Condensed History of Hornby-Dublo

Condensed History of Hornby-Dublo

Meccano started to manufacture Hornby-Dublo trains in Liverpool in 1938, although production was interrupted by the war and did not get into full swing until 1948. ‘Hornby’ was already established as a brand name for ‘O’ gauge clockwork and electric trains. ‘Dublo’ was a phonetic distortion of ‘Double O’ or ‘OO’, by which the gauge of 16.5mm became known. Billed as ‘The Perfect Table Railway’, these scale models were a radical improvement on anything previously available, both in realistic appearance and engineering.

Hornby Dublo pre war box lid
Artwork from a pre-war Hornby Dublo box showing the correct attire to be worn when operating a model train.

The system ran on 3 rail track, with shoes on the locos collecting 12 volt current via the centre rail. This had many advantages; simple wiring, good earthing on the two outer rails, a self cleaning pickup and strong track which could be reassembled without breaking. The tin base also prevented fluffing from the carpet.

Golden age of Dublo

During their golden age Meccano could do no wrong. The Dublo range grew to include die cast steam and diesel locos, tinplate carriages and wagons, buildings and accessories. They truly reflected the British Railways of the 1950’s. Due to the phenomenal quality and quantity produced many of these models are still available, often cheap and in working order.

Dublo Meltdown

By 1958 Hornby-Dublo was under pressure from competitors, notably Tri-ang who were cheaper and made extensive use of plastics. Hornby launched a 2 rail system which used a mixture of plastic and tinplate. Although maintaining the highest standards it was complex and over engineered. With two systems and falling sales the range was now unmanageable. Hornby-Dublo ceased production in 1964 and was absorbed by Tri-ang which became Tri-ang Hornby.

For a more in depth history of Hornby-Dublo head over to our history pages.

Still playing with electric trains