Buying second-hand British H0
in the UK




Occasionally, second-hand British H0 will turn up in high street model shops. The best place to find second-hand British H0 models used to be at 'swapmeets', or at the trade section of a model railway exhibition, but this source has almost totally dried up. Undoubtedly the best place to find British H0 models is now on online auction sites.




What to look out for


Division line



From the old Lima range, the most common item seems to be the Mark 2b coaches, as standard opens, firsts, and half-brakes. The Mark 1 coaches seem to be rarer. It is worth remembering that Lima made only three styles of Mark 1 coach: corridor brake, corridor composite and restaurant-buffet. The basic liveries are authentic, but the Midland Region (maroon) and Western Region (chocolate/cream) versions have been ruined by the application of out-of-period LMS and GWR logos! It will help if you are prepared to take any livery that you find and repaint it to your requirements. The factory paint is removable with methylated spirit.

Lima issued a lot of wagons in GB liveries, but many were not models of GB prototypes. The most useful of the Lima wagons are the closed van and open wagon. These still sometimes turn up on trade stands, often amongst 1:76 items. They usually stand out because they are obviously smaller than the models they are with. A couple of things to beware of though: firstly, some small Triang vans can be mistaken for H0; second, although all H0 items have "Lima" moulded into the underside, not everything so marked is H0! Lima reissued the closed van and other items in 00, and they do look very similar when seen in isolation. You can usually tell the H0 models from the presence of "continental loop" couplers, but not always: Lima did start to fit tension-lock couplers to the H0 models before finally giving up and going 00. One non-British wagon that is worth buying is the Lima (later Jouef, and then Hornby International) tank wagon. This can be converted to a British TTA wagon (see here).

The Lima brake vans are well worth buying when you find them. Lima made two types: the BR 20 ton, and the Great Western TOAD. Both are pretty accurate models, if lacking in detail, and both are in pretty short supply (especially the TOAD).

The two locos that Lima made in H0 were the Class 33 diesel and the 4F steam. The Class 33 is a remarkably good model for its day - Lima must have been trying to make a good impression on the buying public to overcome its reticence about the scale. Even the pancake motor is robust. However, and infuriatingly, the Class 33 is 2mm too wide. The Society has instructions for how to correct this, should you want to. Robust though the mechanisms are, you may wish to put something more modern inside: the Society can advise on a couple of options for this. The Lima H0 model originally came with continental loop couplers, but these were later changed to British tension-lock. Watch out for the 00 model of the Class 33 that Lima eventually released - these also came with tension-lock couplers, and you don't want to buy one of these by mistake! The 4F was a very basic model, much derided in the press. Cosmetically it needs a lot of work, but the mechanisms are often robust. Some people in the Society have achieved wonders with theirs, so don't leave a 4F on the trader's stand if you really want one. The 4Fs came mainly in black, but there was a run of bright crimson ones, which I presume is a fake livery.

I mustn't forget to mention a real Lima gem in British H0: the Eurostar (Class 373). This didn't start out as a Lima model, but Lima inherited it when they bought the Jouef company. (All the initial Hornby and Jouef Eurostars have "Jouef" cast into the chassis.) There have been several variants of the H0 Eurostar model, and the one that Lima eventually put into their own packaging is a reasonably good one. They often turn up in sets, with or without the track and controller that they were originally sold with. Don't be surprised if you find versions with no "Eurostar" branding: this was dropped from the model just like it was from the prototype when the trains were put into internal service in France. Remarkably, Hornby retooled their Eurostar into 00, so don't, well, you know... just don't.

Playcraft was a company set up in London, and its sole supplier of models was Jouef of France. Unfortunately, Playcraft's interpretation of "H0" was rather loose: all the coaches and wagons are very much too wide, and the coaches are compressed in length. Furthermore, most of the wagons in the range were not British designs (these don't feature on this website). Nevertheless, some Society members have come up with ingenious ways to use the Playcraft models, so if you are prepared to rework them extensively, don't leave them on the shelf. To spot the wagon and coach models, look for "Jouef for Playcraft" moulded on the underside. The Playcraft loco is the Class 21 diesel (D6100). The tooling and mechanism changed over the years: the detailing on the body shell varied between high-relief and shallow, but the mechanism seemed to actually get worse. (There is a modern motor chassis that fits the Class 21 quite well.) Beware of the four-wheel diesel shunter - this is in a scale somewhere between H0 and 00.

Jouef produced a "night ferry coach", or CIWL type F. This is a reasonably accurate representation for a model from 1963. Look out for the flatter roof profile compared to the continental version.

Fleischmann were undoubtedly the quality entry in the British H0 market.The models they provided us with were the Class 42 'Warship' diesel-hydraulic locos, and three types of Bulleid coach. They are excellent models, accurate and robustly made. In 2008 Fleischmann sold off the remaining stock at 40 for the locos and 13.50 for the coaches.

You might be wondering why the Trix and Rivarossi items that had "H0" on the boxes do not feature on this web site. This is because they were not made to a scale of 1:87, which is what this web site (and The British 1:87 Scale Society) concentrates on. The Trix and Rivarossi items were built to various scales around 1:82. The Rivarossi 'Royal Scot' has differing scales for its width, height, and length - only the wheel diameters being 1:87. This doesn't mean that such models are unusable. The Trix 'Western' can be cut down to 1:87 scale very convincingly, and the Rivarossi 'Royal Scot' can be brought within 1:87 loading gauge without ruining the paintwork. The Rivarossi LMS coaches are such wonderful models that it is tempting to ignore the size discrepancy: in any case, they can easily be lowered to the correct height for 1:87 scale. The Society can provide instructions for these modifications. One problem with the Trix and Rivarossi items is that they are never cheap, and you might think twice about cutting up a model that you have paid good money for.

[Updated March 2017. Martin Wykes (with thanks to Richard Gawler)]



British 1:87 Scale Modelling