Friday, 11 July 2014

Oh my Hornby...*

There was one thing we knew as boys. And that was that the illustration on the front of Hornby catalogues and train set boxes would usually bear no relation to the contents. But it didn't matter. It was the whole idea of steam trains that attracted us, and the fact that they were inaccurately rendered in colourfully printed tinplate meant not a jot.  Back in the day we were an 'O' Gauge family, forced by circumstance to watch richer neighbours' or friends' Hornby Dublo electric trains careen around specially constructed baseboards in front parlours. No, we were strictly clockwork, and our battered cheapo 'M' series trains ran amok through hallway and kitchen, and very memorably around the garden. My brother came back from Leicester market with a huge box full of track, staggering up our cul-de-sac lane shouting "Give me a hand someone". We couldn't believe how far it stretched, right from the bottom of the garden by the empty pond, past the sentinel lupins, across the yard, round the side and front of the house until finally running out of steam at the top of the drive. Almost literally, because one winding would do the lot. I was posted by the front gate, and I can still remember the rush of pleasure as the train approached, my brother having put an apple or biscuit in a truck for me. Alone and out of sight, I would put my ear to the silvered track to hear the approaching clattering of wheels. We were so into all this we parcelled an abbreviated version with a string handle to take on our holidays to Anderby Creek on the Lincolnshire coast. Rainy days found the trains whirring around the attic of our bungalow.

You know what's coming don't you? Readers may remember the purchase of an 0 gauge level crossing three years ago. It started a slow ball rolling. Signals, bits of stations, then wagons followed by the odd carriage. But no locomotive. Until this Tuesday! The coupling took place with due ceremony, and we're almost ready to roll. Just need a 100 yard stretch of track. You see, apart from my youngest chaps, there appears to be a growing cache of grandchildren in my family, and the idea is to start services running around Ashley Towers in a similar fashion to those of, err, a long time ago. Trucks with Ribena beakers spilling over them, trucks with Lego cargos. And the inevitable, as everyone watches in fascination as a rose petal drifts gently down onto the track and the whole thing spectacularly derails and crashes into the dustbins. Beware of trains.

* 'Oh my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!' For years I thought this line of poetry was someone remembering his train set. I couldn't figure out 'Barlow' because the only one I knew was my fellow milk monitor at school. Eventually I read the whole thing and it's about cricket: At Lord's by Francis Thompson.


Philip Wilkinson said...

Marvellous. Track in garden in good weather, round the golden syrup tins when wet?
Barlow was the engineer at St Pancras so there IS a railway connection, sort of.

Stephen Barker said...

I see your engine has the early logo for nationalised railways which I think is quite assertive. Although what lions have to do with railways I am not sure of.

Jon Dudley said...

I am going outside. I may be some time.

Our wonderful '0' gauge clockwork set was donated to friends of my dad who had an enormous '0' gauge layout. This was to make way for a 'more efficient' new 00-H0 electric set - all sounds rather British Railways in miniature doesn't it? I was devastated, and the arrival of the new set piled misery upon misery when I found that its prime mover was a yellow diesel locomotive with black chevrons on the front.

I seem to remember the big Hornby key which had arrows on it to ensure that you wound the loco's engine in the correct direction, ours had a hole drilled in it too so that I could tie it with string to my 'snake' belt - after all you never know when you might be at a chum's house and he had lost his.

The packaging was marvellous wasn't it and rather, as you observed with Meccano sets, grossly over-embroidered with regard to the contents. No matter, once one got down to the joy of unpacking and playing with the railway it rapidly became obvious that a) there was never enough track, trucks or accessories and b) it was tea time/ dinner time/ bath time/ bed time and the whole lot would have to be stowed away again. Happy days!

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you all, particularly Jon for his remembrance of times past. That big Hornby key could also be used as a gauge checker, to ensure that the rails were spaced apart to a constant width.
Stephen: Funny, I never queried the use of the lion. But was bemused when it suddenly changed from straddling the wheel to holding it.

Jon Dudley said...

The track gauge nicks out of the key I'd completely forgotten. Without you Mr A., this arcane knowledge would be lost forever. Well done!