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Hornby ‘Country Flyer’ train set review

Hornby “Country Flyer” Train Set


[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 direct from Hornby for £74.99.

Choosing and buying a Hornby train set – Part 2: DCC sets

In this post I’ll be considering Hornby’s DCC (Digital Command Control) sets – see Part 1 for details of their DC (analogue) train sets, and also some general advice on choosing a train set.

I’ll cover a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of DC versus DCC in a later post, but in brief:

DCC works by supplying a constant 15V AC voltage to all of the track, with digital commands superimposed on that. Each locomotive has an individual ‘address’ and only responds to commands sent to that address.

  • DCC gives you greater flexibility – you can ‘park’ locos anywhere on your layout, and control more than one at the same time;
  • DCC lets you control other functions as well – the main ones being lighting and sound: steam whistles, diesel horns, brake squeals, etc.
  • DCC wiring is (in some ways) simpler: no need for switches to isolate sections of track.

On the downside, DCC controllers and locos are more expensive, because you’re paying for the cost of the DCC chips.

So let’s have a look at the Hornby DCC train sets currently available (roughly in order of ascending price):

Hornby “Western Master” Digital Train Set


[Hornby Item Code R1173]

This set includes a GWR Class 2721 0-6-0 tanl locomotive, three wagons (a ‘Lowmac’ low loader wagon, with a load, an open wagon and a brake van), an oval of track, Track Extension Pack A (which includes a point, some extra track and a buffer stop, so that you can add a siding), plus the ‘ELink’ control unit and ‘Railmaster’ software, which lets you control the layout from a connected Windows PC or laptop.

The GWR livery of the loco set this in ‘Era 3’, the ‘Grouping’ period, so this set would be suitable for a layout set in the period 1923 – 1947, anywhere in GWR territory.

The “Western Master” train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £174.99.

Hornby “Somerset Belle” Digital Train Set


[Hornby Item Code R1125]

This set includes an 0-6-0 tank locomotive, three wagons (an open wagon, a tank wagon and a brake van), an oval of track, Track Extension Pack A (which includes a point, some extra track and a buffer stop, so that you can add a siding), and the Hornby ‘Select’ DCC controller.

The loco is the 0-6-0 3F ‘Jinty’ tank, in the attractive blue ‘S&DJR’ livery.

S&DJR was the ‘Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway’ which existed from 1875 to 1930 (when its coaching stock was was transferred to the LMS and SR), although the lines continued to be operated by LMS and SR, and then BR, until 1966).

The ‘Jinty’ tank (S&JDR No.24) was one of a batch built by W G Bagnall Ltd to a standard LMS design, and delivered in 1928/29, so this set would be suitable for a layout set in about 1929, located somewhere in Somerset or Dorset.

(The S&DJR is popular with modellers because, although it was mostly single track and so had some of the characteristics of a branch line, it also carried main line trains.)

The Somerset Belle train set is (at the time of writing) available direct from Hornby for £199.99,

Hornby Mixed Freight DCC Train Set


[Hornby Item Code R1126]

This set includes two goods locomotives: an 0-6-0 steam tank loco, and an 0-6-0 diesel shunter, plus a mixed freight train of four wagons: a red tank wagon, a ‘private owner’ wooden-sided open wagon in the livery of “Breedon & Cloud Hill Lime Works”, a metal-sided ‘iron ore tippler’ open wagon and a closed ventilated van in BR bauxite livery. It also includes an oval of track, with a siding, and the Hornby ‘Select’ DCC controller.

The steam loco is a BR (ex-LNER) Class J83 (No. 68478) in BR Black livery with the early BR crest, and the diesel is a Class 8 shunter (No. D4174) in BR green livery with ‘wasp’ (black and yellow) stripes on the ends and the later BR crest. D4174 was introduced into service in 1962, so that would place this set in ‘Era 5‘ in the period 1962 – 1966, and probably somewhere in north-east England.

The ‘Hornby ‘Mixed Freight‘ train set is available direct from Hornby for £249.99. (This might seem steep, but you are getting two DCC locos, and the Select controller which is capable of controlling up to 60 locos (up to 10 at any one time), and can also operate up to 40 accessories such as points, so it is a good foundation for a start in DCC.

Hornby “The Majestic” DCC Train Set


[Hornby Item No. R1172]

This train set is the top of the range, the biggest and best of Hornby’s train sets. It includes two complete trains, and a twin oval of track plus sidings and a buffer stop. The first train consists of the ‘Pacific’ type (4-6-2) ‘Peppercorn’ Class A1  passenger express steam locomotive “Bon Accord” in the BR ‘Express Blue’ livery used on express locos from 1949 to 1952; plus three BR (ex-LNER) Gresley ‘teak’ coaches (two composite coaches and a brake coach). The second train set consists of a Class 47 Co-Co diesel, in BR livery and four assorted wagons (an Esso tank wagon, an open wagon, an SWB (Short Wheel Base) wagon, and an LWB (Long Wheel Base) closed van. This set also includes the ‘ELink’ control unit and ‘Railmaster’ software, which lets you control the layout from a connected Windows PC or laptop.

Bon Accord” (BR No. 60154) was built in 1949 at Doncaster, to the design of Arthur Peppercorn, the last Chief Mechanical Engineer of LNER (The London & North Eastern Railway). The ‘Express Blue’ livery places this in ‘Era 4’ (early BR), but the diesel’s livery places it in Era 8 (BR Sectorisation, 1982 – 1994). Of course, you could set your layout in the 1980s or early 1990s and run the other train as a ‘preserved steam’ special! (Although sadly, in real life Bon Accord did not survive into preservation, she was withdrawn from service in 1965.)

The “Majestic” train set is (at the time of writing) not currently available direct from Hornby.

These are all of the current Hornby DCC train sets, although you may find other older ones still on sale in some retailers, or of course some may be available second-hand on the internet.

I hope you found this useful! Don’t forget, if you’re interested in DC (analogue) train sets rather than DCC, have a look at Part 1 instead; and as always, please feel free to add a comment below!


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: