A revival of interest in model railways and Scalextric racing cars has put train set makers Hornby in the fast lane.

Sales to model train enthusiasts in the UK, as well as overseas interest in Scalextric cars, fuelled a 20 per cent rise in turnover to £34.1 million in the year to March 31.

Pre-tax profits raced ahead by 45 per cent to £5.4 million.

A newly launched Scalextric range based on the characters from The Simpsons cartoon as well as its popular Hogwarts Express train - based on the steam engine from the Harry Potter films - are expected to fuel further growth this year.

As well as developing new, up-to-date model rail sets - including replicas Eurostar and Virgin trains - the company has concentrated on licences to tie its products in with popular film and television characters.

As well as the new Simpsons product, the group has just signed a deal to develop a Scalextric set based on the film The Italian Job.

Chief executive Frank Martin said: "Sales of both the Hornby and Scalextric product ranges are exceeding our expectations."

Friday June 6, 2003