Some of the strange passengers they get at Sandy…

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It all started in the mid-1980s with an idea for providing extra entertainment for visitors to Rothley Station, on the Great Central Railway, over the August Bank Holiday weekend.  The first display was made up of the items owned by two members of the staff there - mainly post-war Hornby Trains, and exclusively clockwork.  However, although that first show was enough of a success to justify doing it again, there were some obvious gaps in what was available to us.  There wasn’t even a goods brake van. Fatally, I started buying the odd thing to try to fill those gaps, and thirty years later…well, let us just say that I now have a selection of goods brake vans!

The brake vans aren’t just Hornby, either.  Even from the very first layout, other makes were present, and the collection was never intended to be just a collection of Hornby trains, but also to include other makers of the same period, especially Bassett-Lowke, although the relative rarity of Bassett-Lowke, and the extremely high prices that locomotives at the top end of their range fetch, means the collection has always had a predominantly Hornby flavour.   Other contemporary makes are also represented, especially the Leeds Model Company (a.k.a. R.F. Steadman) and Mills Brothers (‘Milbro’).   In recent years the collection has greatly expanded due to the small but significant revival in 3-rail 0 Gauge, led by ACE Trains.  Darstaed, Directory Series and Horton are other names, as were Corgi, who bought the Bassett-Lowke brand name, and made a number of modern ‘Bassett-Lowke’ branded products.  However, Corgi were later bought by Hornby (itself a descendent of Rovex, who merely bought the ‘Hornby’ brand name), who eventually decided it was not a line they wished to continue.  It is understood production has now ceased, and Hornby are selling off the remaining stocks.  It has, perhaps, become a bit too easy to fill the layouts with modern 0 Gauge, and relegate the true vintage models, but we try to stop it going too far!  We also do a pure Hornby layout every year for the Abbey Pumping Station’s ‘Meccano Magic’ event (‘Hornby’, together with ‘Dinky’, originally being alternative lines of Frank Hornby’s firm ‘Meccano Ltd.’).

We realised very quickly that what we were doing went down well with the public. To the older generation, the Hornby Trains are pure nostalgia, whilst to children - well, they are the colourful, imaginative toys they have always been. But as the collection grew, it became increasingly important to find a suitable home, as doing layouts out on an open platform was very difficult.  Eventually, under the name of the ‘Great Central Tinplate Circle’, we acquired former North Eastern Railway Dining First 2118 (LNER 22118) - but latterly a ‘de-greasing van’ - which had been brought to the GCR for a project that never developed.  For a number of years we ran layouts in the coach at Quorn & Woodhouse Station, at the same time improving the state of the coach and raising money for its eventual restoration.   For a combination of reasons, these ceased at the end of the Summer of 2001.   The coach was moved to Swithland, and in 2012 the GCR made it clear it was no longer welcome on the railway.  Fortunately, the LNER Coach Association, one of the country’s leading owners of historic rolling stock, who are based on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, were more than happy to have it, and 2118 left the GCR for its new home in Yorkshire in December 2013.  We were also able to give them a ‘dowry’ of approximately £10,000.

Since 2001 we have continued to do a number of layouts at exhibitions as invited, but mainly in and around Leicester.  These are ‘loose-lay’ layouts, built on the day (or the evening before) on whatever surface the organisers are able provide us.  This means they are infinitely configurable, but naturally we do concentrate on certain themes, and, to avoid constantly re-inventing the wheel, we are also evolving a standard layout plan (with variations).  This is for use at bigger exhibitions - naturally we can and do do smaller layouts as well.   The layout pages of this website are intended to give an idea of what we can offer, but not to be prescriptive - we’ll be happy to do what we can to accommodate any particular requests.  Nevertheless, it is easier to scale-down a layout using Hornby accessories rather than the Bassett-Lowke ‘Ashfield’ station or, more particularly, the ACE Trains canopy sets - but more details of this will be found on the individual pages.