Tri-ang and Hornby compatibility
Tri-ang and Hornby have been
producing OO/HO scale model trains for many years some of which can
be used together and some of which cannot be used together. This article
defines those items that are compatible and those that cannot be used
together. Considered are the locomotives, the track, the power supply
and the speed control systems.
Over the years, at the time
of writing nearly 50 of them, Tri-ang and Hornby have been producing
OO/HO scale model trains for all to enjoy with seemingly little change.
However, there have been many changes, some small and insignificant
and some major but un-noticed by all but the technical amongst us. In
this article we hope to highlight the most important changes made by
Hornby which limit the use of old and new locomotives on old and new
The locomotives produced
by Tri-ang and Hornby appear very similar from the beginning the the
current offerings but there are some significant changes. Below is a
list of key differences:
- The earliest locomotives
used a 3 rail system whereby the electrical power to the locomotive
was provided by a "3rd rail" in the centre of the traditional
outer running rails. The main running rails providing the return path
for the electrical current.
- The earlier locomotives
had wheels with a taller wheel flange height than the modern locomotives
as the earlier track rails had a higher rail section.
- The newer locomotives
with the aid of modern technologies use far less electrical current
to provide the same pulling force as their predecessors.
- Over time as the electrical
motor has moved from the locomotive to the tender and back again so
has the electrical pick up from the track. Originally the main drive
wheels would pick up the electrical current but the modern solution
is that all the main contact wheels will make electrical contact with
the track. This includes the tender for steam locomotives and the
non-drive bogie for diesel and electric models.
Power supply and speed control
The main analogue power supply
solution is largely unchanged over the may years of production. These
relatively minor changes do, however, present some problems with compatibility.
Below is a list of key points to note:
- As time has moved on the
electrical motors in the Tri-and and Hornby locomotives has consumed
less and less electrical current and as a result the power supply
has needed to provide less and less electrical power.
- The advent of low cost
electronics has meant that the modern power supply systems can eagerly
detect when too much current is demanded and shut down all electrical
power to prevent permanent damage to the power supply system. The
C990 power adaptor and R8250 speed controller have known problems
in this respect.
Old track and new track look
very much the same as each other but there have been key changes over
time which can cause some significant running problems. Below are the
important differences to keep in mind:
- Earlier track was produced
from steel rails electroplated to prevent rusting whereas the modern
track rails are produced from non ferrous material.
- The later track rails
have a finer section compared to the earlier track rails which includes
the points, crossovers and other more specialised track pieces.
The modern introduction of
digital control of a Hornby layout offers very little in terms of compatibility
between digital and analogue systems. To offer the benefits of digital
control each locomotive is fitted with a digital microprocessor which
picks up digital data from the controller via the normal track power
supply. This digital information instructs the locomotive to the speed
it must go, the direction of travel and which lights to switch on or
off, plus other control functions.
The great advantage of the
digital control system is that multiple locomotives can be individually
controlled on the same piece of track. However there are some important
points to take into account with the digital system:
- Digital and analogue control
systems are completely incompatible. The locomotives fitted with digital
microprocessors are specified to work on the traditional analogue
power system but they do not always do so. Cost cutting from Hornby?
We'll probably never know.
- As each locomotive is
controlled via the track with high speed digital data the electrical
connection from the microprocessor in the locomotive to the controller
is critical. Essentially the digital chip in the locomotive will follow
the last command received (not sent) which can lead to loss of control.
Cleanliness of the electrical current path is important with an analogue
power system and critical with a digital system.
Operating old Hornby and
Tri-ang locomotives on newer tack layouts
Operating older Hornby and
Tri-ang locomotives on newer track layouts causes some significant concerns
which may not seem obvious at first. The key points are:
- The old 3 rail locomotives
can only be used on the old 3 rail track systems. On these locomotives
there's no insulation between the 2 outer running rails which mean
that if a 3 rail locomotive is placed on a later 2 rail layout it
will give an electrical short circuit to that layout. Simply put,
2 rail and 3 rail locomotives and layout power systems are completely
incompatible with each other.
- The older electrical motors
in the locomotive consumes more electrical current then the modern
power controls can supply. Combined with the over current protection
devices fitted to the modern power supply systems means that the older
locomotives may stop for no apparent reason. To operate older locomotives
will necessitate the use of a power supply and controller from the
right period in time. If your locomotive is from the 1970s then you'll
need a power system from that period too. If you are not sure then
select a power control with up a to 2 Amp or 24VA (24 Watt) power
capability. H & M have produced some very good controllers in
times gone by.
- As newer track pieces
have a finer rail profile the older locomotives with deeper wheel
flanges may struggle particularly over points and crossovers. This
can lead to derailment of the locomotive or bogie set. The use of
even finer rail sections can make this more prevalent. The best solution
is to reduce the flange height of the wheel of your locomotive.
- Some older Hornby locomotives
used a magnet in the chassis to provide extra magnetic grip to the
older steel track rails. Clearly this has no function with the modern
non ferrous track rails. However, this magnatraction magnet does cause
all sorts of problems for the locomotive. The magnet can attract ferrous
debris from the track layout which can cause a short circuit if the
debris is on the electrical live side of the locomotive. The magnet
attracts the steel wheels of the locomotive causing uneven and premature
wear of the axle bearing in the chassis. The best all round solution
is to remove this magnet as it causes real problems and offers no
New Hornby locomotives on
older tack layouts
Operating newer analogue
Hornby locomotives on older analogue track layouts doesn't really cause
any significant concerns. However the DCC locomotives are best not used
on analogue layouts as not all the digital chips seem to work well with
the analogue power controllers.
About the author:
Gary Harding has been working
with Hornby model locomotives for over 35 years and now operates Hornby
Train Restorations in the UK. Hornby Train Restorations is a Worldwide
internet based business that offers for sale high quality Hornby model
locomotives, coaches, wagons and Hornby spares from the 1960s to the
present day. All the restoration work is carried out to the highest
standards with the highest quality parts available. Only the best locomotives
are selected and the final result is a locomotive that is genuinely
Further help and advice relating
to this article or Hornby model locomotives in general can be found