Hornby (Tri-ang Railways) RS.48 train set

03 November 2022
Re-boxed and updated, Howard Smith and Phil Parker take a first look at this vintage 'The Victorian' train set.

Howard: I've been impressed with Hornby's packaging efforts in recent years. Since its 100th anniversary celebratory efforts – the packaging of which received very favourable reviews in BRM – we've seen further arrivals, all seeking to tap into the nostalgia and hearts of the collector.

If there's something that I really appreciate on a model, it's quality packaging. A sturdy, quality-made box – much like those of yesteryear – makes its contents feel less mass-produced, and more like a collectable to be cherished.

Tugging on the heart-strings of the collector is this newly-boxed train set from Hornby. Supplied in a Tri-ang Railways-inspired sturdy box, lifting the lid feels special. There's no overly-tight creaking thin plastic sleeves in sight, as now employed by most model manufacturers. Here, thin protective films aside, all packaging is card and recyclable.

Contained inside, we find a GWR 4-2-2 ‘Lord of the Isles’ locomotive, two clerestory coaches (a second class and brake third), a 4ft x 3ft 5in starter oval of track, a power clip and uncoupling ramp.

First released in 1961, and subject to many revisions upon subsequent re-releases, this latest iteration sees a higher level of decoration. The locomotive has finer profiled wheelsets, however, its tender retains the larger older-style wheel flanges, preventing it from running on track finer than the Code 100 supplied.

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Tri-ang Railways RS48 Victorian Railways train set

With protective plastic sleeves removed for a better look at the contents inside the box, the livery application on this model is to a very high standard. 

Coaches too are more detailed than those of old – the axles fitted to original Tri-ang models being visible through the ends of axleboxes! This is a traditional set has looks of yesteryear, but invites you to take items from the box, set up the track and watch it 'whizz around'! 

Phil Parker: I'm a bit of a Tri-ang collector, and have an earlier version of 'Lord of the Isles' stashed away. The model has been in the range since the early 1960s, with a special edition appearing in 1981 to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. That version appeared in a book-style box, with coaches, but without the track. Quite when my model dates from is a mystery as I bought it second-hand without packaging.

Hornby's latest version is presented in a faux Tri-ang style box, with the bright yellow card insert and a period image on the lid. It's perfect nostalgia material, that will appeal to anyone who remembers their earliest train sets. The main concession to modern life is that the father in the photograph appears to have had his pipe replaced with a hand-held controller!

Inside, the model is beautifully painted. By far the best effort we've seen on the model. It's nice to see the era-correct coaches too. Hornby produced scale-length versions in the 1980s which had printed, rather than moulded, panelling, but these 'shorties' are the right companions for this locomotive.

Price-wise, this set is a bit of a bargain. Should you want an original Tri-ang example in good condition, it's possible to pay nearly as much as the RRP of this set, but this way, you have a model with flanges (on the locomotive at least) that will run on your current layout, looks good and isn't full of decades-old grease that has solidified. This iconic set would make a lovely present for a long-term enthusiast, or someone who appreciates the fine lines of a Victorian steam train.


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