Railway History


Join us and delve into the archives to discover the stories of locomotive classes large and small, learn how the railway worked, and why it was built in this amalgamation of the popular Reality Check and Railway Realism sections from Hornby Magazine.

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Railways of South Wales

In just over 200 years, the South Wales Valleys have gone from being the birthplace of railways, through housing one of the most intense freight systems in the world to becoming the home of a suburban commuter railway system. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES takes a look at this fascinating area, which is bristling with modelling possibilities.

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The LMS Beyer-Garratts

The massive Beyer-Garratt articulated locomotives achieved a fair amount of success overseas but were never popular in Britain. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks at the history of the LMS variant and discovers why they never took off here.

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The English Electric 'Deltic'

One of the most evocative products of the Modernisation era was the 3,300hp ‘Deltic’, a class which was to revolutionise rail travel and in the process acquire an almost legendary status, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES relates.

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Reality Check: The LNER 'V2' 2-6-2

Locomotives designed primarily for freight work in general do not attract the same interest as those intended for express passenger traffic, but one exception is the handsome ‘V2’ 2-6-2 of the LNER , designed by Sir Nigel Gresley. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES delves into the history of this iconic class to mark the arrival of Bachmann’s all-new ‘OO’ model.

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The Great Central Railway then and now

The Great Central Railway is a unique survivor in preservation with its signature double-track main line, and this late 1890s built line forms the subject of our feature build for this year’s Yearbook. To begin the project, Mike Wild looks back at the real thing’s development, demise and resurrection.

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For many people the pinnacle of railway achievement was Mallard’s 126mph dash down Stoke Bank in July 1938, but since then this high-speed record has been broken many times with most of the subsequent attempts being much less well known, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES found out.

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BR’s first Sulzer Type 2

British Railways’ Class 24 diesel was, as intended, a very able all-round locomotive, but design flaws and changing traffic patterns meant a relatively short life with the last of them being withdrawn more than 40 years ago, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES relates.

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BR Standard history

British Railways’ Standard steam engines were amongst the most advanced ever built in this country, yet were destined to have short lives. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks into their development, and examines how each class came to be built.

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Throughout its 172-year history, Britain’s West Coast Main Line has been at the forefront of railway development, and never more so than in recent years when the route has hosted some of the most advanced trains ever to run on our network, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

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The Class 390 Pendolino

One of the most successful trains in service is the Alstom-built Class 390 Pendolino, which has monopolised West Coast Main Line express services for almost two decades. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks into the history of this ground-breaking design.

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The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway

Perchance it is not dead but sleepeth’ said a wreath at Barnstaple Town station when the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway closed in 1935. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES charts the history and remarkable revival of this famous railway.

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Railway Realism: 70 Years of the Talyllyn

Heritage railways are now an everyday part of life – but 70 years ago when volunteers took over the isolated Talyllyn Railway in Wales the idea of amateurs running trains was considered not only controversial but also completely crackpot, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

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Reality Check: SECR Wainwright ‘D’

At the turn of the 20th century, the 4-4-0 was the most popular wheel arrangement for passenger work, so it was natural that when the South Eastern & Chatham Railway was looking to upgrade its fleet it opted for some, with the resulting ‘D’ class amongst the most handsome locomotives of the period, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

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Railway Realism: Doncaster

Doncaster is synonymous with the word railway, having an extensive works and a large station, but had events taken a slightly different turn it might never have been on a main line at all, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES found out.

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Reality Check: The 4-BEP EMU

During the 1950s and 1960s the Southern Region massively extended its electrified network, and in doing so introduced a number of new classes of Electric Multiple Unit, with one of the least numerous of these being the 4-BEP which was designed to provide catering on services on the South Coast lines. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks into the history of this small but unusual class.

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British Railways Mk 1 carriages

Born out of necessity and constructed in a time of skill and material shortage the BR Mk 1 coach was one of the outstanding success stories of the nationalisation era. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks back on its history.

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Hitachi IEP Class 800

Launched with a massive fanfare in 2017, the Hitachi Class 800 and its derivatives are set to become the predominant express train in use in this country. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks into the development of this futuristic unit.

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Reality Check: The ‘Coronation Scot’

The 1930s saw remarkable advances in railway technology, which produced improved journey times and better comfort for travellers. One of the most progressive trains of this time was the London Midland & Scottish Railway’s ‘Coronation Scot’ - an initiative that war cut short, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

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Railway Realism: Settle-Carlisle railway

Soaring high into the Pennines in spectacular scenery, the Settle & Carlisle Railway has always held a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts and modellers. However, this railway had a troubled history with threats to its existence from the very start. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

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Derby’s Class 25/3

Perhaps one of the most recognisable diesel locomotives of the 1960s was the popular and versatile Class 25, a design that reached its best with its final version, the 25/3, which first appeared in 1965, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

Class 37/4 Reality Check Feature Premium

Electric Train Heat Class 37/4


The Class 37 is nearing its 60th birthday and continues in daily use on the national network. One of the most useful variants is the ‘37/4’, which was upgraded to supply Electric Train Heat in the 1980s. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES looks at the development and life of this 31 strong sub-fleet.

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A modeller's Model railways are viewed from above in most circumstances, but how much do we really think about how the landscape around the line looks? TIM SHACKLETON takes to the air to discover how railways really interact with their surroundings.

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The Brush Class 31

One of the most recognisable and longest-lived of the Modernisation Plan diesel locomotives is the Brush Type 2, which later became much better known as the Class 31. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES examines this design, which despite its longevity has not been without its problems.

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Dining by Rail

Dining on the rails was once an essential part of long-distance travel, but now this facility is limited to very few routes alongside special or tourist trains. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES investigates how changing times have led to the demise of the restaurant car.

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Thompson's ‘A2/2s’ and ‘A2/3s’

Although the ‘Pacifics’ of the LNER are generally considered to be some of the best-looking locomotives ever built, there was one batch of locomotives that defied this rule. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES and ANDREW RODEN look into the history of the ‘A2/2s’ and ‘A2/3s’ which, while they looked ungainly, were an intelligent response to wartime pressures.

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The GWR railcars

The Great Western Railway is more often remembered for its fleet of copper-capped chimney steam locomotives rather than for technological innovation - but in fact the company was amongst the first to introduce viable diesel traction, in the form of a series of self-propelled railcars, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.

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Vossloh’s Class 68

Although the Class 68 has been with us for only three years, it has already amassed a considerable following. EVAN GREEN-HUGHES takes a closer look at this handsome and groundbreaking locomotive, which is set to be an industry standard for many years to come.

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S&D '7F' 2-8-0s

Throughout the history of the railways there have been many small classes of locomotive designed for specific tasks but, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes, few have gained the popularity of the former Somerset and Dorset '7F' 2-8-0s.

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Bulleid's diesel dinosaurs

Although diesel-electric locomotives are still thought of as ‘modern traction’, pioneering models were in service more than 65 years ago, with some of the first being the Southern Region’s main line trio 10201-10203, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES describes.

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GWR '57XX' 'Pannier'

The ‘Pannier’ tank, and in particular the ‘57XX’ class, is a design which synonymous with the Great Western Railway, but although hundreds of them were constructed, they were never included in Churchward’s masterplan, as EVAN GREEN-HUGHES explains.