Hornby Digital Mixed Goods Train Set
Review by Gary Leigh
Hornby announced their move into the Digital model railway control age at the start of 2006 and the first of their new digital products has recently been launched. The Digital Mixed Goods Train Set is a value package designed to introduce modellers to operating with Hornby Digital and includes 2 locomotives, 4 wagons and the most important item the Hornby Select Digital Control Console. The set has been designed with families in mind and is suitable for those aged 4 and over although there is the standard warning that the set includes sharp parts and small components. When you think about it a train set with 2 locomotives is ideal for the family and on this basis the set will have an immediate appeal. Notwithstanding the appeal to families it also has a wider appeal as a value entry starter set for those wishing to explore the new Hornby world of digital control.
When you open the box the first thing that you want to remove is the Select console as you want to twiddle the knob and click a few buttons and generally get a feel for the unit. Even though a budget unit it has pleasant feeling rubber keys offering a good positive click and a control knob having a smooth feel when turned. And it does look stylish and not out of place as a piece of visible furniture alongside your layout.
Hornby give you an indication of what is possible with their promotional material and there is a TrakMat included with a fresh design which permits the control multiple trains from a single controller track connection. This is providing that all points are of the electrofrog type and Hornby now include electrofrog points with their digital sets. More on this below. The 32 page Select unit manual covers every feature of the console although some of the terms used such as "walkabout", "entity" and "consisting" are a bit jargon and whilst some words are covered in the glossary at the back not every word is.
The two locomotives you get in the set complement each other well and are possibly two of Hornby's most popular set locos ever! Younger family members will take to the Class 08 as it has "Devious Diesel" looks and is certainly tough enough to cope with the rigours of being handled by a youngster. The Jinty steam loco does has fine detail and is easily damaged if not handles with care. The liveries are exclusive to the set.
Take the body off and you reveal a redesigned chassis! The modifications made improve power pick up and permits the locomotives to run at very slow speeds which should be acceptable to most railway modellers. The chip is fitted neatly into a housing.
The four wagons included in the set are, like the locomotives, exclusive to the set and include a useful mix. At this stage it was time to assemble the track and power up the controller and get thinks going. The leads clip into the rear of the console although I would have preferred the clip levers here to have been metal and not plastic as they seem exposed and liable to damage. They do hold the clips in place very well and in all the time I was handling the unit they never came loose. The same can be said for the track power clip however again this is another design that I am not over happy with as you are stuck with having a great big box next to your layout. No doubt Hornby have their reasons for this however could they have not come up with something thats looks more prototypical or provided some sort of building to cover it? Anyway these are minor points in the context of the big picture and you can get to the point of loco action very quickly.
The factory decoder default setting is 3 and this means that you can put either of the locomotives on the track and have them running. To change the address of one to permit both to operate at the same time you place one of the locos on the track and change the address setting in accordance with the instruction manual. Having done this I was able to operate both locomotives at the same time on the same track. Further I took another loco with a non Hornby chip in and programmed that and had all 3 running on the track! There was a sudden need to use the big red emergency stop button and it can be confirmed that this does exactly what it says on the button. Therefore if you are running multiple locos there is little danger of having a massive and costly accident unless you are full of the joys of Xmas spirit! After this I had a go with the "0" setting which is used to run standard loco without a decoder fitted and did manage to get all 4 running at the same time all be it not at full power. Hornby suggest a maximum of 3 locomotives can be run at a time with the 1 amp power pack supplied in the set and a power upgrade is available if there are more locomotives to operate.
The acceleration and deceleration inertia settings work very well and you can have a loco take up to 99 seconds to reach full speed. If you set the acceleration for 15 seconds and you turn the knob to half speed the loco will take around 7-8 seconds to get there so acceleration is pro rata the speed setting as is deceleration. There is definitely no jerkiness when the locomotivesstart crawling and accelerating and the modified chassis will have helped here. Indeed the Class 08 motor has a resonant chug at low speeds and almost sounds like a Class 08. Who needs a sound chip! Hornby have introduced a clip which you insert into the points to make them electrical in both directions at the same time and this works so you have the option of having either electrofrog or insulfrog points by simply adding or removing a clip from a Hornby point. The clip would look better painted black and this is an easy modification. As for double and triple heading Hornby provide a control facility for this and you simply link two loco addresses up to a new address that you have created and this gives you control over all linked locomotives at the same time. So for example to create address 6 for double heading and link address 3 and 4 up to it. You then control both locomotives with address 6 which makes this all very easy.
Click on the gallery images below to view a large image
This is what its all about!
Lets open the box. Hmm. Lots of goodies to play with!
You get the Hornby promotional pack including the very useful TrackMat and the Select Console instruction manual
The first sight that most modellers will see of the new Hornby Digital Select Console is the picture on the back of the box
Hornby give you an indication of what is possible when you expand your layout.
An introduction to Hornby Digital on the rear of the box
Its possible to expand the Hornby set with track packs to create a large 6ft x 4 ft layout
Hornby Digital 0-6-0 Chassis. This has been redesigned to improve pick up and slow running.
Hornby Decoder front. Don't worry it won't bite!
Hornby Decoder rear. Even more boring than the front!
Hornby BR Class 3F Jinty Loco. Nice detail for a set loco.
Hornby BR Class 3F Jinty Loco
Hornby Class 08 Diesel Shunter Loco. Tough and virtually unbreakable so just the loco for junior to play with!
Hornby Class 08 Diesel Shunter Loco
Hornby BR Class 3F Jinty Loco
Hornby Class 08 Diesel Shunter Loco
Wagons included in and exclusive to this Hornby Digital train set. Surprised to see no brake van.
Point showing the Hornby DCC Electric Point Clips in place converting insulated points to electrofrog points
Hornby DCC Track Power Clip which can be a bit fiddly to poke the wires into
Hornby Digital Select Console measuring about 120mm x 140mm x 50mm and weighing about 250g so light to hold in your palm
Console Rear showing connections including walkabout connection which can be made to other Select units.
Nice feel rubber keys with solid click.
Large Clear Display which flashes when you are setting things up such as loco inertia and loco address and other functions
Clear Directional Lighting on Console. Click to change direction.
The 32 page Digital Select Unit Operators Manual which contains all you need to know about the console
Large Power Plug much lighter than previous Hornby wall plugs
Double and triple heading is possible with both locos under single control
This set offers a good low cost entry into Hornby Digital although the locomotives included may not appeal to modellers who require higher levels of detail. For families, those on a budget and those who wish to experiment with digital control and who would like to have models that bear some resemblance to British Rail prototypes of the 1960's, then the Hornby Digital Mixed Goods Train set has a lot going for it!
- November 2006
Set purchased from OnTracks. Many thanks to the Ontracks team for their support.