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The perfect table railway

Duchess of Montrose

Hornby Dublo Bo-Bo dieselAlthough my main interest is Meccano building I also have a modest and slowly growing collection of nineteen fifties Hornby Dublo model railways. It was in 1959 that I purchased my first Hornby Dublo model railway this consisted of a Bo-Bo diesel locomotive, two brown open wagons and Western Region guard's van these were the latest Super detail products. I ran my train on an oval of Wrenn flexible track, I bought this because it looked more realistic with its separate fibre sleepers, than the Dublo tinplate track. I seem to recall that when it came to extending my oval the Wrenn points were more expensive than Hornby Dublo and much harder to find so I started buying the Hornby Dublo tinplate track as pocket money permitted. The advertisement announcing the new Bo Bo locomotive that inspired mr to have a Hornby Dublo railway is shown at the bottom of the page.

In the earrly 1960's I sold my collection for £5.00 advertised in the local paper I reduced the price because the buyer really wanted two rail. Recently I have been buying the items that I once proudly owned, including the Bo-Bo diesel shown on the left and the Duchess of Montrose shown above.

Hornby Dublo model railways were first announced by the Meccano company in the December 1938 Meccano magazine, as "The perfect table railway" and they almost certainly were. The models were 00 gauge to a scale of 4mm to the foot with three rail track, the centre rail is to pick up the 12 volt current. The locomotives were highly detailed, die cast metal, the wagons and coach bodies were litho tin printed with die cast under frames and boogies. When they were re introduced in 1947 in small numbers there was a great demand and it was several years before the full range of products could be purchased. Hornby Dublo trains quickly became popular but soon a cheaper rival came along, Rovex Tri-ang later Tri-ang Railways with a two rail system and plastic construction and a lot cheaper! The other main rival was Trix like Hornby Dublo it had a three rail system, Trix had been introduced in 1935 several years before Hornby Dublo but at first they had a rather crude toy like appearance, but later were very much more detailed and very similar to H.D.

In 1959 Meccano announced they were introducing a two rail system, much to the disappointment of myself, just starting my collection and all those who already had the original track system. This was no great surprise as Meccano had started producing "Super Detail" plastic wagons in 1958 for "two or three rail running." When Meccano announced the introduction of the two rail system they stated that production of the three rail system would carry on as long as there was a demand, in fact production lasted until 1964. The huge investment involved in changing over to a badly conceived two rail system was partly responsible for the collapse of the Meccano company. Production of Hornby Dublo trains ceased in 1964 following the take over of the Meccano Company by Lines Bros., makers of their greatest rival Tri-ang Railways , the two systems were merged under the name of Triang Hornby in 1965 but very little of the Hornby Dublo products survived in the new regime. Today the system is know as Hornby and has nothing to do with Meccano.

More information about Hornby Dublo and Hornby gauge "0" can be found at The Hornby Rail Collectors Association web pages.

My own "Table Top Railway" is shown in the photographs below I do enjoyed getting it all out of its boxes and setting it up. Although now I have an 8' x 4' layout on a folding base board.

Enthusiastic smoke piping Dad and son are from the 1959 Meccano products catalogue. Yes its the same illustration transposed as shown looking at the digger on my main Meccano page.


Hornby Dublo layout 13

Above a BR standard class 2-6-4 tank locomotive departs from the station loop, bunker first with a train of suburban coaches. The station buildings,signal box and foot bridge are Hornby Dublo , made in the nineteen fifties from die cast aluminium. The footbridge is based on a design introduced by the Southern Railway during the nineteen thirties.

Below the BR standard class 2-6-4 tank locomotive runs around the station loop with an empty freight train bound for the yard. Waiting to depart is a three coach train of E.R. stock headed by a 0-6-2 L17 tank loco. The bottom picture shows a general view of my table top layout photographs taken in January 2010.


Hornby Dublo layout 05

Hornby Dublo layout 01

Below is my current layout on 8' x 4' base board the pictures were taken the first time I had it all set up. The loco in the foreground is the post war A4 Sir Nigel Gresley just leaving the station. The 8 x 4 baseboard was made to order by Classic Baseboards (As of April 2022 these are no longer being produced) this folds in half for storage. The track pieces are removed across the folding point and held in place by sliding the fishplates across the gap and removing one of the centre rail connections.

New Board 01

Below is another view of the station and goods yard. My collection includes anything post war to the end of the Hornby Dublo three rail system

Station goods yard

Below changes made to layout in 2021 roads added and goods depot moved to town area to better serve businesses in the area..

My original layout shown on the plan lower down the page is developed from a dealer display board made by Meccano Ltd. in the nineteen fifties and shown in the Hornby Companion Series Vol 3. Changes were made to this 2021. Many of the town buildings I built in the 1980's originated from my two son's Hornby/Lima model railway.

Above is the latest locomotive added to my collection as of January 2022 Bristol Castle introduced by Hornby Dublo in 1959. This is in almost mint condition and the model is thought to be by many the finest Hornby Dublo locomotive ever built its also my favourite too.

track plan

Hornby Dublo EDG 17 train setMMM Rear cover BoBoOn the far left is the 1954 EDG17 set I bought a several years ago this really re-kindled my interest in Hornby Dublo model railways. As with all Meccano products of that time it is beautifully presented in a strong heavy board box and must have delighted any child who who ever received it.

The advertisement shown on the left is from the back cover of the December 1958 Meccano Magazine announcing the new model Bo-Bo diesel, that had also recently been introduced by British Railways. The illustration is not very flattering to the well detailed model in my opinion. This model was a departure from the metal die cast bodies of all previous locomotives and was of high impact plastic. This followed on from the "Super Detail" moulded goods trucks and vans introduced earlier in 1958. Interestingly the Bo Bo diesel locos now known as Type 20 are still in mainline service on the rail network and preserved lines.

I am a member of the Hornby Railway Collectors Association (HRCA)


Firt published April 19 2009 Last Revision April 07 2022


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