HORNBY — It’s Not Such a Small World After All

Thursday 30th May 2024 - Sharna Bennett


HORNBY — It’s Not Such a Small World After All

For generations, the concept of intricately detailed replicas of trains, buildings, and landscapes has inspired a dedicated community of collectors around the globe — and, in turn, given life to a vaster world.

For generations, hobbyists have found fascination in the weird and wonderful, and the downright niche. While some find themselves with shelves of stuffed animals from years past, or perhaps coins and postage stamps from far and wide, the concept of intricately detailed replicas of trains, buildings, and landscapes has inspired a dedicated community of collectors around the globe — and, in turn, given life to a vaster world.

Where Miniature Railways began…


In the 1840s, model railways were conceptualised, and by the late 1850s, were brought to fruition.

The earliest model railways were the ‘carpet railways’, and later in 1859, the first documented model railway became the Railway of The Prince Imperial, built by Emperor Napoleon III for his three-year-old son at the time.

By 1891, a German manufacturer called Märklin - which originally specialised in dollhouse accessories - came up with the concept of model railway set-ups with accompanying accessories.

Later in 1901 Hornby Hobbies Limited was established in the UK, when British founder Frank Hornby received a patent to protect an invention he referred to as the rather long title of 'Improvement in Toy or Educational Devices for Children and Young People’. This later became known as Meccano, or as it was known back then, “Mechanics Made Easy”. (Think Lego, but with a few more steps.)

Hornby later expanded his repertoire to include model trains, launching the first Hornby clockwork train in 1920. These early models, meticulously crafted in stark detail, quickly gained popularity amongst children and adults alike, laying the foundation for what would become a beloved past-time for generations to come.

A Global Enthusiast Community

Have you ever felt yourself dreaming of a miniature world, where trains chug along across lovingly crafted landscapes, complete with small sheep, tiny trees, and perfect model people; where tiny towns buzz with life?... Welcome to the world of a Hornby collector! You’ll often find us gathered around tabletop terrains, fine-tuning every detail of our miniature masterpiece. This isn't just a hobby; 'it's the journey of a lifetime'. A gargantuan world on a small scale.

It's the sense of camaraderie that binds enthusiasts together; the transcendence of borders and generations, that makes this community so special. Seasoned veterans and newbies alike, there's always a friendly face ready to offer advice or share a story.

For some, it’s not just about the trains, but the sentimental value. Perhaps it invokes a childhood memory of steam trains whistling through the vast green countryside. For others, it might be about working with their hands, crafting a miniature world to life; a labour of love, fueled by imagination.

And let's not forget the thrill of the search — the quest to uncover rare models and accessories; eagerly browsing auction catalogues in hopes of seeking out that one elusive piece to complete your collection.

How to Build Your Hornby Collection

Generally, there’s only one rule when taking up the journey of a Hornby collector — and that’s that there are no concrete rules. According to Hornby themselves, “Your first train model should be significant to you, but really, you should choose whichever model train speaks to you.”

This stands true for longtime collectors, too. If you’ve decided that you’re sticking to one era of models, or if you’re building your miniature world around a miscellany of model train sets, there is no wrong way to do it. Some people keep their sets minimalistic and uniform, while others have vast layouts that span entire rooms!

Whether you’re looking to build upon your existing collection, or even if you’re wondering how to start from scratch, knowing where to look can be a task in and of itself. Our live auctioning platform here at Easy Live Auction takes out the pain of the search, making it an excellent starting point for collectors, new and experienced alike.

Easy Live Auction is host to many trustworthy specialist auctioneers, allowing you to browse, bid, and buy in real time, from real Auction Houses.

Where to Start…

Generally, specialist auction houses are a great place to start, with many who hold regular auctions of toys, models, railways, and other collectibles. Some of our favourites include Wallis and Wallis, UK Toy & Model Auctions Ltd, Best Model Toys, and M&M Auctions LTD.

Tune in 31st May 2024 from 10am BST for a plethora of model railway, diecast, vintage toys, and other cool collectibles from M&M Auctions LTD. (View catalogue)


Hornby tends to sell incredibly well at auction, with many lots catalogued at Easy Live Auction — and it’s easy to see why, with older models growing increasingly lucrative, and the introduction of newer, technologically modern models.


Back in January of 2024, this collection of unboxed locomotives with their own accompanying boxes sold at a hammer price of £4,200.

Historically, there have been many unique and rare finds — enough to pique the interest of any seasoned collector!

Upcoming Lots

137 - Hornby Limited Edition 416/1000 Thomas the Tank Engine 'OO' Locomotive, Tested Runner, Thomas 70th A...

Hornby Limited Edition 416/1000 Thomas the Tank Engine 'OO' Locomotive | Best Model Toys | 31st May 24 at 10am BST


Two boxed Hornby OO gauge locomotives, comprising BR Bo Bo Diesel Electric Class 29 D6130 (R2122 x2), together with a Bachmann locomotive (not in original box) | Lockdales Auctioneers | 1st Jun 2024 at 9:30am BST


322 - Hornby OO Gauge R593 Town station and R071 Modern footbridge, Appears in original un-built state, Bo...

Hornby OO Gauge R593 Town station and R071 Modern footbridge | Best Model Toys | 31st May 24 at 10am BST

How to Make the Most of Easy Live Auction

  • Begin by registering and setting up alerts for your products of interest. You can do this in a few ways:-
    • Set up keyword alerts. This is especially useful if you’re looking for something incredibly niche.

    • Add auctioneer to your favourites. This way, you’ll never miss an auction!

  • Search upcoming auctions and lots for your interests. You will be able to watch and participate in real-time auctions if you are logged into your account, and it will give you a greater idea of what’s out there!
  • Keep up with us on social media to hear about upcoming lots, interesting finds, and auction house highlights!