Monthly Archives: September 2016

Review: Hornby Santa’s Express Train Set

r1185_santas_express_2015_3d_box

 

OK, now I’m going to break one of my own rules and cover an item which definitely falls under the category of ‘toy train’ rather than ‘model railway’; but since, at the time of writing (October), it’s now less than 3 months until Christmas (!), it seems a good time to mention something which might make a nice addition to the usual Christmas presents!

The “Santa’s Express” Christmas train set includes an 0-4-0 tank locomotive, a green open wagon containing a moulded representation of a selection of presents, and a brown LWB (Long Wheel-Base) closed van marked “REINDEER IN TRANSIT”, together with a circle of track and a simple controller.

As Hornby’s own blurb says, “The ultimate Christmas decoration. Santa’s special train includes his very own steam engine, a wagon full of presents and a closed van in which he keeps his reindeer. The spritely little engine, with its colourful seasonal livery, is more than capable of pulling such an important train around the base of your Christmas tree, delivering seasonal cheer on the circle of track included in this set.”

It’s obviously  not based on a particular prototype or set in a particular region or era, although the loco is based on the GWR Class 101 tank: this was a one-off experimental  0-4-0 side-tank locomotive, built at GWR Swindon Works in 1901. It was the only one ever built and it remained at Swindon Works for the whole of its working life, where it was used as a works shunter until it was withdrawn and scrapped in 1911.

Hornby have produced various versions over many years. The model is currently available (as of September 2016) in the train set R1180 ‘Postal Express’ with two carriages and a loop of track, and in the R2670 ‘Railroad GWR Freight’ pack complete with three wagons (both covered in our main “Choosing a Hornby Train Set’ post. It’s also currently available in a fictional ‘Rothery Industries’ livery [Hornby Item No. R3359].

Coming back to the ‘Santa’s Express’ set, the red and gold livery actually quite suits the “spritely little engine”! Hornby suggest that you could have this running around under the Christmas tree; or it might make a good ‘novelty’ present as a first introduction to model railways! Alternatively, if you already have a model railway layout you might like to have this running around during the festive season, as light relief amongst all the ‘serious’ model trains!

r1185_xmas_tree

The ‘Santa Express’ train set is currently available direct from Hornby, on eBay, from various other retailers or from Amazon:

Hornby have also recently released the 2017 Hornby Christmas wagon (Item Code R6825). This is similar to the open wagon included in the Santa’s Express set: a green wagon, full of presents, with “Merry Christmas 2017” and the Hornby logo on the side. This would make either a nice addition to the Santa’s set, to make a slightly longer train, or could just be included as a ‘fun’ item in any other train!

This is currently showing as ‘out of stock’ on the Hornby website, but it is available from Amazon:

 

The ‘Rothery Industries’ version of the GWR Class 101 tank is available here:

No full Hornby Catalogue for 2016?

 

In previous years Hornby have produced a full size, detailed catalogue containing pictures and details of all of their currently available products, including all the rolling stock, track, accessories, controllers and also the ‘Skaledale’ range of buildings. However they have confirmed that for 2016 (and, presumably, future years too) they will NOT be producing a full catalogue. Instead they have produced the ‘Hornby Handbook 2016’ [Hornby Item No. R8153].

This is a ‘bookazine’, roughly the same size as the monthly Hornby magazine, and a ‘softback’ rather than a hardback book. It runs to 140 pages, and does contain some details of all the new releases for 2016, but not all the items which were introduced in previous years but are still available.

It does also contain various articles, including some on subjects like building baseboards, laying track and ballasting which would be useful for beginners, so it may be a worthwhile purchase in itself; but it has caused a storm of protests (not least on the forum on Hornby’s own website!) because many people consider that it’s a poor substitute for a full catalogue.

To add insult to injury, at the Model Rail Scotland exhibition in Glasgow in February, Bachmann were giving away free copies of their full 2016 catalogue (normally selling for about £8) but Hornby were still charging for their Yearbook! (I don’t know whether the same applied at more recent exhibitions.)

Many modellers have built up a collection of Hornby catalogues spanning many years, so they are disappointed that there won’t be one for 2016. Old Hornby catalogues in mint condition can fetch a good price on eBay (even more so for original Triang, Hornby-Dublo or Triang-Hornby catalogues)!

Hornby have now produced a much smaller ‘catalogue’, in an “easy reference pamphlet style” [Hornby Item No. R8151]: A5 landscape (approx. 21cm x 15cm), 114 pages.
This only shows details of the new models released in 2016. This was originally intended to only be available to dealers, but they do seem to have listened to the complaints and it is now available to the general public: it can be ordered from Amazon here or various other dealers, although apparently some dealers are giving them away free.

So it remains to be seen whether Hornby will relent and produce a full catalogue for 2017, or just a ‘Hornby Handbook 2017’ and a ‘mini-catalogue’ of new 2017 releases…

CHOOSING AND BUYING A HORNBY TRAIN SET

A Hornby train set is probably still the most common entry point to the wonderful hobby of railway modelling, at least for UK outline trains. But Hornby have a wide range of train sets, from the “Caledonian Belle” (simple oval of track, small tank engine, one coach and one wagon, analogue control) retailing at around £50 right up to the mighty “The Majestic” (double oval of track, two trains, digital control) retailing at around £400.

So (apart from price) how do you decide which one to buy? Or alternatively, if you’ve just been given a train set (or you’ve bought one for a young relative and you’re planning to ‘help’ them to develop it!), how do you decide what sort of layout to develop?

Well, one way that might help is to consider the context – the period and region that each train set is supposed to represent. This will give you an idea of whether that’s the sort of layout you want to build up. So let’s take a look at some of the train sets currently available:

PART 1: ANALOGUE TRAIN SETS

NOTE: These all include a simple ‘analogue’ DC (Direct Current) train controller, which uses 12 Volts DC and controls the speed of the train by varying the power supplied to the track.
Many (but not all) of the locomotives included in these analogue train sets are labelled as ‘DCC ready’: this means that they are not fitted with a DCC chip, but they are fitted with a socket ready to take a DCC chip, if you decide to convert to DCC later.

(See Part 2 for digital (DCC) train sets.)


Hornby “Caledonian Belle” Train Set
[Hornby Item Code: R1157]

Hornby-R1151-caledonian-belle-3d-boxThis includes a small 0-4-0 tank engine in blue ‘Caledonian Railways’ livery, one 4-wheel coach and one open wagon. Hornby’s own blurb for this set says, “The halcyon days of British Railways were at their best when the numerous small branch lines criss-crossed the British countryside linking the small towns to the outside world. This Caledonian Belle set emulates these small local trains…” So this is supposedly set in “Era 4” (early British Railways, 1948 – 1956), but the “Caledonian Railways” liveries of the engine and coach (although ‘freelance’ and only loosely based on actual prototypes) would set it in “Era 2” (pre-Grouping, 1875 – 1922). Either way, it is meant to be in rural Scotland. So this would be an ideal basis for a classic branch line layout, with short passenger trains and ‘pick up’ good trains.

The Caledonian Belle set is (at the time of writing) not currently available direct from Hornby,


West Coast Highlander

[Hornby Item Code: R1157]

Hornby R1157-west-coast-highlander-set-3d-box

This is similar to the Caledonian Belle set: it includes the same 0-4-0 tank engine, but this time in “WCR” (West Coast Railways) livery, and four wagons (two open wagons, one closed van and a petrol tank wagon). Again, in terms of location it is set in rural Scotland, but more specifically on the West Highland line. This set includes a point, extra track and a buffer stop to add a siding, which as Hornby’s description says “will provide users with an extra degree of operational interest as wagons have to be shunted to and fro to allow them to be dropped off and picked up…” So this would make an ideal basis for a Scottish branch line layout with the emphasis on goods traffic, with lots of shunting.

In terms of period, this could also be set in “Era 4” (early British Railways, 1948 – 1956), although the ‘private livery’ of the loco is a bit anachronistic. There never was a pre-Grouping “West Coast Railways” company but there is a real present-day “West Coast Railways” company, which operates special trains for charter and rail trips, such as the steam-hauled ‘Jacobite Express’ from Fort William to Mallaig – and the ‘Hogwarts Express’ in the Harry Potter films! They are based in Carnforth MPD (Motive Power Depot) in Lancashire. They do have their own “WCR maroon” livery and they do operate a fleet of diesel and steam locomotives but unfortunately this does not include an ex-CR 0-4-0 ‘pug’!

Another advantage of this as a ‘starter’ set is that it also includes an assortment of lineside accessories : telegraph poles, loading gauge, platelayers’ hut, water pump, etc. – which all help to make the transition from a basic ‘train set’ to a more realistic ‘model railway layout’.

The West Coast Highlander train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby.

 


Hornby “Country Flyer” Train Set

r1188_country_flyer_3d_box

[Hornby Item Code R1188]

Hornby have just announced the new ‘Country Flyer’ train set – just in time to get one for Christmas! This set includes an 0-4-0 steam tank locomotive, an open wagon, a 4-wheel passenger coach, an oval of track, and a Hornby R8250 standard analogue (DC) controller.

Hornby’s own description of this train set says “The halcyon days of British Railways were epitomised by numerous small branch lines and light railways that criss-crossed the countryside. The Country Flyer set embraces those small local trains

The blue ‘E&GR’ livery of the loco is supposed to represent the “Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway”. The E&GR started running in 1842 between its Glasgow station (now Glasgow Queen Street) and Haymarket in Edinburgh, and it existed until 1865 when it was absorbed by the North British Railway, which in turn became part of the LNER in 1923. The main line of the E&GR still exists and is still in use; it has been upgraded over the years, including electrification, and still carries regular trains between the two cities.

The 0-4-0 tank is modelled on the GWR Class 101 side tank loco. This loco crops up in the Hornby range in various guises: it is currently available in the fictitious ‘Rothery Industries’ livery, and it has been available in various liveries in the past, including Hornby Collector’s Club limited editions.
(In real life there was only ever one Class 101 loco built and it spent its entire working life at GWR’s Swindon works; and it wasn’t built until 1901, long after the E&GR ceased to exist as such. So it would never have been seen in Scotland or painted in E&GR livery; but ‘Rule 1’* applies!)
*Rule 1: It’s my world and my railway and I’ll run what I like!

The short 4-wheel coach also crops up in other versions: it’s currently available in the ‘Caledonian Belle’ train set in Caledonian Railway blue livery. The wagon is an open wooden-sided ‘private owner’ wagon in green ‘Uplands Timber Co. Ltd’ livery.

The E&GR livery (and the antiquated coach!) place this set in Victorian times, in the period 1842 – 1865, so this train set would theoretically be suitable for a layout set in ‘Era 1’ (‘Pioneering’, 1804 – 1875), located somewhere in the ‘central belt’ of Scotland, between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The colourful liveries of the loco, wagon and coach might make this an attractive starter set for a youngster, but the shortage of other Victorian era models would make it difficult for a beginner to develop a full layout set in those times.

The Hornby Country Flyer train set is (at the time of writing) available from Hornby for £74.99,


Postal Express Train set

[Hornby Item Code: R1180]

Hornby-R1180-Postal-Express-set-3d-box

This includes a GWR (Great Western Railway) side tank loco (in green GWR livery), a TPO coach and a clerestory ‘support’ coach, both in “Western Night Mail” livery. This set also includes a point, extra track and a buffer stop to make a siding.

The TPO coach features working collection and delivery of mail bags (a protruding net scoops the bag off a trackside hook and the bag is then delivered into a trackside receiving bin), so there is some ‘play value’ in this set as well.

Hornby’s description says “Before the development of the British motorway system millions of letters were shipped from town to town by railway. Many of these mail trains travelled at night and included a TPO (Travelling Post Office) coach in which bags of letters were collected, sorted and then dropped off in bags at the relevant stations along the route.” (As immortalised in the classic 1936 documentary film ‘Night Mail’ featuring the ‘Night Mail’ poem by W H Auden – although that featured an LMS mail train from London to Scotland rather than a GWR mail train.)

The GWR livery places this set in the ‘Grouping’ era (Era 2, 1923 – 1947). The GWR mail trains ran from London to the South West, as far as Penzance, so this could be the basis for a GWR layout set in Devon or Cornwall, perhaps with a seaside setting.

(Note: This set is currently shown as ‘Limited Availability’. It can be ordered direct from Hornby and some other outlets but may not be stocked by all the usual sellers.)

The Postal Express train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £89.99.


GWR Passenger Freight set

[Hornby Item Code: R1138]
Hornby -R1138-GWR-passenger-freight-train-set

 

Similar to the Postal Express set, this includes a GWR side tank loco (in green GWR livery), and a point, extra track and a buffer stop to make a siding, but this time with two wagons and a coach to make up a mixed passenger/freight train.

The two wagons are both open wooden-sided ‘private owner’ wagons, in the liveries of “Glenhafod” (red) and “T. Threadgold” (grey), and the coach is a 4-wheel coach in a representation of GWR ‘chocolate and cream’ livery.

Again, the GWR livery places this set in the ‘Grouping’ era (Era 2, 1923 – 1947), so this could be the basis of a GWR layout, set anywhere in GWR territory.

The GWR Passenger Freight train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £89.99.


Blue Rapier Train Set
[Hornby Item Code: R1139]

Hornby_R1139_blue_rapier_3d_boxThis set includes a 3-car set (powered driver trailer, dummy (unpowered) driver trailer and an open coach, all in the distinctive blue ‘Blue Rapier’ livery. The set also includes a point, extra track and a buffer stop to make a siding. Both powered and dummy driving trailers have working lights which change according to the direction of travel.

In contrast to the other ‘period’ train sets, this one is bang up-to-date, set firmly in ‘Era 9’ (the current modern-day, with privatised train operators). The prototype is the Hitachi Class 395 high speed commuter train, introduced in 2009, which is operated on the Southeastern services to London, running on the High Speed 1 line used by the Eurostar Channel Tunnel trains.

This set would therefore be ideal as the basis for a ‘modern image’ layout, set in the present day, located in South-east England.

(Note: This set is currently ‘Limited Availability’ and may now be discontinued.
It is no longer shown on the Hornby website but it can still be ordered from some dealers on eBay and some other outlets, but may not be stocked by all the usual sellers.)


The Flying Scotsman Train Set

[Hornby item Code: R1167]

Hornby-R1167-flying-scotsman-3d-box

This set includes an LNER 4-6-2 locomotive and three LNER teak effect coaches (two LNER composite coaches and one LNER brake coach), with a large oval of track with a siding.
The locomotive is the iconic A1 Class “Flying Scotsman” No. 4472 (probably the most famous locomotive in the world) in LNER apple green livery.

This would be suitable for an LNER layout set on the East Coast Main Line in the 1930s.

The Flying Scotsman train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £159.99.


Master of the Glens Train Set
[Hornby Item Code: R1183]

r1183-master-of-the-glens-800x300x80-3d-boxThis is another set which includes an LNER express locomotive and three LNER teak effect coaches (two LNER composite coaches and one LNER brake coach), with a large oval of track with a siding, but this time the locomotive is the P2 Class “Cock O’ the North” No. 2001 in LNER apple green livery.

These powerful 2-8-2 locomotives were developed to haul the long, heavy LNER express trains over the gruelling last stretch of the East Coast Main Line, from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. They were all given names from Scottish folklore.

This would therefore also be suitable for an LNER layout based on the East Coast Main Line in the 1930s, but set (as the name suggests) in Scotland rather than England.

The Master of the Glens train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £169.99.


Gloucester City Pullman Train Set
[Hornby Item Code: R1177]

r1177-gloucester-city-pullman-800x300x80-3d-box_1This set includes the BR Standard Class 8 No. 71000 ‘Duke of Gloucester’ 4-6-2 (Pacific) locomotive in BR lined green livery, plus 3 Pullman coaches in Pullman umber-and-cream livery, and a large oval (3rd radius) of track with a siding.

The ‘Duke of Gloucester’ was built at BR Crewe Works in 1954, and this plus the BR ‘late crest’ green livery places this in Era x, British Railways 1957 -1964. It was used to haul the boat trains on the North Wales Coast Line between Crewe and Holyhead until 1962, so this set could be used as the basis for a layout set in that area and period. However, this locomotive was preserved and is frequently used on mainline excursions. As Hornby’s description says, this set makes ‘a fair representation of the steam train excursions that are so popular amongst those who wish to rekindle memories of the heady days of opulent train travel’, so you could run this as a ‘steam special’ on a layout set in the present day, almost anywhere in Britain.

The Gloucester City Pullman train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £169.99.


Eurostar e300 Train Set
[Hornby Item Code: R1]

r1176-eurostar-800x300x80-3d-boxThis set includes a 4-car set (powered driver trailer, dummy (unpowered) driver trailer and two centre coaches), all in the new Eurostar blue/grey livery. The set also includes a point, extra track and a buffer stop to make a siding. Both powered and dummy driving trailers have working lights which change according to the direction of travel.

As Hornby’s own description says. “A Eurostar cutting through the Kent countryside heading for the Continent at 300kph is a wonderful sight to behold yet for those on board the feeling of such speed is minimal.

This set is bang up-to-date, set firmly in ‘Era 9’ (the current modern-day, with privatised train operators). The prototype is the Eurostar e300 Class 373 high speed train, recently introduced on services between London and Paris, running on the High Speed 1 line to the Channel Tunnel.

This set would therefore be ideal as the basis for a ‘modern image’ layout, set in the present day, located in South-east England.

The Eurostar train set is (at the time of writing) available from Hornby for £169.99.


Virgin Pendolino Train Set
[Hornby Item Code: R1155]

r1155-virgin-trains-pendolino-3d-boxThis set includes a 4-car set (powered driver trailer, dummy (unpowered) driver trailer, a Standard Open coah and a Standard Buffet coaches), all in the latest Virgin livery which incorporates the Alstom branding as well as the Virgin logo. This set also includes a point, extra track and a buffer stop to make a siding. Both powered and dummy driving trailers have working lights which change according to the direction of travel, and also working tilting mechanism.

This set is also right up-to-date, set firmly in ‘Era 9’ (the current modern-day, with privatised train operators). The prototype is the Class390 electric high speed train, using Fiat Ferroviaria’s tilting train Pendolino technology and built by Alstom, running on the West Coast main line between London and Glasgow.

These trains were originally intended to run at 140 mph (225 km/h), but due to the lack of signalling upgrades they are currently restricted to 125 mph (200 km/h).

This set would therefore be ideal as the basis for a ‘modern image’ layout, set on the West Coast main line between London and Scotland.

The Virgin Pendolino train set is (at the time of writing) available from Hornby for £189.99.


Note: We have not included any of the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ train sets, or any of the ‘toy’ train sets (such as the ‘Santa’s Express’ set) which are not based – at least loosely! – on a recognisable prototype, because we’re only including sets which have the potential to be developed into a full ‘model railway layout’ rather than just a toy ‘train set’.

(We’ll add details of the Hornby DCC (Digital) train sets in a later post)