With some rare 1930s Hornby locomotives selling at auction for well over £3,000 it is obvious that model trains, particularly examples by the famed British manufacturer, remain irresistible to enthusiasts. Spurred on by a nostalgia for trains of the past, enthusiasts are willing to pay surprisingly high prices for Hornby locomotives and related paraphernalia.
Frank Hornby had introduced ‘Mechanics Made Easy’, later renamed ‘Meccano’, to little boys and their fathers in 1901. After WWI, he extended the range to include model railways and simple trains that could be built and dismantled. These were clumsy in appearance and unsuccessful as toys. However, unwilling to give up, Hornby developed a range of 0-guage clockwork trains, including the 1927 No.3 Flying Scotsman and the sought-after Private Owner vans. Despite its dangerous mechanism, the first electric train was introduced as early as 1925, although clockwork examples remained popular. Prices for 1920s and 30s trains vary a great deal. A Hornby LMS locomotive could sell for around £50, while a rare Eton Southern Railways locomotive and tender could fetch £600-800.
Hornby scaled down its trains in the 1930s, to a size more appropriate for smaller homes, and introduced the successful Dublo 00 range. Dublo trains produced before 1940 can be valuable and a 1935 clockwork 0-guage may fetch over £1,000. Three-rail electric sets, produced from the 1930s until the late 1950s when Hornby resorted to cheaper two rail tracks, are also popular. Trains should be in good condition and boxes tend to increase value. Production of Hornby Dublo ceased in 1964 and the company merged with Tri-ang in 1965. Although Tri-Ang was disbanded in 1971, the train arm of the company continues today and focuses on the collector market.