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Hornby Poor Quality!

14143 Views 48 Replies 25 Participants Last post by  Doug
Has anyone noticed how the quality of Hornby seems to have gone downhill since they went to China?

When I say quality I DON'T mean detailing. Their loco's largely have cheap disposable can motors, poor traction, bits that fall off when you gingerly take them out of the box, spare bodies are non exisitant other than factory seconds and a few end of production run items.

Even the current re-issues of the Lord of the Isles and Caley single have been cocked up by Hornby fitting a new chassis and a tiny disposable motor in the locos instead of the X.05 motor. This has made the lack of traction on this loco even worse.

My family own a model shop and we had 122 Hornby loco's ordered for the start of the holiday season(we normally shift that lot in a month during the holiday season) and 77 of the loco's had defects ranging from poor assembly to motors that just didn't work, to marked linning. The quality control seems to have gone to pot at the big H.
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I have a Hornby Merchant Navy, and there is no mention of anything about 150 hours in the instructions with this.
It does say "The locomotive is fitted with a sealed, long-life, 5-pole motor which requires no maintenance. After a considerable amount of use the motor may require replacement and this should be carried out by a Hornby Service Dealer" but it does go on to give instructions as to how it can be done.
It also says that "lubrication should be carried out at approximately 6-monthly intervals, or every 100 hours of running"

I've had no problems with mine, which happily pulls whatever I want it to, usually 6 coaches, and I see no reason to expect it not to last 40 years, like the previous models have!
Looks like mine was a duff then - apart from it's serious lack of pulling power it was fine - quiet, smooth & would literally crawl on a variable transformer analogue DC controller.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe the leading & trailing pony/bogie wheels were sprung too much & lightened the weight from the drivers. Must admit I did not check at the time, but then again you should not have to if quality control is doing it's job.
I find that rather strange as the motors fitted are similar to those of the Walthers/LifeLike Proto1000 series of models which definetly last longer than 150hrs. True you probably won't find spares easily accesable but then again I don't have to pay $600 for a model which was one of the reasons I got out of US modelling.


QUOTE (dbclass50 @ 5 May 2007, 16:20) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Well, the Clan Line I bought , as my first (& most likely last) OO model purchased for decades had trouble with anything more than 3/4 free running FLM coaches on the flat !
I remember that the instruction leaflet clearly stated that 150 hrs was about the maximum obtainable running time with the motor fitted ! Maybe, they fit better motors now.
I think I'll stick to my overpriced German stuff, which, incidently I can easily obtain spares for, direct from the manufactures, even for locomotives approaching 30 years old.
OK, my two Eurocents.

As you may know, I model HO scale, German 1920s layout along with some 1950s Danish stuff.

As for the China bit, I always try to buy if not German, then at least EU produced models. Gützold, or Fleischmann, both still produce entirely (Gützold) or mainly (Fleischmann) in Germany, Roco makes most of its stuff in Slovakia, Märklin/Trix in Hungary. In essence, I´m very wary of models made in China.

How come?

Whenever I needed a Gützold spare part in the past, I called them by phone, (adjusted to the Saxonian dialect
), and asked them for the part. These people were so well trained that it was enough to tell them I needed a front lamp for my class 52, rather than having to juggle with 8-digit spare part numbers. I always received what I needed within 3-4 days, free of charge. They always asked me if I was satisfied with their models, or if there are any issues with them that I´d want to pass on (nope, they´re great, and I really mean it). Roco was a bit less friendly, didn´t ask about the models, but sent me the spares as well.

Hornbyrossi asked me to return the model to my dealer for a refund, no, sorry, we don´t care, we just sell the stuff, so there. No service. No spares available. Only trial-and-error Chinese junk. However, I like to get spares when I need them, say, at least in a period of 5 years from purchase. Or would you buy a car that you´d have to have towed to the scapyard due to "sorry, no mufflers available, we just sell them but keep no spares in stock"? I figured so.

Brawa is a notable exception, as they do keep a certain stock of spares available (I called and asked). But then again, the price is a bit steeper than the rest.

Second, do I really save money if I buy Chinese models? I don´t know my way around the UK social security system well enough, but over here, I have to pay (through taxes and increased social security fares deducted from my pay) for those that have been laid off because production has been shifted to China. I as a taxpayer have to cover their doctor´s and hospital bills. I as a taxpayer have to pay for the communities where these people used to work to prevent them from deteriorating. I as a citizen have to put up with higher crime rates, libraries closing down, schools deteriorating due to the fact that (often a majority within the communities) people who used to pay for the well-being of their surroundings can no longer do so because they have been laid off, production now in the far east. I too suffer from less busses taking me home as the tax income of my town has dropped so far that they can no longer afford the services that they could pay for when employment was higher.

"And what does that have to do with model trains?", you may ask. "There weren´t so many employees making them.". True. But considering the unemployment rate before and after Märklin shut down their Sonneberg/Thüringen plant, it does make a difference. The several production lines - stereos, TVs, toys, model trains, automotive parts, you-name-it - that are being shifted to China are a steady trickle of economic power being lost, probably forever. Because it is not just that the well-off are hooked on cheap Chinese stuff; many poorer or newly impoverished people simply can´t afford anything else. A vicious circle.

When Trix was still in Nürnberg, a friend of mine called them because he wanted to have a certain Bavarian freight car made by them. They considered it, an - actually made it, they asked him to provide information on the car, and a few years later, they produced it. Can you as a customer try to influence a Chinese factory like that?

Last but not least, do I want to support the work conditions that are omnipresent in China? Slavery may be abolished in the western world, but China is not the West. Do I have the willpower to forget what the migrant workers in China are being treated like just because that treatment saves me a couple of Euros? No, I don´t.

Chinese production may be OK for short runs of exotic products. I, too, have a few model engines Made in China. But a product always has a certain value, and the price of a certain item reflects that value. If not, then somebody along the line has to pay for that difference between price and value. And we, along with the Chinese workers, do pay through our noses.
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QUOTE (dbclass50 @ 5 May 2007, 13:19) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Looks like mine was a duff then - apart from it's serious lack of pulling power it was fine - quiet, smooth & would literally crawl on a variable transformer analogue DC controller.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe the leading & trailing pony/bogie wheels were sprung too much & lightened the weight from the drivers. Must admit I did not check at the time, but then again you should not have to if quality control is doing it's job.

I reckon you must have been unlucky dbclass50. My Hornby MN's, WC and Class 5 will happily pull eight Pullman coaches on the flat and these are coaches with the 'drag' of the electrical pickups for the lighting. The 150 hour motor life you mentioned in an earlier post is for motors generally fitted to smaller locomotives (the 14xx for instance) and is known as the Type 7 'M' motor. In fairness this motor is obviously of different and possibly inferior design to the long life skew wound can motor as fitted to Clan Line and alike - in fact I'm very surprised your Clan Line instructions mentioned this motor as I'm yet to see a MN fitted with it. As an aside, the (150 hour) Type 7 'M' is readily availabe for around the £6 mark but I must say that although 150 hours doesn't sound an awfully long time, I doubt very much than many models every see that amount of running (having said that, I realise there's always going to be somebody saying 'mind does'). As a general comment I personally think it is unfair to suggest that (China) Hornby are now inferior in some way to the chunky lacklustre models of a bygone age. I agree todays high definition models are much flimsier and need to be treated with more care but I'm afraid that is the price we must pay if we insist on more detailed models.
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There are some quite large variations in pulling power.

Clan Line - Superb pulls 7 coaches (the max in my layout ) with ease, even up gradients
Wilton (BR West Country). Very lightweight - struggles with 4 on up a slight gradient.
Duchess - Again very good
Princess - Similar to wilton struggles with 4 on.

Now you would have thought most of the above would have similar haulage powers - but they don't!

QUOTE (ME 26-06 @ 5 May 2007, 14:25) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>OK, my two Eurocents.

Here is my 2 Groschen!

A lot of the things that you say ME 26-06 I identify with very strongly and are absolutely true about the UK as they are of Germany except that we are much further along the road to China...

Hornby, Bachmann etc. is all made in China, and the whole 'return for replacement' ethos is endemic of low quality control and a general lack of pride in the whole enterprise of making model trains. When it becomes just a commercial exercise for the share-holders and there is no passion then true model railwaying will suffer. Gützold seems to be the very definition of passion!

The loss of industry in the UK and many related jobs is a huge problem for the UK, not everyone can be a professional, because some people are born with more ability than others - education nurtures ability but ultimately not everyone can be a lawyer, doctor or surgeon. A service industry economy by itself is doomed to collapse under its own weight. We are developing a huge underclass of uneducated, unaspiring and forgotten people who are dependent on the state for everything - it leads to the idea that people have an automatic right to everything and the severing of effort and reward results in social decay. With nothing to do but hang around on the streets, commit vandalism or petty crime no wonder drugs and crime are spreading. At least it gives them something to do...

Many of those dependent on the state could work in industry if we still had any and model railways would be a small part of that. Society is only as successful as it's weakest members and as the gap between rich and poor grows, I wonder how much more social corrosion will be needed before total collapse.

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QUOTE Can you as a customer try to influence a Chinese factory like that?

I may be simplifying things here......but (in this case) aren't Hornby the 'customer' of the Chinese factory?

therefore, 'we' are but far removed.....?

in other words, we take our requests/complaints to Hornby, not the Chinese?

As far as the economc and social effects of China's economic (production) boom are concerned.....this is nothing new.

Before China, it was soem other country..either Korea, or Malaya, India, Sri Lanka....or even the dreaded 'made in Hong Kong?'
(anyone old enough to remember, 'made in Hong Kong' meant cheap and shoddy?)

DB mentions production moves to eastern Europe.

why has this occurred?
Nothing to do with production/labour costs, by any chance?

The China thing is yet another phase in world production, led by our consumerism.

When the Chinese workers finally achieve their material desires, what then?
Are their costs not likely to start spiralling, and other parts of the world start to industrialise to take their place?

We already see workers in Sri Lanka..who once took production away from The UK and British workers (with all the lament that went with that...including the effects it had on our railway history?) feeling the effects of countries like China and elsewhere simply producing goods more efficiently/cheaper than they can do.......and witness their efforts to cut costs, lower wages even further, make more efficient, etc....much as what happened in the dying days of industrialisation in this country?

so what goes around, comes around?

In 50 years time, will our kids see the same thing from say, South America?

Will the Chinese be moaning as we are? Probably.

Or will our static labour costs in the uk be overtaken by others, and once more we become the factory of the world?

If the place of manufacture bothers.....why not resort to scratchbuilding?
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With regard to the current Chinese produced Loco's I think the quality generally is excellent. If a loco doesn't perform I generally fix it by adding a bit of weight or tweaking the motion (I only purchase steam era loco's). I've found Hornby to be excellent with spares. I recently received a complete motion left and right for a Black 5. The client who'd managed to wreck both sides using a poorly adjusted rolling road, and running the loco flat out "with a clicking sound !". Hornby didn't charge me for the spares, so truly excellent service. At a swop meeting in Cardiff I picked up a new complete Merchant Navy chassis with motor for £15 which is peanuts. Spares are available. In general the design of the Hornby chassis is good, but I do prefer the Bachmann design with pick-ups both sides and power routed into the body by wire rather than one side live. Hornby of course have excellent tender pick-ups. Bachmann are also quite good with spares although the response time can be very slow, I've often waited in excess of a month.
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If we are talking economics for a moment..

According to0 the Government statistics site , the traditional British measure of unemployment (number claiming benefit ) is currently 910,000 and falling (Jobs available 635,000) . The night we left the ERM 16 years ago it was well over 3 million . The current Government's preferred measure (based on a survey) produces higher figures of 5.5%. We've had 15 years without a recession - unprecedented in my lifetime.

When I was growing up in the 70s there was a general belief that the country was probably finished as a result of accelerating and irreversable economic decline, which might even lead to some kind of state of emergency and the suspension of democracy. 30 years on we seem to be doing quite nicely and the sky is not falling nor showing real signs of falling

While loss of manufacturing base is a worry (I'd quite like our trains to be built at Crewe, Derby , and Washwood Heath not by Siemens and whoever builds Pendolinos ) the end is not nigh. So far from everyone being on the dole in ghetto estates, we have hundreds of thousands of Poles coming here looking for jobs . Especially in the South East where there is full employment

Hornby were at Margate in the South East - that said, East Kent is one of the poorer parts
of the SE

So - coming back to model trains.

The Bachmann range grew out of models made for Airfix and Mainline from the late 70s - made in Hong Kong and eventually S.China by Kadar Ind. who owned the tools. In the late 70s they were significantly better than the Hornby models of the time (Hornby had previously had a near monopoly) and widened the range of models available. They gave the UK hobby a real boost - and HK was a Crown Colony

In 1990 after the demise of Airfix and Mainline and various twists , Kadar set up Bachmann Europe , and started using the tooling to produce the models for sale themselves. The range developed - it had better wheels better mechanisms and and better detail than the competition(Hornby and Lima) and offered a steady stream of new models . Through the 90s Bachmann set the pace

Lima were made in Italy , and carved a niche in modern image at a time when Hornby only scratched the surface. Their products were low quality , with crude 3 pole pancake mechanisms using plastic gears, limited pickup , a pretty free interpretation of body detail and profile, and a crude finish of unpainted plastic (often not quite the right shade) and basic spray paint. They never improved anything. They fobbed off the UK modeller with a product substantially inferior to that which they made for any other market. They may have been nasty but by the end they were'n't especially cheap. The collapse of the Rivarossi group finished them , but I reckon Bachmann and a revived Hornby would have sunk them within a couple more years anyway. Their demise was the one of the best things to happen to British OO RTR. Sorry, but that's what they made themselves - an obstacle to progress.

Bachmann employ 30 people in Leicestershire and do their development work here. They have a large stand at major model railway exhibitions - helping to support those shows financially. Lima never set foot across the Channel - you could send a letter to their importers who would ignore you. Buying Lima certainly didn't put any money into British industry

Hornby , about 1999 , decided to respond to Bachmann with new improved more detailed models with better mechanisms- precisely the models being rubbished in the opening post . The move to China followed shortly. In 1999 Hornby was up for sale. Now it is flourishing

In N , we had a small British producer , Farish. The models were basic and often unreliable. Bachmann bought the company , transferred the production to China - there were 18 months when you couldn't buy British outline N , then production resumed with better finishes , better wheels , better mechanisms and development. Then Dapol, a small British outfit , decided to get into N , and have been producing new models to a higher standard than seen before and giving Bachmann a run for their money. Good luck to them

If we're being economically nationalistic I don't , frankly, see a moral distinction or moral superiority in buying an inferior Italian model and seeing 100% of the cash go out of the country as opposed to buying a better model from Bachmann and seeing part of the money stay in the country

And certainly I don't see any moral/economic grounds for refusing to buy good British outline models of the trains outside my window as somehow morally dubious and spending all the money on 100% imported Continental models of things I've never seen (whereever they are made). Quite apart from anything else a fair part of my modelling spend goes on kits and other items from the British specialist trade

I am not suggesting for a moment that people who are interested in modelling German , French , or US railways shouldn't do precisely that. They should . But please don't suggest that buying British outline models from the long term major ranges because you want to model the railways you know is somehow morally questionable

Or that the RTR of the mid 90s was somehow better and we should go back to the days of Lima
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I personally am not a great fan of the "if its built in Europe its superior" mentality.

And I am slightly puzzled by the criticism of the "send it back and we will replace it" customer service. Who really wants to mess about with spare parts?

Think of the ViTrains airhorns scenario. Is it really such great service to simply be sent replacement airhorns when it was a design fault (poor packaging or weak plastic airhorns) that caused the issue in the first place?

Happy modelling
QUOTE (Gary @ 5 May 2007, 20:00) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>...And I am slightly puzzled by the criticism of the "send it back and we will replace it" customer service. Who really wants to mess about with spare parts? ...

Hi Gary,

"send it back and we´l´l replace it" would not be an issue in my book. However, in my (and several other cases I´ve heard from friends), Hornbyrossi chooses to leave out the "we´ll replace it" bit, and changed it into "we´ll refund it". With a "if you haven´t messed around with it" in the fine print. That I consider a nuisance - I don´t want to buy an engine without the option of adding Weinert parts, maybe a new engine number or a Faulhaber motor to be informed that these improvements render my engine worthless in case of defect.

In earlier times, you could get all sorts of Liliput spares. Ever since Bachmann took over, zilch. For me, that means no more Liliput-Botchmann, especially since the quality of the product has deteriorated drastically.

As for the Europe is superior, I do see a difference in buying from an EU country and buying from a communist third world country with severe human rights issues. When buying European made, or USA made products for that matter, I know that environmental, health and social security standards are about the same ones I enjoy over here - unlike with China. To give some personal information, I´ve broken my spine in a traffic accident (drunk driving involved, the accident was neither my fault nor did I drink any alcohol myself, which may have saved me from the wheelchair since the surgeons could operate on my immediately without having to sober me up), and I am still on sick leave. I get sick leave pay, my (mandatory) health insurance pays physiotherapist and doctors, and the sick leave pay is sufficient for rent, electricity, food and my hobby. If this happened to me in China, I´d have been left in the lurch. To me, this difference is unfair.

As for the UKs well-being, I wonder about whether these jobs created are full-time, full-paid jobs, or just McJobs created by temp work agencies such as Randstad, with a payroll that can barely feed a man and his family. The "working poor", so to say.

Like I said, my thought are just that - my thoughts, and everybody is free to disagree with them. However, I have decided to buy one engine less, and rather than buying a Chinese made engine, get my next Gützold instead.
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Surely most of the cost is in R&D plus manufacturing of the molds? so this would stay the same as I believe it is done here in the UK, the manufacturing process is mostly automated or so I am led to believe.It's only the assembly that would alter the cost?

QUOTE (Merry Go Round @ 6 May 2007, 02:29) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Surely most of the cost is in R&D plus manufacturing of the molds? so this would stay the same as I believe it is done here in the UK, the manufacturing process is mostly automated or so I am led to believe.It's only the assembly that would alter the cost?


From what know, most companies (Brawa being one notable exception, and Railtop/L+S being another), most companies give a bunch of drawings and photos to China and let Sandakan or Modern Gala do the construction as well as the manufacturing.

Not sure how Hornby does it, as most of their HO stuff is former Jouef, Lima or Rivarossi, and I don´t model OO.

Bachmann-Liliput to my best knowledge has their models constructed in China, and produces them there as well.
As far as spares are concerned - in the UK Hornby spares are reasonably plentiful, although not quite in the same way as during Margate production when literally every part could be sourced. I'm currently cutting up some Hornby Mk4 coach interiors to make seating for a kit built DMU - these were obtained as spare parts from one of the traders who specialise in Hornby spares. On the other hand I was unable to obtain the power coupling for a Pacer through the same source as the part is not available - the Pacer has been out of the catalogue for 4 years, and only for a couple of years was it fitted with a coupler carrying power between the cars

The situation on the Continent may be rather different , as Hornby are only just restarting production of the ex Rivarossi items , and they would have no stocks of spare parts - since all they bought from Rivarossi was the tooling

Supplies of spares from Bachmann at Barwell are reasonable , if occasionally erratic

Rivarossi did not go bust because of Chinese competition. They went bust because of their own inefficiency and mismanagement, with production scattered amoungst half a dozen small factories across Europe , allied to sometimes mediocre products and a lack of new development in the last years of the company (There seems to be a feeling amongst French modellers that Jouef had rather lost its way and fallen behind ; British Lima certainly did) .

Having gone bust - if Hornby had not bought the tooling it is quite possible it would have gone for scrap and the ranges would have disappeared perminently . I'm not aware there were any other potential buyers. Would we be better off without these models ?

In the case of the Lima Deltic and the Limby 66 , probably - in the case of the 156, 101, 73 and CCT we're better off having the models . I really doubt either Bratchill or DC Kits would have done the 156 as a kit , the kitbuilders haven't touched the CCT, the 101 is DC Kits earliest effort , and it is an interesting question how long we would have had to wait for a resin 73 from Silver Fox or DC Kits and what exactly would have gone under it as propulsion . Most of the rest of the British Lima range has been replaced by much better models from Bachmann, Hornby and Heljan - with much better mechanisms. Who wants a Lima 47 when you can buy a Heljan 47?

In French outline , the loss of Jouef seems to have left big gaps in HO coverage , compounded by the temporary loss of Roco. There is no sense other manufacturers were coming forward with better replacements to fill the gaps , except possibly a few very expensive prestige limited edition "coffrets"/boxed sets . (I'm no fan of the "museum quality" limited edition 500 euro loco . Dare you weather the thing???) If the Jouef range had not returned , French HO modelling could have become a lot more difficult

To return to the original issue , the running quality of British outline models has improved dramatically in the last decade and the Chinese made models have to a very large extent led the way. The level of detail has improved as well and the standards of finish are very high. The Limby 156 runs much better than old generation Lima DMUs with their 3 pole pancakes and limited pickup. The running of new generation models like the 60 and 66 is superb

Things have got much better , and the quality of the models we now enjoy, as working models , has never been higher
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I am changing this topic discussion from manufacturers to retailers located in the UK.
Model Railway magazines, Web sites are abundant with names and web site addresses of especially retailers who offer a wide range of rolling stock and accessories at marked down MRPs.
However, in many cases, these retailers who advertise their stock in the media mentioned, fail to answer any modeler's e-mails requesting further information on a particular model as to further product details or prices.
Not all retailers, treat possible genuine customers in this way, but the majority of retailers do - any retailer who ignores my inquiries, certainly will not have my custom, no matter how attractive their prices are.

It is a known fact that an advertisement no matter how attractive it may look, may turn out to be a back room or garage storage address.
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I suspect the answer may lie in dbclass50's topic headed "Spam Spam and Spam". If other retailers are also getting 500+ spam messages a day , email as a means of communication may have ceased to function for them
QUOTE (double00 @ 6 May 2007, 12:22) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>I am changing this topic discussion from manufacturers to retailers located in the UK.......

No offence meant OO but rather than hijack this thread it might be worth starting a new one if you want to air your views on traders. As Ravenser has intimated, the amount of spam received must make email as a means of communication tedious to say the least. Perhaps a phone call would be the answer.

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We are now tending to revert to the good old fax more than e-mail these days !
Brian, Fax & phone maybe OK when the dealer lives in the same country & the modeller has access to a Fax but many of us outside of that country concerned find it cheaper to e-mail.
Yes I know Spam can be a problem.
I had a problem with one UK firm who did not answer either my web order or e-mails ( at that time, I did not have International dialling) so I e-mailed a friend in UK who followed it up & the reply was, "web ordering has nothing to to with me in the shop, the boss looks after that & he also looks after e-mail & he is on holidays. Anyway, we get enough orders from phones calls or personal visits or Royal mail & not have to concern ourselves with electronic orders"

Consequently, that retailer is off my list.
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