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Review: Hornby Santa’s Express Train Set



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and it remained at Swindon Works for the whole of its working life, where it was used as a works shunter until it was withdrawn and scrapped in 1911.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!


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…