We were brought up in Keighley in West Yorkshire during the 50s and 60s, so it is unsurprising that we are predominantly LMS and BR oriented. Indeed, only due to our desire to run the Yorkshire Pullman did we intend to run one LNER loco to haul this prestigious train. Our loco gallery of 48 engines identifies this leaning and demonstrates our love of the LMS, although if you look carefully you will now see five LNER locos.
I caught the modelling bug early, around the age of 14; I am now 79! My brother Tim, some 7 years younger, followed later and has made a substantial contribution to Hornby Central. We were both train mad. I don’t know where it came from, but railways, both real and modelled, were our first love. Hornby Dublo Electric Trains was the logo used during our initiation in the period 1950-1961. Our first layout was a table-top three-rail system, measuring 6’ x 4’ and purchased one Christmas Eve as a complete layout, from a family across town whose son had lost interest in it. I find it difficult to believe now, but our father carried this solid 1/2inch thick board some 4 miles on his back in order to ensure we could run our first train on Christmas Day. I seem to recollect he viewed these first trains from a horizontal position! We definitely had to take our model trains seriously after that.
We both remember the model today. It consisted of two ovals of track. ‘Duchess of Athol’ and the Great Northern tank were our two locomotives. Tim, having saved his holiday money and spent nothing all week in Morecambe, increased the fleet to three on his return, with the purchase of ‘Silver King’, the new Hornby A4 Pacific. £12 I believe was its price. 1959 saw the introduction of the two-rail system, but we persevered with three-rail, until distractions of the other gender took precedence and enthusiasm for the hobby waned, but only for a short while.
In 1972, Tri-ang Hornby was about to become Hornby Railways. This was the year when our enthusiasm was rekindled. A start was made on building an extensive two-rail system in a double garage, using Peco rail and point work. Of course we had retained some three-rail locomotives, which I duly converted to two-rail, fitting Jackson wheels in the process.
Most Tri-ang Hornby locomotives did not meet our requirements for authenticity at this time, so we built our own from Will’s and Kay’s kits, and I even built some from scratch. Perfect running has always been our goal and as Peco pointwork at that time was all insulfrog, I purchased a couple of Marcway points to assess their suitability. However, in order to achieve conformity of sleeper spacing, I decided to attempt a conversion of a Peco point to live frog. This proved so successful that I converted all subsequent points and crossovers to live frog, until Peco introduced their electro-frog series of pointwork. During this period, I also purchased two Tri-ang Hornby turntables, which were later to prove invaluable and are still in service.
By 1982, my personal circumstances had changed, and the layout had regrettably to be dismantled and placed in storage. It was resurrected for about two years in 1984 when I moved near to the village of Hornby, just outside Lancaster. It was here that we named the layout Hornby Central. Unfortunately, shortly after, the layout again had to be stored. It would be 2006 before it saw the light of day again.
Storage during this period was in a dry but unheated garage. Indeed such were my circumstances, that I never envisaged being able to run trains again. But never say never! In 2006 an old hut in the garden was literally falling down from exposure and the inevitable rot. It had to be replaced. The resulting area, which initially seemed to offer no prospect for development, on closer inspection was found to have a useable area of 16ft 6in x 6ft 6in. Bingo! Down on my knees to my partner (Gill) and ‘planning permission’ was granted!
A shed construction firm was called in to design and build a shed to fill the space and within a couple of months the shed was erected. Heat, light and insulation were soon installed and the baseboards, of which initially there were 12, were dusted off to examine what the ravages of time had inflicted upon them. Despite the dust, I was amazed at the good condition of the track-work. After 20 years, a Peco track rubber brought the track-work into immediate use. The new layout was to be considerably smaller than the original and it soon became apparent that only 5 of the original boards could be used, and that I would have to construct new boards and re-vamp some of the old boards to fit the available space. The good news was, the re-commissioning of our long ‘lost’ layout could begin.
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