Hawthorn model Andrew Smith 19-12-16.jpg
The Hawthorn, a mid-19th century live steam model 1 inch gauge locomotive by Thomas James for R&W Hawthorn, c.1851, estimated at £20,000-30,000 in the Andrew Smith & Son February 7-8 auction in Winchester.

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At auction, this market often appeals in the same way as Star Wars and Lego these days: nostalgic collectors looking back to their childhood and buying the likes of Hornby Dublo, Wrenn and Triang.

Large model railway sections are offered in many toys and collectables sales, and Special Auction Services (SAS) of Berkshire has just held its regular Trains Galore extravaganza dedicated solely to this market.  

Model railways offer plenty of price entry points and themes as a collector and at the top end of the market the very best items, such as scratchbuilt rather than mass-produced, can make tens of thousands.

The Fine Arts & Collectables sale run by Andrew Smith & Son in Winchester on February 7-8 will offer one of the earliest models ever offered at auction.

A mid-19th century 1 inch gauge exhibition-quality, live-steam scale model of the ‘Hawthorn’ 0-4-2 locomotive and tender will be estimated at around £20,000-30,000. It was built by Thomas James of Hartlepool and completed in 1851, the  5 1/4inch wheels with full link motion, and represents the full-size Stephenson patent type of 1833-46 built by R&W Hawthorn, Newcastle.

The metre-long model is presented in green/black/maroon livery and engraved brass builder’s nameplates to each side read Thos. James and T James, Hartlepool 1851.

Gary Loftus, director of valuations at Andrew Smith & Son, says: “R&W Hawthorn exhibited a full-size locomotive at The Great Exhibition of 1851. It is highly probable this scale model was built for Hawthorn, the model builder Thomas James being one of the company’s engineers of the time. It was originally mounted on a rolling road type track for live-steam static display (archive photographs depict this) although the track has not survived.”

Miniature railway maestro

The model is consigned to the auction house direct from the collection of Henry Greenly (1876-1947), widely regarded as one of the foremost miniature railway engineers of the 20th century. The family owned it for 110 years overall.

Greenly founded Model Railway & Locomotives Magazine with another ‘great’ of the model railways world: WJ Bassett-Lowke. This model locomotive features in many of the published works by Greenly, an engineer, designer, writer and publisher, including a couple of books included in the lot.

Greenly was also designer and chief engineer of the well-known Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch (miniature) Railway in Kent.

Trains in Cheshire

Cheshire auction house Wright Marshall will host one of the largest model railway auctions as its first sale of the new year on January 11-12. It features more than 1350 lots made up of over 4000 model trains and carriages from around the globe, with all proceeds from this single-owner collection going to charity.

The collection was owned by the late Antony John Adler, a model railway collector based in Oldham. Adler, a solicitor, was inspired to start collecting while sheltering from the rain near a model train store and thought the hobby may help relaxation. Oldham agents Ryder & Dutton, who had a long-standing working relationship with Adler, are assisting Wright Marshall with the auction.