Hornby's history makes interesting reading. A long-standing company name in the world of model railways, today it is responsible for a diverse range of products, absorbing equally well-known household brands such as Airfix and Humbrol in 2006. Its core brand remains model railways, however, and recent years have seen a decline in its sales as buying trends and its customer base has shifted. With Hornby's debt now to the tune of £30 million, James May's 'Big Trouble in Little Britain' follows a year behind the scenes at the manufacturer in two episodes, airing March 6 and 13, 2019 on BBC Four.
Despite the financial turmoil, the programme shines a light on the talented people who work tirelessly behind the scenes at the manufacturer to bring great models to market. Recent years have seen Hornby release models which are more detailed than ever, so we've picked our top five, highlighting our reasons why:
Class 800 IEP
Not shy of innovation or being first, Hornby announced its model of the new East Coast Mainline electric passenger trains before they arrived! Laser-scanning the real vehicles to create a virtual model has become a fast way of ensuring detail and overall shape is accurate, before the model design engineers work out what is possible using current injection-molding machine technology. Hornby has respected the modern tinted glazing of the vehicles, with exceptionnal clarity of roof panel detail. The sleek lines of these new passenger trains are excellently-captured.
21T Coke hopper
Proving that it's not all about glamour, Hornby's stable of rolling stock includes a large selection of the most mundane wagons seen on the railways. The 21T coke hoppers, pictured, were a crucial turning point for the manufacturer as it stepped away from its 'design clever' philosophy (where detail was optimised for cost) in search of detail to rival its competitiors. A wealth of variations on these wagons was released from the outset from the positionning of handrails, to footsteps, rivet detail,
SE&CR 4-4-0T 'H' Class
A gem for the excellent application of its livery alone, Hornby's South Eastern and Chatham Railway 4-4-0T 'H' Class is a beautiful model. Look at the number of different colours used in the lining of the model - it's phenominal. Making sure that all of these were aligned during the painting of the model must have created some headaches - even the bufferbeams and spokes haven't escaped treatment. The balance of the model is traditionally difficult on a 4-4-0T too because of the positionning of the motor and gears which much be above the drivers for correct adhesion. Hornby has accomplished both very well and for these reasons the locomotive has made our shortlist.
BREL Bo-Bo Class 87 Electric
Embracing modellers of all eras, Hormby has never shied from producing models that can fire the imagination and create a spark for the basis of a new model railway. The Class 87 is a fantastic model because of its working Brecknell Willis or cross-arm pantograph, both versions being produced by the manufacturer depending on the era of when the model was produced. Directional lights as standard with many RTR models of diesel and electric locomotives are provided, sprung buffers too, though what really caught our attention was the level of underframe detail, much of which is hidden from view for a large percentage of the time.
'Peckett' W4 0-4-0ST
A 'Peckett' for all - or so it seems! Famed for its models of impressive mainline express locomotives, Hornby has recently turned its attention to updating its small steam shunting locomotives, many of which were decades old and had fallen into its Railroad range. Starting with this model - a W4 0-4-0ST, (here in the blue of Huntley & Palmers Ltd.), the model has been a great success, selling out in many of its original liveries with retailers and more liveries announced for its 2019 range. The small locomotive trend is to continue with the manufacturer as a look at its 2019 range
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