The Classic Train Set
Hornby Dublo 1938 -1964
Page reviewed and updated 16 July 2017
The layout was a Hornby Dublo 3-rail system designed to replicate dealer demonstration layouts in a quality manner. It had a solid table top system in the style of the dealer layouts I remember seeing in toy shops during the late 1950s, early 1960s and shown in published photographs. Rolling stock operated/displayed covered approximately 90% of the post war Dublo range including many rare items. Buildings, vehicles and people on the layout were mostly genuine Dublo or Dinky items although a handful of period items from other manufacturers were added where they had been bought at the time.
The layout was laid entirely in standard Dublo track with one exception: a single, short, straight by the colour signal on the turntable which was a cut down half straight and used to feed power through the turntable and into the engine shed sidings. It was roughly the length of an eighth straight and had a power wire soldered to a copper-clad sleeper glued under the power rail so that the feed was isolated from the base. The trestles were set at a height suitable for viewing by children; the transformer/controller originally used was my old Hornby Dublo A3 equipment (Mains leads updated), but these were later replaced on safety considerations by Gaugemaster equipment due to inability to confirm the safety of the internal insulation on what was by then 35-40 year old gear. I have examples of the even earlier Hornby-Dublo control gear, which I can display, but these are definitely NO LONGER suitable for being used connected to mains power.
The automatic mail-bag equipment was fully operational, and had been installed located at the front of the layout where it was operated and seen in action at the shows the layout was displayed at. A highly popular feature for "children of all ages"!
In addition to the basic layout a three part display area comprising a covered stock table on which additional rolling stock and train sets were displayed was taken to exhibitions together with two display panels. The display panels covered catalogues and paraphernalia, copy Hornby Dublo advertisements and some notes on the history of Hornby and why a three rail system was chosen.
The layout boards were a solid 6ft 6in by 5ft with operator space required all round. This became too heavy to be lifted easily by my wife and I together with also requiring use of either a large trailer or van hire to get it to exhibitions. It was also too cumbersome to be put up and run in any of the rooms in our current house without massive reorganisation of furniture. It could be run on a dry day on the drive but that was the only testing option pre-shows and with it in full view of the street. The cumulative impact of all these factors was ultimately the reason for taking it off the exhibition circuit.
Similar layouts can of course be built with modern products from Bachmann, Hornby et al. I hope my layout shows you what the hobby of railway modelling is all about - you can get as serious as you like about it, but above all ENJOY YOURSELF.
The three - rail Dublo range was introduced shortly before the second world war as a companion to the larger O-gauge items. Two - rail items were brought in later to update the range in the light of trends in the hobby, but too late to prevent financial collapse of the company. My own collection was started in 1955 (age 3) and some of my first models still survive; were used on the Classic Train Set and will ultimately reappear in a revised layout.
The boards it was built on were two second hand flush panel doors obtained in a hurry as I had been asked to take the layout to a charity day in the Royal Portland Arms, our local pub back in 1989. Like Topsy everything grew from that, and created the problems that ultimately led to its' scrapping. During the time it was on on the exhibition circuit it featured in Railway Modeller and made appearances at many shows in the Wessex Area plus other exhibitions further afield including Warley at the NEC and York (twice).
Photo (Left) taken at York Model Railway Show. Easter 2008.
Note the Easter Egg special adapting the bogie bolster and bogie brick wagons into two versions of a bogie egg wagon.
Locomotives on show are 69567, 80054, Mallard, Bristol Castle, City of Liverpool, St Paddy, Southern EMU, 08 Shunter, Duchess of Atholl, Dorchester, Sir Nigel Gresley, Co Co and Co Bo.
The tanker train was a special favourite and included an example of each livery/model made by Hornby Dublo.
General view of layout looking towards the control panel. In the foreground are Duchess of Atholl and the 08. In the shed are Dorchester, Silver King and one of the 0-6-2 tanks. Although not clearly visible the breakdown train is headed by another 0-6-2 tank and the goods train in the sidings, first vehicle a bogie brick wagon, is headed by the 2-8-0. The one behind that has a Bo-Bo.
Opposite end of the layout with the Bo-Bo and a suburban set in the station.
Locomotives on show are the 08 Shunter & Duchess of Atholl. The Traveling Post Office equipment is just about to be passed by the Duchess. The operational Traveling Post Office (TPO) mail coach is the first vehicle in the train.
Locomotive in the station is the Bo-Bo with Duchess of Atholl and the 08 just visible in the background.
Locomotives on show are 2-6-4T 80054, and the A4 Silver King in the shed. A4, Sir Nigel Gresley, on the turntable.
Last train on the layout 14 July 2017
The biggest problems arose from the use of flush panel doors as baseboards. They were too big to fit into a car and although we bought a trailer for storage and transport this created problems in getting expenses at exhibitions towards use of the trailer in lieu of van hire! Structural deterioration on the trailer has also aided the decision to scrap the layout. As you can see from the photos taken on the layout's last day the doors also meant that the track joints ended up as curves, not easy to align, and any future layout will use straights across the joints. The photo also shows how vulnerable the exposed wiring was, requiring extreme care in transportation and careful positioning over the trestles.
On the positive side the trestles made for this layout have gone on to to be reused in several other projects. We also built and used flexible "sproingers" made from coned door stops and inserted dowels plus rope to make a safe, but light weight, frontal barrier and those will be adopted again for future layouts. I do not claim the idea, as I got it from seeing it on another layout at an exhibition, IIRC one of Gordon Gravett's past layouts.
Will there be another The Classic Train Set layout in the future? Hopefully yes, however, the lessons learnt from this version and other layouts, mean that it will not feature the design faults of this one. I now own better display equipment than I had back in 1989, a far more professional display will appear, and it can also incorporate some additional Hornby Dublo items not owned when the above layout was built.