50th Anniversary of the Death of Frank Hornby

21st September 1986 was the 50th anniversary of the death of Frank Hornby. To mark the occasion the Hornby Railway Collectors’ Association (HRCA) arranged with British Rail to have an electric locomotive named after him. The engine chosen was Class 86 № 86414, one of 100 of its type, introduced in 1964. (Class 86 units are divided into five sub-classes. Class 86 is the original and Class 86/4 is a derivative of this, being equipped with flexicoil suspension and resilient wheelsets.)

A model of Class 86 № 86414 <em>Frank Hornby</em>
A model of Class 86 № 86414 Frank Hornby

It was originally intended that the naming ceremony should take place at Liverpool Lime Street station on Monday 22nd September, but the previous Friday saw the collision between the Liverpool and Manchester trains at Colwich Junction, in which the driver of the Liverpool train died. Despite a diversion around Birmingham, Adrian Ashford and I managed to get to Liverpool by train with about 15 minutes to spare before the proposed naming at 12:15pm. It was then that we discovered that the ceremony had been cancelled because of the accident — and 86414 was at Wolverhampton anyway! British Rail were good enough to refund the fares of those who had made the journey by rail.

Wednesday 20th November 1986 saw me travelling up to Liverpool again — on my own this time. The naming had been rearranged and the locomotive, which had been running in service with its nameplates attached for the previous two months, had been cleaned and was looking very smart standing in the platform. A local jazz band was playing and quite a crowd had assembled by the time I arrived at about 11:30am. Everyone, except me, appeared to be wearing HRCA badges. In fact, the only Meccano enthusiast I recognised was Jim Gamble (also an HRCA member). I wore my Meccano club badges (SELMEC and Holy Trinity Meccano Club) but no one took any notice!

Ken Dodd, the comedian, performed the naming. He said a few words about the pleasure Meccano Hornby Trains and Dinky Toys had given to boys (of all ages) for the past 80 or so years. He then unveiled the nameplates — and there were enough of them! About half way down the locomotive’s side is the nameplate proper, which simply reads ‘Frank Hornby’. Beneath that a smaller rectangular plate reads:

This locomotive was named to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of Frank Hornby, inventor ‘Meccano’, 1901, ‘Hornby Trains’, 1920, and ‘Dinky Toys’, 1934.

September 1986

Below that, on both sides of the locomotive, is one of a limited edition of 250 enamelled plates from the London Toy Museum. It says ‘Frank Hornby 1863–1936’ and depicts various Meccano products. A little way above the main nameplate is a circular HKCA plate with a red and black LMS locomotive № 623 in the centre. OO gauge replicas of the full size locomotive were presented to Ken Dodd, Frank Hornby’s two surviving grand daughters and to a representative of the Invalid Children’s Aid Association by Hornby Hobbies — the current manufacturers of Hornby Trains. They also donated £5000 to the aforementioned cause.

The ceremony took 20 minutes or so, and with quite a few minutes devoted to photographs the British Rail officials were beginning to think that the locomotive wouldn’t be ready to take the 13:00 Liverpool Lime Street to Euston train on time. It was eventually coupled with about ten minutes to spare — not long enough for the buffet attendants to start serving on schedule, however! While invited guests went off to a reception, I caught the 13:00 train back to London and started thinking about plans for a Meccano version of 86414.

This article © 1987 Chris Warrell

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