23 December 2019
When we found two train set controllers with apparently seized direction switches at Peterborough, BRM decided to take a closer look.
A group of seasoned modellers gathers around a controller freshly extracted from a train set box. They waggle the direction switch - it doesn't move. "Looks like it's broken" they glumly conclude. Worse, it's the second one of the day.
Does this mean all Hornby train set controllers are faulty?
It seems not.
To find out what is going on, we opened up the controller.
Note: Doing this may invalidate the warranty. This is a low-voltage device with a 19V DC input. NEVER open the casing on a mains power device. If you are unsure, contact a qualified electrician.
With the casing removed, the direction switch clicks over perfectly. However, on top of it is a piece of plastic. What does this do?
The answer is found on the back of the dial.
The plastic engages in the slot moulded in the back of the dial. You can only move the switch with the speed control set to zero.
Basically, the clever people at Hornby have made a controller that stops the driver changing the direction of the train unless it's stationary. We all know we should do this as it's bad for the motor and can derail the wagons or carriages, but that doesn't mean we always behave.
So, our controllers weren't broken. They were just smarter than the group of modellers trying to operate them - proving that even experienced hands at this hobby can get things wrong sometimes!