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Bachmann vs. Hornby: The Ultimate Comparison for Model Railway Hobbyists

In the realm of model railways, two brands have consistently stood out as leaders in the industry: Bachmann and Hornby. Each carries a storied history and a dedicated following of enthusiasts who swear by the quality and authenticity of their models. We’ll explore the ins and outs of these two giants in the model train world to offer an ultimate comparison that sheds light on their unique advantages and offerings.

As we assess the intricacies of each brand, we focus on several key aspects that are crucial to model railway enthusiasts: the range of products, the level of detail, the authenticity of replicas, the quality of manufacturing, and the accessibility of the product lines. We understand the importance of these factors in building a layout that not only looks impressive but also runs smoothly, providing a satisfying experience for hobbyists of all skill levels.

We aim to present an unbiased and comprehensive comparison that will aid modellers in making informed decisions when expanding their collections or starting new projects. Whether you have a penchant for the steam era or a fascination with modern electrified lines, looking into what Bachmann and Hornby have to offer is an essential step in the journey of every model railway enthusiast.

Historical Evolution

First, let’s take a look at the origins and developmental milestones of two of the most prominent manufacturers in the model railway industry: Bachmann and Hornby.

Bachmann's Beginnings

The journey of Bachmann Industries began in 1833 when Henry Carlisle established the company in Philadelphia, USA, initially producing ivory and tortoiseshell items. After merging with a competitor in 1899 to form Bachmann Bros., the company shifted towards plastic products and entered the model train market in 1968. Bachmann introduced its N scale models under the name Bachmann Bros., but it wasn't until 1970 that they released their HO scale line, which quickly gained popularity due to their affordability and ready-to-run model format.

Hornby's Heritage

Hornby Railways, with its rich heritage, was founded in 1901 by Frank Hornby in Liverpool, England, first producing Meccano before venturing into model trains in 1920. The first train, a clockwork O gauge model, was known for its detailed tinplate construction. Hornby transitioned to 00 gauge in the 1930s under the name Hornby Dublo, marking a pivotal point for the brand. The introduction of electrically powered models during this period solidified Hornby's legacy as a leading force in the model railway market.

Technical Comparison

Let’s explore the specific technical aspects that differentiate Bachmann and Hornby, focusing on scale and gauge options, the precision of locomotive detailing, and the variety of control systems available.

Scale and Gauge Varieties

Bachmann offers a wide array of scales including OO, N, HO, and large scale (also known as G scale). Their British OO offerings align with 1:76 scale running on standard gauge track, which is 16.5 mm wide.




British OO



American HO






Large (G)


Varied, typically 45mm

Hornby focuses primarily on the UK market with its offerings predominantly in the OO scale, maintaining the same 1:76 scale and 16.5 mm gauge but also providing a smaller range of O gauge products.










Locomotive Detailing and Accuracy

Bachmann prides themselves on fine detailing and has received accolades for their accurate representations of locomotive features. Their models frequently include separately fitted handrails, intricate livery applications, and scale-thickness windows.

Hornby, on the other hand, offers a broad spectrum of detailing options ranging from entry-level models with basic detailing to their premium range with high-level detailing similar to Bachmann, including etched metal parts and realistic weathering.

Control Systems

We find Bachmann utilises the DCC (Digital Command Control) systems, facilitating the independent control of multiple locomotives on the same track. Bachmann's decoders are often pre-installed in their 'DCC On Board' range.

Bachmann Control Features

DCC On Board

DCC Ready

Sound Equipped options

In contrast, Hornby provides the Hornby Digital system for DCC operations and also maintains a wide range of analogue control systems. Hornby Digital allows not only for control of locomotives but also for operating points and signals.

Hornby Control Features

Hornby Digital (DCC system)

Analogue control options

Accessories control (points, signals)

Product Line Diversity

When comparing Bachmann and Hornby, it's crucial to examine the diversity of their respective product lines, which caters to a wide range of preferences and scales for model railway enthusiasts.

Bachmann's Range

We find that Bachmann offers an extensive range of models that predominantly focus on the American and British markets. Their catalogue includes a variety of scales such as HO, N, and OO, with a specialty in providing models from different historical eras.

  • American Line: Includes classic steam locomotives, modern diesels, and a spectrum of rolling stock.

  • British Line: Features items from the steam era to present-day trains, with a strong presence of branch line models.

Hornby's Assortment

Hornby, on the other hand, has maintained a strong reputation for their British model railways, closely associated with the OO scale. Their assortment presents a rich selection of both steam and diesel trains, reflecting the UK rail history.

  • Steam Era: Emphasises detailed replicas of historical importance and varied liveries.

  • Modern Image: Focuses on contemporary models with advanced digital control systems.

Consumer Considerations

When comparing Bachmann and Hornby, we must look at factors such as product availability, pricing, and the support provided by the brands. These aspects significantly influence our hobby and are vital to making an informed decision.

Availability and Distribution

Bachmann and Hornby have different distribution networks, which affects where and how easily we can purchase their products.


  • Availability: Readily available in North America and the UK, with numerous stockists.

  • Distribution: Extensive distribution network allowing for consistent supply.


  • Availability: Strong presence in the UK, with wider European availability.

  • Distribution: Well-established distribution channels within the UK, though sometimes limited stock outside Europe.

Price Points

The cost of model railways can be a significant factor in our decision-making process.


  • Generally higher-priced due to detailed craftsmanship and technology.

  • Offers a range of prices with different levels of detail and functionality.


  • Offers competitive pricing with a focus on affordability.

  • Range includes both budget-friendly options and high-end models.

Community and Support

Community engagement and brand support play a key role in sustaining our enthusiasm for model railways.


  • Strong online community with active user groups and forums.

  • Provides customer service and has a reputation for addressing issues effectively.


  • Well-established brand with a loyal following in the UK.

  • Offers extensive resources such as magazines, forums, and customer support.

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