in a dominant position and brought out Hornby although thankfully the Hornby name remained with the creation of Triang Hornby.

Triang itself though was having financial difficulties and in 1971 it went into bankruptcy, although Hornby was saved through its purchase by Dunbee-Combex-Marx, but difficult times were ahead. At this time that Hornby had to increase its quality and complexity to compete although further financial problems were ahead when the new parent company went into receivership in 1980.

From the dark days of the 1980s, Hornby Hobbies, as it became known, survived potential destruction to once again become the major name in model railways in the United Kingdom. To remain competitive though it was forced to move production to China, and although not popular at the time it did see an improvement in the quality of Hornby trains and accessories.

Hornby railways have increased their range in recent years through the acquisition of other model railway firms which has seen elements of Dapol, all of Lima, Jouef, Arnold and Rivarossi brought into the Hornby family.

-Hornby Railways and the Enthusiast

There is a great deal of choice for the Hornby collector today, many people look to original Hornby Dublo models, or even older Hornby O Gauge models. Many Hornby railways enthusiasts though look to create their own miniature world, and it is something that Hornby caters for. The Hornby range is so widespread that it would be impossible to collect everything that has ever been manufactured by the firm. Today most people like to show off their Hornby railways by creating a layout, and Hornby manufacture the locomotives, carriages and rolling stock to make a working layout. Hornby though also manufacture the details to make the layouts more real. For HO scale layouts there is the Skaledale line that produces vehicles, houses and every other imaginable accessory to make the layout more lifelike. The Lyddle End range does a similar job for N Gauge layouts.

Those interested in just the trains also have been provided with themes to collect, with recent releases including the popular Thomas the Tank Engine range, Harry Potter, and the Railway Children. Traditional locomotives have also been recently enhanced, and detailed British steam locomotives of days gone by are now increasingly popular, and the Hornby Flying Scotsman is a big favourite amongst Hornby collectors.

Hornby today has much in common with the original Meccano firm, and recent acquisitions have seen it bring the Corgi, Airfix, Scalectric and Humbrol brands into the family. No longer is Hornby just about Hornby Dublo and Hornby trains, and now encompasses the collectible car range, the model making range, and the track racing enthusiasts.

The growth in the internet has been a boon to those looking to collect Hornby trains, and now Hornby Dublo model trains on eBay are common place. The internet certainly makes it easy to look at a wide range of models in one place. Many collectors of Hornby railways though much prefer to go to collectors’ fairs and swapmeets where it is possible to see and feel the models before purchasing. Of course the fact that Hornby are still manufacturing model trains, with such models as the Hornby Flying Scotsman, means that new models can be purchased in many stockists on the High Street.