John Horton: Hornby WonderWorks arrives on time – and includes marvellous miniature Margate Scalextric area

Margate track Photo John Horton

Margate resident John Horton is a model enthusiast, photographer and former train driver. He headed to The WonderWorks today to see what the new venue has to offer- and was wowed by the fabulous Margate in miniature Scalextric track:

Today saw the official opening of Wonderworks in what was formerly the Hornby Visitor Centre, after a complete rebuild of the area.

There was a steady queue of people eagerly awaiting the doors to open, despite the rain, and at 10am on the dot, the visitors were greeted by Ami Britton, Manager of Wonderworks, and the CEO of Hornby, Oliver Raeburn (Olly), who took up his new position in January of this year.

Photo John Horton

The old Visitor Centre closed just as the school summer holidays started, but it was deemed necessary to do so, due to the level of work involved. Christmas is an extremely busy time for Hornby so it was not possible to delay the project.

I was given the opportunity for The Isle of Thanet News to speak with Olly and Ami regarding the new venture.

Photo John Horton

We asked Ami Britton how it felt to open the doors on day one, unveiling Wonderworks to the general public, and being back at work:

She said: “It’s going very well, and busier than I expected,  especially with kids. It’s really good at the moment, lots of positive feedback, its very nice to be back.

“We’ve been closed just over three months. We haven’t gone any bigger, we’ve knocked down a  few walls, so it’s all open plan now.

“Hopefully we get some good feedback on top of what we have already, constructive feedback over the next few weeks, and then we are just going to keep adding and adding to it. We are going start with having monthly events into next year and take it from there really.”

Photo John Horton

Olly Raeburn CEO was only too happy to mingle with the public, get their viewpoints and ask what people thought.

He said: “I took up my position in January and I am really excited about today and the opening of WonderWorks. The idea is to get the public involved more, get their opinion, listen to them and hope they like what they see. I’m so pleased to see so many people, and I hope everyone has a great new experience of WonderWorks.”

Photo Jamie Horton

Former Marketing Director Simon Kohler was also present. He left the organisation in May of this year, but made the trip to see the new WonderWorks, saying: “It felt very refreshing.”

Photo John Horton

The shop area is open plan, as is the new WonderWorks section, which plays host to former products and  present ones, now under the Hornby Banner.

The area is bright, spacious and airy, no more twists and turns down corridors, everything is laid out perfectly.

Photo John Horton

My son Jamie and I especially enjoyed the interactive Scalextric area which hosted icons of Margate around the car track, The Lido, Sea Defence’s, Droit House, Turner Contemporary, Hornby’s main building and, what had to be the icing on the cake, a card model of Arlington House which was breathtaking – a wonderful model in ‘miniature’ which actually stands a good 600mm tall.

Photo John Horton

A new selection of model railway layouts were on show with an interactive one using Hornby’s new HM7000 Digital control system, where you can control trains from a smart phone or an iPad. This was proving very popular with the youngsters who seemed to get to grips with it all in seconds!

Photo John Horton

A large wall of aircraft by Airfix stood out well as did a selection of glass display cases hosting model cars made in line with old TV series. An extensive display of models of all sorts was available for all to enjoy, in fact there is so much to see and do its very easy to lose track of time.

Photo John Horton

So, what did we think of it? In short “mind blowing” – a venerable “must see”, a definite one for the bucket list, it would easy to spend a whole day in there and not be bored.

Fully accessible for people with disabilities, toilets are situated within the shop space area to the right as you come in the front door.

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We will definitely be going back for more. “One Day Return Ticket” please!

The WonderWorks is open 10-4pm every day. Adult tickets are £5 with concessions available for families, children and groups.



  1. We went today, the shop is bigger and better, the exhibition area( wonder works) is just one room , no barrier on the entrance, people walking in and out without paying as only one member of staff working and he was busy with customers sales etc , it really isn’t worth the £5 entrance fee , you can see the whole thing from outside through the glass wall , it was far far better and more interesting and factual as it was before, we won’t be going back !

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