In 1938, Hornby launched its first 00 gauge train. Production was suspended in 1942, during the Second World War. Production resumed after the war but did not reach full capacity until 1948.
In 1964, Lines Bros Ltd, the parent company of rival Tri-ang Railways, purchased Meccano Ltd., and merged Hornby and Tri-ang into Tri-ang Hornby at the Margate site. The former Hornby line was discontinued in favour of Tri-ang’s less-costly plastic designs.
An attempt to build the world’s longest model railway formed the final episode of Top Gear presenter James May’s Toy Stories. May, who had previously identified the train set as his “absolute favourite”, hoped that a train would run successfully along the length of the Tarka Trail – a disused 37-mile (60 km) railway line in North Devon.
Hornby was heavily involved, providing the track and the prototype of their OO gauge British Rail Class 395 Javelin train. Simon Kohler, marketing manager of Hornby model railways, said that the train, which travels at just one mile per hour (1.6km/h), failed two miles short of Bideford station. But he also told BBC news: “Even though the last locomotive gave up the ghost at Instow, we did link the track – in fact I finished it at about 22.30 – so we’ll just need to wait and see what Guinness make of it. In April 2011 James tried again, this time against the Germans. All the trains reached their destinations and the British team won.