Airfix model railways, a short-lived experiment?

Airfix model railways were produced From 1976 until 1981. Notably, Airfix was a well known model kit manufacturer. Consequently, there was to be a range of RTR model railway locomotives, coaches and wagons. Initially the models were made in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, communication problems led to production switching to the UK, in 1980. However it all came too late for Airfix who went into administration at about the same time.

Airfix had begun in 1948 producing an injection moulded tractor kit. The bagged kit was available from 1955-59.

By the mid 1970’s they also had a large range of lineside kits for model railways. However, there was no ready to run range. Additionally the model railway market was stagnant with a lot of old models that lacked detail. Airfix saw a gap in the market for more accurate and detailed models.

The first Airfix model railway models

The first Airfix Railways set was the Wild West Adventure train set built using Bachmann moulds. This featured a Central Pacific Railroad 4-4-0 with two coaches and some lineside accessories. The scale was HO so presumably this was aimed at the American market.

Manufacturing was done in Hong Kong by Sanda Kan. This proved to be a mistake as hidden costs and lack of control with remote production delivered a poor product.

The first Airfix model railways catalogue 1976 – 77

The First Airfix built locomotive was a class 31 issued in the rather odd “Doctor X” set

This was a nicely moulded model with good bogie detail. However the mismatched wheels where a mistake. The powered wheels being a very noticeable silver and the dummy bogie wheels, black. Later this model was issued as a separate locomotive. There was also a BR blue version. They can be had for around £30 – £40.

The airfix model railways range develops.

There were only ever nine powered models produced. However, a number of coaches and wagons were introduced. The coaches were by the GWR and LMS companies. They had flush glazing and accurate dimensions. Notably, for the time they were a step up.

GMR is born

In 1979 there was name change to distinguish the range from Airfix kits. The branding was now Great Model Railways. These are still readily available on auction sites.

The end.

Production ceased in 1981, when Airfix went into receivership. As a result, Palitoy bought the interests, and, as they already had the Mainline range of models. Consequently, some of the Airfix models found themselves in the Mainline range.

Collectable posters from Pimlico prints


Vintage Airfix