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Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Visit to Hornby

A family gathering near Margate gave the opportunity to visit Hornby Hobbies Visitor Centre, on the site of the firm's original HQ and factory.

Hornby is probably the best known brand for model railways, having a long history and the Margate factory in use since 1954. Except, as most in the hobby know, manufacturing moved overseas and the building became a warehouse.

The Visitor Centre is around the right hand corner of the main frontage shown in the photo. It comprises an exhibition, cafe and shop selling the firms products, which includes Airfix, Scalextric, Humbrol and Corgi.


My interest is in the railway products. I was surprised to see only a subset of the entire catalogue on display. I later discovered that the warehouse had moved elsewhere, and the office staff too. Only the visitor centre remains on site. This might explain the lack of products available.

Fortunately, the locomotive* I was after was available, in all its guises, and happily we had arrived on a rare 10% off day. The price paid was slightly lower than that offered by the Internet discounters! Had we visited the previous weekend we would have been blessed with a 50% off factory sale! Such a shame I don't live close by.

* more about the loco. in a future posting.

A handful of model railway layouts, which although landscaped still looked like toy train sets and would definitely appeal to younger visitors whereas older souls may find the static exhibits of toys through the ages more appealing. I saw examples of toy cars I owned from the 1960s and trains I bought in the 1970s, one of which is still used on my layout. Those vintage models on display all looked brand new.

One room is given over to a military exhibit of full size military vehicles and a huge diorama of a Battle of Britain airfield under attack. But this room holds a secret. If you made a pilgrimage to the site because of your love of Hornby and lament the end of manufacture on site and would have liked a tour of the premises well there is a small round spy hole in a door that leads into the factory area. You can see the factory interior that was once a hive of manufacturing activity, empty of machinery now of course.


The cafe is a spacious and comfortable rest area We only wanted a drink and had a cappuccino, which was of excellent quality.

I understand Hornby Hobbies are planning to move the Visitor Centre to a new location in Ramsgate. I'm glad I visited whilst it is still at the old factory site.

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