Train Collectors Association National Division WEB Site

The Train Collectors Association

Western Division

TCA Western Home Page

[Home]  [Train Collecting Tips page]  [Index of Manufacturers]

Lima Trains

Lima logo


Lima HO gauge SNCF BB 17009 Electric Loco circa 1968 Lima S.p.A (Lima Models) was a brand of railway models made in Vicenza, Italy, for almost 50 years, from the early 1950's until the company ceased trading in 2004. Lima was a popular and cheap brand of 'OO' gauge and N gauge model railway material in the UK, with more detailed HO and N gauge models marketed in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States as well as South Africa, Scandinavia and Australia. Lima also produced a small range of 'O' gauge models. Lima partnered with various distributors and manufacturers, selling under brands such as A.H.M., Model Power, and Minitrain in the United States. G & R Wrenn resold Lima N scale models in the United Kingdom under the name 'Wrenn Micro-models'. Market pressures from superior far eastern produce in the mid 1990's led to Lima merging with Rivarossi, Arnold, and Jouef. Ultimately, these consolidations failed and operations ceased in 2004.

Lima HO gauge BB 67000 Loco circa 1973 Lima HO gauge BB 9210 Electric circa 1981

Lima HO gauge Electric Locomotive Class E.444 FS DC Hornby Railways offered Ä8 million to acquire Lima's assets (including tooling, inventory, and the various brand names) in March of the same year, the Italian bankruptcy court of Brescia (town near Milan, last headquarters of Lima) approving the offer later that year. In December 2004, Hornby Railways formally announced the acquisition along with the Rivarossi (HO North American and Italian prototypes), Arnold (N scale European prototypes), Jouef (HO scale French prototypes), and Pocher (die-cast metal automobile kits) ranges. Starting in mid 2006, a range of these products was made available under the Hornby International brand, refitted with NEM couplings and sprung buffers and sockets for DCC (Digital Command Control) decoders.

Lima Blue-Grey Inter-City Coaches in 'OO' or HO gauge Lima was founded in 1946 as a parts supplier for the Italian state railway (F.S. Italia). The company was operated by Bisazza Ottorino. When the Italian State railway started producing itís own parts, Lima switched itís aluminium casting capability in 1948 to producing toys (boats, trains, prams and cars). In 1953 it started manufacturing a low budget and quite primitive model train range. This gradually improved in detail by the late 1950's. By 1962 it was providing French, Belgian, Dutch and German models. Production facilities were based in Isola Vicentina. Trains were initially produced in metal, and then eventually in plastic. In the late 1960's Lima introduced its 12-volt DC G type electric motor. Less than 10 years later, Lima was one of the largest model manufacturers of the world serving the modeling needs of the USA, Australia, Britain and South Africa. In 1977 the British model range switched to 'OO' gauge.

Lima #6572 'O' gauge 2-rail DC Flying Turtle Electric Locomotive #E444054 Lima 'O' gauge European GE GRIL Express Passenger Coach circa 1970's

Lima entered the ready to run 'O' scale market in the early 1970's, and soon offered a range of boxed sets, locomotives, track, passenger coaches and freight wagons to suit British and various European systems. Locomotives were available in either track or battery powered versions. The initial products offered made use of tooling formerly owned by the British manufacturer Tri-ang in their Big Big train products.

Lima HO gauge Center Cab Electric in SNCF livery From 1982 Lima gradually moved into the higher quality market in mainland Europe with the introduction of better mechanisms such as Central Can Motors, flywheels and all bogie power as well as catering for niche markets. Lima focused heavily on the British range in the late 1980's which had expanded hugely due to the privatisation and diversification of the then state carrier British Rail. This was possible because of their capability to do small production runs (c.500), in contrast to their main UK rival, Hornby, who required a minimum run of 4,000. Consequently Riko International, Lima's UK Distributor, were able to provide models within weeks of rollout of the actual prototype. In the 1980's, Lima had 400 employees, and this was their peak era for sales.

Lima HO gauge CIWL Carozza Con Letti - Sleeping Car

Lima 'OO' gauge class 60 050 Roseberry Topping diesel loco By the mid 1990's Lima had a swollen UK product range of over 300 models, some of questionable quality, while still producing new variations at a rate of five or more new schema a month. A clearance campaign ran in í95 with a mass sale of the entire range of existing stock. While this stimulated sales, demand subsequently shifted to the now considerable second-hand market. There was also an attempt to compete with Hornby and Bachmann by introducing new paint schema on existing 1980's steam models. The distributor, Riko International went into receivership in 1999 and their replacement, The Hobby Company, commenced by commissioning further repaints and a new model, the Class 66. In early 2000 Lima finally delivered an updated Class 67 to match the improved standards in the market. However, the much-improved motor did not compensate the many other faults and failed to make an impact. This turned out to be the last completely new model from Lima and the company subsequently folded, being bought out by Hornby.

Lima HO gauge SBB FFS Swiss 11493 Ae 6/6 electric locomotive

Lima 'O' scale Class 4F 0-6-0 Loco #4683 in LMS livery The demise of Lima in 2004 left a significant supply gap for some of the key classes of the British Diesel and Electrical locos range. However, this has been well filled in the intervening 24 months. Hornby now provides updated models of the Class 08, 31, 50, 52, 60, 67 and 92 also, re-releasing many of the much sought after Lima originals such as the class 73 and 156 dmu. Bachmann produces Classes 20, 40, 57 and the Deltic 55 (Two Tone or BR Blue). Danish Manufacturer Heljan manufactures Class 33 (Cromptons), Class 35 (Hymeks) and Class 47s.

Lima 'OO' scale Class 55 diesel D9002 'Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry' in BR two tone green

Lima HO gauge 1st Class passenger coach FS Lima produced a variety of HO models for the North American market. Initially, the quality was on par with other brands of the era, but competitors' improvements in detail and running characteristics soon relegated much of Lima's product to near toy status. At least one round of improvements was made, but Lima never quite caught up with its competition. The company also entered N scale fairly early in the game, producing at first Continental and British outline stock, some of which was fancifully decorated for North American railroads and sold in the States under the A.H.M. brand. Eventually, Lima developed a small assortment of distinctive American equipment, including four diesel locomotives, heavyweight passenger cars, several freight cars, and a caboose. Generally, the N scale line suffered from the same lack of improvements that plagued the North American HO offerings.

Lima 'OO' Class 43 HST Train Set with 2 Mk3 Coaches

Lima N gauge Class 86 E3185 Bo-Bo in BR Electric Blue Livery Lima's continental outline catalogue concentrated first on German and then Italian and Swiss equipment. Their relatively inexpensive offerings doubtless brought many people into the hobby. A modest assortment of accessories, including operable pieces like grade crossings and an intermodal terminal, as well as static structures and lineside details, enhanced the 'playtime' pleasure of building and operating a Lima-based train layout. Lima entered the Australian market in 1970 with models that matched the railways of New South Wales and Victoria reasonably well. Some models were not true representations of the prototype (the Lima XPT was just a repaint of the British HST) and all had NEM wheels and couplers. However the cheapness of Lima models made them popular with beginners and many models were superdetailed by experinced modellers.

Lima 'O' gauge L216852-LN class 33 diesel Isle of Grain #3350 in BR Railfreight Triple grey In 2006, Hornby Railways announced that some of the Lima Australian range would be re-released under the Hornby International brand from late 2007. A unique feature of Lima was its capability to do production runs of less than 1000 units as versus the norm of 4000-5000. This was because the importer only ordered a volume that matched the orders received in advance by its retailers. In the mid-1990s, Lima used this flexibility to introduce a range of "limited edition" models in small quantities (550 - 850), so as to maintain sales. This commenced with a model of the Class 50, "Thunderer" issued at £33, which proved very successful, commanding over £100 within a few weeks.

Lima 'OO' King Class 4-6-0 6000 'King George V' in GWR Green Lima also took on commissions from shops that purchased the entire limited production run, these being retailed directly through their stores. This began with Cheltenham Model Centre's D1015 Western Champion. Over 100 different models were produced this way. This commercial practice provided Irish modellers, via Murphy Models of Dublin, with the only specific Irish scene RTR diesel locomotive that has been produced to date, the General Motors 201 Class, which due to its rarity is now fetching huge sums on on-line auction sites (c.Ä1000 for a 201 and three Mk3 carriages).

The Lima brand has been kept alive by the Hornby group through Lima Expert, a line of products that is targeted for an adult audience, as a result of integrated technology and advanced engineering. Lima Toys and Lima Hobby Line, are lines dedicated to new recruits to the world of railway model making.

Link to Lima page at Hornby web site.

Back To Top of Page

horizontal rule


Home ] Train Collecting Tips page ] Index of Manufacturers ]
To request more information about TCA contact any Western Division board member or send e-mail to: