Model Train Manufacturers – Differences That You Should Know

If you are interested in model railroads you have many different manufacturers to choose from whether you are looking to expand your model railway or if you are starting for the first time there are several aspects to consider. With so many different scales, styles and models to choose from, you have to research you option carefully.

Atlas Model Trains

The Atlas Model Train company was founded in the mid 1900s. They specialize in HO and N scale models. They also have an offshoot company, Atlas O, which manufactures O scale model trains. Atlas trains’ founder Stephan Shaffan Jr. made the model train popular in the United States by redesigning them and making a switch kit. He also innovated many of the pieces such as a pre-assembled turnouts and flexible track. Today the Atlas Company has everything you need to easily set up your railway system. Beginners and experts alike will find something they enjoy.

Hornby Model Trains

Hornby Trains were founded in 1907 as Meccano Ltd. Until the First World War it sold other types of toys but Frank Hornby decided to introduce the toy train into their line 1920. Originally it was a clockwork train. He introduced the electric train a few years later revising them soon after to make them safer. Today, Hornby is among the top producers of O scale trains. They are also among the leaders in OO scale trains, having debuted it in 1938 under the name Hornby Dublo.
They also produce an N scale line under the name Lyddle End. This company is also known for its replica models such as Thomas the Tank Engine and the Hogwarts Express.
The Skaledale is another popular line that is offered by Hornby Trains. This OO scale line shares many of the same styles of buildings as that of Lyddle End.

K-Line Model Trains

The K-Line Trains were founded in 1975 by Maury D. Klein. With his innovation, K-Line began producing model trains that were compatible with several other major names in model trains. They went on to produce O, O27 and S gauge trains. Today, however, you can’t get K-Line trains manufactured by their original manufacturers. Due to snipping and lawsuits with Lionel Trains their intellectual property is now the sole property of Lionel trains. You can still purchase K-Line by Lionel which is manufactured solely in O and O27 scale.

Life Like Model Trains

The Life Like Model train company manufactures their trains in the HO and N scales. This brand is a geared towards those who are new to the model train experience. They offer you detailed trains at a fraction of the cost of other model trains. You can get them in either an extremely detailed version of the Proto 2000 or the slightly less detailed version of the Proto 1000. If you are interested in just getting started in the model train hobby, then this brand might be the one for you to start with. Their less detailed, but just as nice version, Proto 1000, is robust and able to be handled roughly, perfect for kids and new hobbyists.

Lionel Model Trains

Lionel model trains have been around from the beginning of the 1900s. They started out selling just O scale. Today they sell O, O27 and HO scale. They have anything from realistic models of trains to the more whimsical types. You can get antique models, that look like the trains from the 1800-1900s or you can find one that looks like the Hogwarts or Polar Express. They also have a variety of cars and trains that can suit any taste.

Roco Model Trains

Known for their HO, O and N scales Roco model trains are another good train set for those that are just starting out. They specialize in lower cost trains that look just as good as the more expensive models. They have three levels of trains, the playtime level is for children and beginners, professional is for more experienced hobbyists and the platin is for the hardcore enthusiasts. With its variety of levels Roco appeals to hobbyists of all levels that want to have model railroads on a budget.

LGB Model Trains

LGB model train specializes in only one scale train. The G scale train is the largest scale of all scales of trains. They are a normally used for garden or yard trains. These trains are simple to use and are robust enough for even the most inexperienced hobbyist to handle. You don’t have to wear kid gloves around these trains and many models are designed to withstand even the harshest of weather conditions.

Marklin Model Trains

Probably one of the oldest train companies, Marklin has been in business since 1859. They introduced their first clockwork train in 1891. Today they have HO, O, Z, N and Gauge 1 scale trains. They are also among the leaders in digital controlling of model trains. They have an innovative three track system that allows you to set up all sorts of layouts and still look realistic. This is probably the most complicated of all model trains and might not be ideal for beginners.

Hornby Model Trains

Frank Hornby originally started his company in 1901 after he received a patent for his Meccano construction toy. Almost twenty years later, in 1920, came the first of many model trains, a train that rain off of clockwork design. It was still another five years, in 1925, before the first successful electric train was produced. Since then Hornby Model Trains have been a leader in model trains produced in the United Kingdom.
Hornby Trains come in three basic gauges O, OO, and N. The company started out as strictly O scale trains and didn’t actually start making the OO scale until almost 1940. The N scale trains are relatively new to Hornby. This scale of trains and accessories is only available in their Lyddle End models.

When Hornby began making its O scale train they were only available as clockwork models until 1920. The first attempt at an electric model was met with great approval. These first trains were completely sold out in France, due to under-production. However, they didn’t attempt the electric train again for another 5 years. This higher voltage train was revamped a few years later to accommodate a lower, safer voltage.

Today, Hornby is considered to be the leader in model trains. Thanks to its long history and unique trains they are among the most sought after collections in the world.

Original Hornby trains are popular collector’s items. These trains, if you can find them, are worth a lot of money. Finding one in good condition can be time consuming and difficult but owning one is its own reward for the hard work and diligence of a determined soul.

Hornby trains not only simulate the real working trains seen around the world but recently has endeavored to replicate the movies as well. They are known for their Thomas and Friends collection. This collection recreates not just the famous engines of Sodor, which was created by English Reverend W.V. Awdry, but the island itself. With the many towns and stations that families have come to know and love.

They also replicated the Hogwarts Express. Fans of the Harry Potter movies and books can travel their scarlet engine through the country side. Both of these sets have proven very popular for Hornby collectors.
Hornby is also famous for its steam powered line. Its first and very popular steam powered engine was that of “The Rocket.” This model was released in 1970 on a 3-1/2 inch scale. It wasn’t until 2003 that the first OO scale steam powered engine came into existence, a model of the Mallard.

Failures and Controversy

Not all of Hornby’s endeavors were a hit though, The Zero I that was introduced in the late 70s seemed to be one of their biggest disappointments. Originally marked as a multiple train controller system it was a precursor to the Digital Command Control, or DCC, system used today. The biggest problem with the Zero I was, not only was it expensive, the control made the locomotives run very rough, not smooth like they normally did. Also the engines that had a Zero I decoder in it couldn’t be used on any other system. This meant if you wanted to run your locomotive on your friend’s line, it couldn’t happen, the train just wouldn’t work.

Hornby has had its other complaints as well. One of the biggest complaints is the use OO scale, which is roughly 1:76. Since Hornby is still the UK’s leading OO scale manufacturer it’s no wonder why their name comes up in this issue. Many of the OO scale tracks are the same size as the HO scale tracks even though those trains are marginally bigger at 1:86. The complaint is that the OO scale trains, which can run on the larger HO scale track as well as its own, is not scaled correctly, making the OO scale one of the most inconsistent scales out there. That being said there are many enthusiasts out there that love the fact that you can put both scale of trains on the same track.

Although Hornby model trains have had their ups and downs they are still considered the train to own if you are looking for a quality UK train.