Above: is it a train? No it’s a box. This novelty tin had bidders flocking to Burton on Trent where it eventually sold for £4000.

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The 14in (35cm) long box (now sadly with a detached chimney stack) is thought to date from the first quarter of the 20th century and is lithographed in green NER livery.

It arrived as part of a box of miscellaneous items from a deceased estate but the auctioneers reckoned it had potential and pulled it out to offer as an individual lot, thinking it might make in the region of £500-600.

It attracted considerable interest, contested by three people in the room and three telephone bidders and the hammer finally fell at £4000 to a British dealer/collector on one of the phones.

The purchaser, who had spotted the box in Winterton's Antiques Trade Gazette advertisement, had never seen another example and its rarity, plus crossover appeal to toy and railway enthusiasts all contributed to the high price.

Because of its large size, the auctioneers and purchaser reckoned it was probably a shop display rather than a domestic piece. Its revolving wheels and the couplings to front and rear also prompted speculation that there could originally have been carriages made for attachment.