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New to Collecting

So You Want to Collect Antique Toy and Model Trains

Confused by the advice available for the novice collector? Are you overwhelmed by choice on eBay and specialist shops? Why not get a feel for the hobby.  Consider joining the HRCAA.


Our members collect Hornby in either O gauge or OO (Dublo) and associated products of the MECCANO Ltd. 

Some members collect other British brands (e.g Bassett-Lowke, LMC, Milbro), Australian & New Zealand brands (e.g. Robilt, Ferris, Maurlyn, Scorpion & Cranko), European & American brands (e.g. Marklin, Lionel, Ives and American Flyer).

Be a spectator first 

You don't have to plan a huge collection or layout at first start small, and get a feel for what interests you. Vendors catalogues and web sites may be useful but you will be tempted to want everything you see. Resist impulse buying as you may end up with items that you really don't want.

Buy items in good condition

When collecting antique toy and model trains, terms such as mint, boxed, excellent, good condition, etc may be confusing. Buy items in good condition or better and in working order. If you lack the repair skills or money leave them alone.


The more discerning collector will require items to be in original condition and in original boxes. However, these items always attract a higher price. You can obtain nice unboxed specimens at a more competitive price and obtain a box later.

Brand Names

You may like to stick to one brand as all equipment will be compatible. i.e. Hornby, Hornby Dublo. It is possible to look at other brands so long as they are compatible with what you already have.

Choose a scale BIG or SMALL  

The new enthusiast needs to settle on a scale, locomotives, wagons, tracks, and accessories must be at the same scale; otherwise, the train won’t work or look right. HRCAA members collect either 00 (1:76 scale), or O scale (1:43 scale)  and some collect in the larger scales Gauge 1 and Standard Gauge are uncommon but popular with some collectors.  

Enthusiasts may collect multiple scales, but taking on an additional scale is essentially like taking on an additional hobby. For more detail on Scale and Gauge Clik here 

Start with something good and runable 

Once the scale and size has been chosen you can start buying the first locomotive. This maybe a starter set or a separate model. Get a good model that works, don't be tempted with cheap show specials they are often trouble in the long run.

Select a good quality power supply,

This usually includes the controller that manipulates speed and direction. A cheap power supply is false economy and small train set controllers will be inadequate.

Many antique model trains need higher current and voltage than the modern products (talk to people in the hobby). 

Mixing and Matching

Even though you can't mix and match scales, you may be able mix and match brands, and tracks i.e. O gauge will be suitable for a range of brands but some incompatibility does exist.

In OO on the other hand there may be a coupling problem as different brands used different couplings and also some used the  3-rail systems while others used the 2-rail system.

Seek advice before you buy from experienced members of the HRCAA.  


Hornby O gauge GWR
County of Bedford 
Hornby Dublo 
Bristol Castle 


O gauge House NSW C38 and Ferris Electric 

© 2016 HRCAA Note the trademark Hornby and all associated publications are used by permission of Hornby PLC


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