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Rowan Chernin

Hornby digital trains


Trainsetdental Meditation
By Rowan Chernin

For children over 12 the humble train set goes digital...if only the real thing would as well...

Way back in the 90s Scaletrix became the all-back-to-mine vintage pastime. Tiny Ford Escorts and classic Minis raced Formula 1 super cars, for hours on end, often after a hard night of clubbing. Then in February of this year, Hornby trains went digital, added a USB port and the ability to download your own train sounds to a Digital Command Centre powerful enough to control a fleet of locomotives and a virtual model world of swing-bridges, street lights and signals. Now the arena of grown-up children's fun is less about burning-up the track and more about the ambience of the rolling stock.

But why swap your toy car for a model train? For the answer you have to look at the world of fish keeping. Here grown men create ideal spaces where fish live in harmony with plastic plants and warm water clean enough to drink. Perfection of the environment is as much a part of the fantasy as the fish themselves. Scaletrix offers a simple track to burn off the excesses of adrenaline. Digital trains offer a form of "trainscendental meditation". Everyone loves time to think while they travel especially through an ideal world controlled by your very own hand where "leaves on the tracks" are not in the programme.

Hornby have taken the simple train set into a brave new world. The Hornby Elite is the Digital Command Centre that answers the needs of extreme railway layouts and can store 255 locomotive addresses (trains have microchips) and display their names, running numbers, direction, speed and yes, arrival times! You can even set the clock to be ten times faster and arrive before you leave. You will never be late again, at least not in your own little world.

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