Model Trains – Toys, Models Or Miniature Works of Art?

The interest in model railways has seen a huge increase over the last few years, and especially in recent months. The recent increase in popularity, particularly in the UK, has been put down to the credit crunch forcing people to get involved in more ‘home based’ and ‘family oriented’ activities, rather than days or evenings out.

The quality of model trains has also improved enormously over the last few years. Having gone from tin plate, through basic plastic injection moulding, some of today’s models are highly intricate works of model engineering, with impressive amounts of detailing. This attention to detail really captures the character and feel of the prototype locomotive, coach item of rolling stock being modelled.

Some of the more recent Hornby trains are particularly fine model trains with magnificent detail. No longer are these models just simple plastic mouldings, with all the detail cast into the main moulding, these newer models are intricately made up of many different parts. For example, the recently released Hornby Schools Class shows an entirely reworked model. The firebox, boiler and dome are all cast in metal, whilst the smokebox, running plate, cab, chimney and smoke deflectors are plastic.

The locomotive features plenty of accurate rivet detail and there are plenty of separately fitted items, such as brass safety valves, clack valves, nameplate, chimney and wire handrails.

However, perhaps the most stunning area of the model is the one that will most likely be hidden from view. That is the cab interior and boiler backhead. The quality of the cab instruments, control levers and wheels is amazing. The calibrations on the gauges are legible under a magnifying glass, and the water gauge glasses, regulator, reverser and atomiser are miniature works of art.

So the question is will models of this quality be run on layouts by young children, or are these models now intended for collectors to display proudly? Certainly these new, highly detailed models do look magnificent on display but also look magnificent on a highly detailed layout.

Hornby have obviously thought of this as they often produce Limited Edition models, clearly aimed at the collector. In 2008 they produce the British Rail 4-6-2 West Country Class ‘Bude’. This was released to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the formation of British Railways. 2008 limited edition models were produced, each with a numbered certificate of authentication. This particular locomotive was chosen as it took part in the locomotive trials in 1948, where different pairings of locomotive and tender were tested to see how they performed outside their normal regions.

With the advent of Digital Control, (DCC) locomotives now feature working lights that stay on and also sound. These locomotives are obviously meant to be worked on layouts to add extra dimensions to the operation of the layout, and also as an added experience for the observers.

In contrast to this, Hornby also have a range of models aimed at the younger enthusiast known as the RailRoad range. These models are devoid of the easily damaged detail parts that adorn the new super detailed models. The Hornby RailRoad range also offers a simple and cost effective way of getting into the hobby.

So summing up. Are model trains toys, models or miniature works of art? The quality of some of the recent models could well be classed as works of art. Many people still believe to this day that steam locomotives were works of art and these new models faithfully reproduce the character of the originals. However, how many children still get delight from operating their first train set? These are the ones that go on to become enthusiasts and collectors as they grow older.

I suppose the answer is Yes to all three!


Post time: 04-16-2017