Starting a lifetime of modelling – with a simple train set

With Christmas around the corner, Pete Kelly embarks on a nostalgic journey back to the simple train sets we once loved before taking a look at some of the starter and limited-edition sets that are on sale today.

Back in the 1950s, Darryl Foxwell had a Hornby tinplate O-gauge model railway layout consisting of simple clockwork locomotives complete with rolling stock and assorted buildings, but it was put away when he received a Triang OO-gauge electric train set.

It lay forgotten about for six decades, and it was only while moving house that Darryl rediscovered his old tinplate models. He wound up one of the little locomotives – and it still worked perfectly!

The next stage was to lay a decent length of the corroded old track on a 2 x 1in softwood timber base resting on black plastic joist supports that he bought from B&Q, with 4in long packing pieces at the top of each support (see photo 5).

“The idea works equally well in the house or garden, takes minutes to set up and is just as quick to remove and put away,” said Darryl, “so keep on enjoying your clockwork tinplate railway. It really is that easy!”

This is the lovely Bachmann US Thomas layout that Andrew Sawyer has set up in his Sawyer Models shop in Leigh, Greater Manchester.

In these days of ever more sophisticated and finely detailed modelling, it’s all too easy to forget those tinplate toys of yesteryear that gave so much delight to children who, if their parents could afford it, could extend their layouts month by month by adding items from bright and colourful ranges of tinplate wagons, coaches, footbridges, signals, tunnels and station buildings.

Like Darryl, many would have progressed to OO-scale modelling and in time become serious railway modellers, perhaps joining clubs up and down the country.

Even today a boxed electric train set – which can work out cheaper than paying separately for the constituent controller, track, locomotive and rolling stock – remains a practical introduction to what could so easily become a lifelong hobby, and such sets are available in a very wide range of prices and sophistication.

For the full article and to view more images, see the November edition of Modelling – available now!

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