TV presenter James May joins official celebration of Hornby’s return to Margate

James May tries out the Scalextric at Hornby's in Margate Photo John Horton

TV presenter James May was among the guests today (February 19) to attend the official opening of the Hornby showrooms and offices.

The star, best known for his role alongside Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond on Top Gear, tried his hand at a spot of Scalextric racing and revealed his favourite model of the 1970s Flying Scotsman with realistic chuffing sound was now in storage.

He said:  “It means so much to me and has so much sentimental value. I don’t run it now,  it’s carefully stored in its box along with all my many other Hornby and Triang Hornby Locomotives.”

In 2009 James had tried to run the Flying Scotsman model on the former North Devon Line from Barnstable to Bideford, which necessitated laying 10 miles of model track supplied by Hornby. The attempt failed due to vandalism  but undeterred he tried again in 2011 for a special spin-off  of his show James May’s Toy Stories and achieved his goal.

He was joined on the second attempt by Hornby marketing executive Simon Kohler, who also hosted today’s ‘re-opening’ event.

Hornby moved distribution to Hersden in 2014 and office functions to Discovery Park in 2015, ending more than 60 years of work in Margate.

But now the Scalextric and model train giant has returned to the Ramsgate Road site and unveiled expansive new trade showrooms.

The move was announced in November last year and the business showrooms opened in January. Today an official ribbon cutting took place with North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale doing the honours alongside Mr Kohler, who began his career with firm in the early 70s at the Margate site.

Sir Roger and Lyndon Davies

They were joined by chief executive Lyndon Davies, who said: “Business means building a relationship with your customers, your suppliers, and everyone around you, including your local community. So, what we have been trying to do is create those great relationships.

“Another thing we need is passion, passion to drive this business forward. We will beat our competitors and Hornby has passion. When we talk about new products and new things that are happening I feel that passion today in our business, I feel it with the people that are here, people, products, great relationships, passion.

“But, what Hornby didn’t have, what Hornby lost five years ago when it moved away from here – it lost its heart.

“Hornby belongs in Margate and coming back here is a huge move for the company.”

Sir Roger spoke to the guests, and recalled an occasion when Hornby brought working layouts and Scalextric to the House of Commons

Guests at the event, including Margate mayor Julie Dellar, were shown the new showroom and given exclusive access to the locomotives stored in the former Goods Inwards Building, which is now owned by Locomotive Storage.

Report and photos John Horton


  1. Great to see hornby is still producing good toys and hobbies . Maybe it may inspire some parents and children to get off there consoles and start using there imaginations and practical skills.

  2. I always assocciate the margate factory with Triang Railways not Hornby, Triang built the factory before taking over the failed Hornby who went into liquidation.

  3. Both the Rovex and the Hornby traditions and histories are celebrated here. Hornby hobbies are also the stewards of several other famous makes such Airfix and Scalextric,so let’s not dwell on past business failures and instead ensure their names and their ethos lives on. Toy retailing is a fashion business with trends changing by the day. Hornby are serving several market sectors. The first is the traditional toy market for train sets,scalextric sets and all the various accessories, this waxes and wanes with changing tastes.The scale model sector for the baby boomers like me is another sector and finally there is the good old nostalgia market, where grown up boys like James May, buy certain products to satisfy a desire to recall their past.
    The original Hornby company based at Binns Rd Liverpool, failed because even though it produced top quality products, it produced the wrong ones in the wrong amount and fell out of fashion. Numerous takeovers and demergers later, we have an accumulation of many of the great names in British and continental miniature product manufacturing, which is surely a good thing.Here is a place where Spitfires are still being made, albeit in 1/72nd scale.

    • Thanks, excellent reminder of boyhood interests.
      Still into model railways, but will always remember Meccano, made at same factory in Liverpool.

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