Hornby Railways is a brand of model railway originating in the United Kingdom. Its roots date back to 1901, when founder Frank Hornby received a patent for his Meccano construction toy. The first clockwork train was produced in 1920. In 1938, Hornby launched its first 00 gauge train. In 1964, Hornby and Meccano were bought by their competitor Tri-Ang, and sold on when Tri-ang went into receivership. In the 1980s Hornby Railways became independent.
Early history: 1920–1938
Hornby was at first a tradename for the railway productions of Meccano Ltd and based in Liverpool, which released its first train, a clockwork 0 gauge (1:48) model, in 1920. An electric train soon followed but was under-designed and the few that were made were sold out in France. In 1925, a much more successful electric model was introduced, operating on the high voltage of 110 volts AC power. Safety concerns saw low voltage 4V and then 6V motors introduced, followed by a reliable 20V AC system, which was developed in the early 1930s. However, clockwork remained the mainstay of the Hornby 0 gauge trains until 1937 and became the only power available in Liverpool-made 0 gauge trains from 1949. Competitors in the UK were Leeds Model Companyand Bassett-Lowke
A factory was established in France, which developed its own range of French outline trains, but Liverpool dominated export activity elsewhere, with large numbers of Hornby trains exported to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Scandinavia. Even though the export models were often painted in ‘foreign’ liveries, Hornby trains looked very British. Hornby attempted to break into the American market by setting up a factory in 1927 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to make American-style trains. These were colourful and attractive, but low market and only clockwork. They probably would have failed in the marketplace because several established U.S. firms could undercut them and Hornby offered no better-class goods or electric models, but the Wall Street Crash precipitated matters. In late 1929, Meccano Ltd. sold its New Jersey factory to the A. C. Gilbert Company and Hornby trains had vanished from the U.S. market by 1930. The leftover inventory was sold in Canada and in the UK and some of the tooling was reused for products in other markets.
Info gleaned from Wikipedia