Tag Archives: Hornby

Hornby ‘Country Flyer’ train set review

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 direct from Hornby for £74.99, or from Amazon:

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

r1173-western-master-3d-box

[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, or from Amazon:


Hornby “Somerset Belle” Digital Train Set

r1125_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, or from Amazon:


Hornby Mixed Freight DCC Train Set

r1126-mixed-freight-3d-box

[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.
The set is also available from Amazon:


Hornby “The Majestic” DCC Train Set

r1172-the-majestic-e-link-3d-box

[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, but it is still available from Amazon:


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 eBay or Amazon.

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!

 

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, but is still available from Amazon:


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, or from Amazon:


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, or from Amazon:


Pos


tal 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 or from Amazon:


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 Blue Rapier train set is (at the time of writing) available from Amazon:


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 or from Amazon:


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 or from Amazon:


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 or from Amazon:


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 or from Amazon:


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 or from Amazon:


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)

Model Rail Scales and Gauges

Newcomers to the hobby of railway modelling are often confused by the variety of scales and gauges in use. This is not helped by the fact that most British railway models are a slightly different scale to those used by most other countries! In this post we’ll cover the main scales and gauges in use in the UK.

First of all, let’s cover the difference: ‘Scale’ and ‘Gauge’ both tend to be used to describe a model (e.g. ‘O Scale’ or ‘O gauge’) but they are not the same thing! ‘Scale’ means the ratio between the model and the real thing, so 1:87 scale means that 1mm on the model represents 87mm (8.7cm) on the full-size original; whereas ‘gauge’ means the width of the track, i.e. the distance between the rails.

To understand the scales and gauges in use in model railways, we need to delve into history a bit, starting with the introduction of ‘O’ gauge:

O: Scale 1:43.5, track gauge 32mm

O gauge was originally introduced by the German manufacturer Märklin in about 1900, followed by other German manufacturers such as Bing. Hornby Railways (at that time part of Meccano Ltd) started their O gauge ‘tinplate’ models in 1920, originally in clockwork, later (in the 1930s) with a 20V AC electric system.

The 32 mm track gauge gives an almost exactly correct scale width for standard gauge track (4ft 8½in, or 1,435.1 mm).

(Incidentally, this was originally intended to be called ‘0’ (number zero), as being a step down from the larger scales numbered 1 – 6 (starting with ‘Gauge 1’: 1:32, 45 mm track gauge), but rapidly became known as ‘O’ (letter O). For a while the two were interchangeable but these days it is known as ‘O’ Gauge (letter ‘O’).

HO: Scale 1:87, track gauge 16.5mm

HO was introduced in the 1920s. (The name comes from ‘Half O’ (or ‘Halb O’ in German) because the scale is exactly half that of ‘O’). This is the most popular scale for models of European prototypes, with rolling stock available from numerous manufacturers such as Fleischmann, but very few ‘British outline’ models have ever been produced in HO.

(Hornby does not produce any HO models itself, but it does now own several European HO brands: Jouef (France), Lima (Italy), Electrotren (Spain) and Rivarossi (Italy) but so far it hasn’t show any inclination to rebrand these as Hornby; the only ‘co-branding’ is on the Hornby track packs which now carry the logos for Jouef, Lima, Electrotren and Rivarossi as well as Hornby.
OO: Scale 1:76, track gauge 16.5mm

Because the British loading gauge is smaller than the continental one and so British locomotives are smaller than their European counterparts, the electric motors available at the time were too large to fit into HO-scale-sized bodies, so a compromise was decided: the track gauge of 16.5 mm was retained, but the scale was increased slightly and named ‘OO’; hence the famous brand name ‘Hornby Dublo’ (‘Double O’).

This means that strictly speaking OO models are slightly ‘narrow gauge’ (the correct exact width for standard gauge in OO scale would be almost exactly 18mm), but this is not really obvious unless the model is viewed ‘head on’.

All Hornby train sets are ‘OO’. (The only exception is the ‘Arnold Starter Train Set’, which is based on a German prototype and is to ‘European N’ scale (see below). This is made by Arnold (a German manufacturer but now owned by Hornby) but sold and distributed in the UK by Hornby, and is listed on Hornby’s website. )
OO is the most popular scale in the UK, with models available from Bachmann, Heljan and numerous other smaller manufacturers as well as Hornby, and with the widest range of accessories (buildings, figures, cars etc.). Hornby produce the ‘Skaledale’ range of OO scale cast resin model buildings.

Note: Because the scales are quite close, some HO models can be used on OO layouts, with some careful placement. HO models of cars, people etc. are noticeably smaller if they are put right next to a similar OO model, but if they are situated on their own the difference is not so obvious. Many items where the exact dimensions are not so important, such as lineside accessories like fencing, are often described as “OO/HO”.

European N: Scale 1:160, track gauge 9mm

This was originally introduced by the German manufacturer Arnold, but many other manufacturers now make N scale models, including Fleischmann, Roco (now owned by Hornby) and Märklin.
There is also a wide range of accessories available in this scale.

British N (Scale 1:148, track gauge 9mm)

As with HO, when N gauge was first introduced the mechanisms available were too large to fit into N-scale-sized bodies of British prototypes, so a compromise of 1:148 scale on 9 mm track was introduced.

This is now almost as popular as OO. British N Gauge used to be dominated by Graham Farish (now part of Bachmann) and PECO, but a wide range of other manufacturers now produce models in this scale.

Hornby have dipped their toe in the water in this scale, with the introduction of the ‘Brighton Belle’ train, produced by Arnold, but so far this is their only item of British N Gauge rolling stock.

(Please note that this is a ‘Train Packnot a ‘Train Set’, i.e. it is sold as a complete 5-car train but without any track or a controller.)

Hornby also produce the ‘Lyddle End’ range of N scale cast resin model buildings, many of which are models of the same buildings as their ‘Skaledale’ OO equivalent.

 

Finally, it might be worth mentioning the ‘millimetres per foot’ ratios. At first glance this might seem a strange mixture of metric and imperial measurements, but it is actually quite useful, for example when trying to work out the dimensions of buildings. So in O Gauge, 7mm is (near enough) a scale foot (12 inches); in HO, 3.5mm; in 00, 4mm; and in N, 2mm; and these are often used as informal descriptions for the scale as well, i.e. O Gauge is called “7mm scale” and OO is called “4mm scale”.

(For details of other model rail scales not covered here, including those used in Europe, America and Japan, see the Wikipedia article ‘List of rail transport modelling scale standards’.)