I think one of the most controversial models in Hornby’s range must surely be their four-wheeled coaches. If you don’t know the ones I mean, I’m talking about these:
They’ve been in the range since the 1970s and have been produced in countless variations, from Somerset and Dorset livery to Departmental yellow, from Southern malachite to Annie and Clarabel. A heck of a lot of railways have at least one, and quite possibly several (Yr. Humble Chronicler has lost count of his own).
The thing is, in their own quiet way, these things seem to spark quite a lot of debate. Many modellers, obviously, have no problem with them. Some would like them better if Hornby also produced a brake coach to go with them. And then there are those who hate them with a passion. The problem is that they’re freelance. As far as anyone can tell, there are no coaches like this out in the real world. These must surely be the last freelance models in the main Hornby range. The critics say that they would prefer it if Hornby produced four-wheelers based on real prototypes.
The question I’d then ask is, which prototypes? Lots of the pre-Grouping railways had coaches similar to this. The difficulty faced by Hornby if they decided to tool up for a more realistic four-wheeler is finding one that would sell in sufficient quantities to justify the expense.
For me, the four-wheeler is just fine. They may not be perfect, but on the other hand, they’re cheap and they at least look like a typical branch line/light railway coach, even if it’s not a specific one. There are alternatives if you don’t like them – a few companies make etched kits of specific four-wheelers. Ratio have for a long time produced a range of Great Western coaches and Smallbrook Studio have recently introduced London, Brighton and South Coast Railway coaches. Smallbrook specialise in Isle of Wight stock in their 4mm/foot range, and due to loading gauge restrictions, the Isle of Wight was using Victorian stock long after it had been retired elsewhere on the Southern Railway.
All this is a rambling precursor to the main point of this post, which is the thing I found at Upminster Depot, which is having an open weekend.
This is a four-wheeled coach of the Metropolitan District Railway, predecessor of the modern District Line. It has to be said, it does bear a fair resemblance to the Hornby four-wheeler. There are a few differences, true, but otherwise I’d say it’s not a bad likeness.
Unfortunately, the chances of Hornby doing this in District livery are slim to nil. Still, a boy can dream…