As you'd expect, one of the first exhibits is a large model railway that visitors can operate. It's one of three (I think, possibly more) and makes use of Hornby products on a scale that most people can only dream of. I'm sure the kids will like them, especially the Thomas set which incorporates a couple of vistadomes in the middle so you can get right in to the scene.
This is a bit of a gimmick but if you have a large layout, how about arranging for people to be able to stick their head inside a building so they look out through the windows? We all tend to get down to eye level while viewing a model railway, and this isn't a bad way of doing it while keeping little hands away from the models.
Anyway, the centre isn't just devoted to Hornby. There's a lot of stuff from the rest of the group. You can play with a couple of Scalextric sets for example. Who knew they made cars that would drift? I didn't. Good fun though.
In cabinets fitted into the walls are all sort of fascinating displays. I've never seen the Airfix Fergie kit - the one that brought the company in to producing plastic kits - before, but here we go:
How about the recent Live Steam loco range with their tops off?
Or some of the prototypes for the Corgi vehicles range?
I liked the selection of tinplate Volkswagens:
There is space for model makers contributions such as these conversions of the Wallace & Gromit range of vehicles on loan from one of the IPMS Special Interest Groups:
Appropriately, there is a huge D-Day model. Relying on standard Airfix kits means it's not perfectly accurate (the landing craft are too small for tanks) the panels around the model explain which products have been used. I doubt many people will have the space (20ft square I think although I didn't have a tape measure handy) to reproduce the scene, it might inspire a few modellers to try a diorama. There are prototype vehicles around the edge for military nerds to have a good look at too.
These pictures are only a tiny selection of the exhibits on offer.
Would I pay to go in?
Yes I would. I reckon there is a happy half day poking around, watching films and generally wallowing in model making goodness to be had, especially if you are interested in how the models are made or remember the older ones that you haven't seen for a long while. I'd suggest avoiding school holidays - Thursday morning was nice and quiet and we managed to have a play with everything without needing to shove small children out of the way.
Hornby visitor centre website.