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Hornby Hobbies’ Tim Mulhall on Model Trains and Celebrity Fans

Tim Mulhall, COO of Hornby on his love of overnight trains, memories of the South Devon Steam Railway and why Rod Stewart and co love model trains

Hornby Hobbies’ COO Tim Mulhall talks model trains, his favourite country to visit by train and the one train trip he’d love to go on.

What’s been your favourite rail journey?

I had a spare day between the New York Toy Fair and a visit to an important customer – this allowed me to take the Cardinal overnight train from New York to Chicago. The train staff were really friendly and the journey took me through Washington DC and the Allegheny Mountains. There was something quite special about enjoying a new part of the world whilst managing to get my work done from my seat!

Tim travelled to Washington DC on the Cardinal train

What country have you most enjoyed visiting by rail?

Switzerland, because it combines the common sense of an integrated transport system – a rail service which is frequent, clean and efficient and has wonderful views from the windows as you travel. I’ve made regular trips around Switzerland, which always include beautiful locations, wonderful mountain walks and a comfortable train to whisk me back to my hotel at the end of the day.

He loved travelling through Switzerland by train

Have you ever travelled by train overnight?

A night sleeper train has been on my bucket list since I missed out on student Inter railing and only heard about it from my Uni friends. I discovered that three of our European Offices are in cities with a night rail service. So I have been able to combine visits to multiple countries and our sales teams whilst enjoying a night Sleeper service. The Paris to Milan service is operated by Thello and offers a nice restaurant car for an evening meal and chance to meet fellow passengers. From Germany to Milan I used the OBB Nightjet. Sadly, it doesn’t have a restaurant car but I happened to glance out of the window at 10pm and witnessed us crossing the Salzach river, which divides Salzburg, all lit from waterside buildings as we passed over it.

Tim enjoyed an overnight trip on the OBB Nightjet

Can you remember your first ever train journey?

I can remember being taken to the South Devon Steam Railway – I can remember the platform, and the big steam train! It must have been in 1975, when I was 6 years old. I’ve no recollection of the journey – clearly the steam train is what made the biggest impression on a small boy.

A trip on the South Devon Railway has fond memories for Tim

Where would you like to travel to by rail?

I love spending time travelling with my wife, so it would have to be one of the luxury trains. Being pampered and having the chance to relax from daily life with the one I love would be important. The journey? Well we’ve both talked about Central America and perhaps the Copper Canyon service in Mexico.

He’d love to take a trip on the Copper Canyon train

Who is your ideal travelling companion on a rail journey?

My wife – she’s tolerant of my enjoyment of rail travel! Seriously, she’s a great companion to explore with and discuss the world and cultures we encounter on our travels. After many years of marriage, we still love discovering new places together.

Are there any particular train trips you’d like to take?

There are many trains I’d still love to travel on. Two on my list are the Eastern and Oriental service in South East Asia and The El Transcantabrico in Spain.

A trip on the Eastern & Oriental is a bucket-list dream for Tim

What’s the ever-lasting appeal of Hornby train sets?

For many people they are part of a carefree period of their lives – childhood. As we grow they give us a chance to reset ourselves and balance busy, stressful lives. I’ve spoken to people over the years and find the specific reason varies from person to person – but at the heart lies a simple fact that they allow us to be creative and happy.

People of all ages love Hornby rail sets

Who is your most famous customer and which trains do they love?

Over the years I’ve seen orders from famous people and spoken to a few pop stars, TV presenters and people in the creative industries. One well-known customer  bought a Rivarossi Big Boy – the world’s largest steam loco. Then a few weeks later bought the smallest motorised train we make – an Italian shunting tractor where the engine driver had to stand up the cab was so narrow! He loved the difference in size and the fact they were both engineered to operate on his railway. When it comes to famous customers – some prefer privacy, whilst others choose to exhibit their passion on their own terms.

Many celebrities like Rod Stewart love model railways

To purchase your own model railways, head to

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