Odd as it may seem, the date of the first appearance of Hornby trains is uncertain. Some creditable authorities believe that they were available before 1914, or in limited numbers in 1915, in Gauge O clockwork, and were available during World War I, though these claims have never been adequately verified.


Frank Hornby was born in Liverpool in 1863 and invented 'Mechanics Made Easy'. In 1901, he obtained a British patent. The 'Meccano' trade name was adopted a few years later, and produced a construction system of metal strips with perforations for easy nut-and-bolt assembly. Despite the fact that it is uncertain when the trains first became available, it is certain that, by 1920, Hornby clockwork trains were catalogued under the name 'Hornby Trains', and electric-powered trains first appeared in 1925.

The first trains set consisted of a small Gauge O 0-4-0 clockwork locomotive, numbered 2710, with a tender and an open wagon. In 1938, 'Hornby Dublo' (i.e., Double 'O', Gauge 'OO') range of toy trains, both clockwork and electric, set a higher standard of truth-to-prototype with a relatively accurate Gauge 'O' model of the Southern Railway 'Schools Class' locomotive 'Eton' and shortly followed by the firm's most celebrated model, the 'Princess Elizabeth'.


Hornby trademark appeared up until 1940, when all construction of trains was halted with the beginning of WWII. Production of the toy trains resumed in 1946, though in the immediate post-War years, a general shortage of raw materials interfered with the high demand of Hornby Dublo. Hence, new trains items were not introduced until the early 1950s. 'In 1953 the old railway company colors were discontinued, and all models thereafter appeared in British Railways livery.'

Tri ang

By the late 1950s, when construction of plastic toys begun, sales began to decline, and in 1965, the company was taken over by Triang (Lines Brothers), who incorporated some items from the Dublo line into its catalogue.


Updated: 30 Jan. 2019

Hornby value and price guide

What's your 'Hornby' worth? Here are some recently sold items (UK):

Item Title Date sold Price
Thomas Friends Murdoch Oo Apr 2019 £ 756,10
Dublo 2 Rail Limited Edition 2240 Br Mar 2019 £ 550,00
Dublo 3 Rail 3221 Wr 4 6 0 Ludlow Castle Apr 2019 £ 395,00
O Gauge Gw No1 Special Locomotive Tender Feb 2019 £ 364,55
Cabinet 9901 Display Cabinet Dublo Wood Feb 2019 £ 399,00

Take a look at all sold Hornby items on eBay for a value indication. If you're not sure what you have, you can post your question below.


Do you want to dive into the fascinating world of collectibles, and want to learn about value and identification? Discover more with these price guides on Amazon.

Hornby forum (3 comments)

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Chris - May 8, 2011

Can anyone tell me how to find a complete hornby catalogue,a friend has a type 30 45746 wind up train set and would just like to know some of its history, year produced etc,, thanks
►reply: You can try and search for hornby catalogue on this website. There are some for sale.

Peter - August 30, 2010

I have an old controller from my brothers Hornby Tri-rail system. It is not a transformer but is the rheostat control box. It would be over 50 years old. I found it (again) when I was cleaning up the garage over the week-end. I was planning to put it on ebay but did not spot any section for antique parts.

Frederick - August 10, 2010

Is it still possible to source a 00 controller/ transformer for my late 1950s train set which runs on the old three line mounted on metal track? Regards, Fred