Lyme Regis station target sign

Southern Railways Lyme Regis station target sign, £5800 at Charterhouse.

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The ‘target’ design example that came up for auction at Charterhouse (25% buyer’s premium) in Sherborne, Dorset, on September 26 boasted all those attributes – helping to explain why it was hammered down at £5800, more than 10 times the top estimate, after a battle between phones, commission and online bidders. It sold to a phone buyer from the East Coast.

The station in question was Lyme Regis, also in Dorset, which was first opened by the Axminster & Lyme Regis Light Railway in 1903 to bring holidaymakers from the main line (at Axminster) but closed in 1965 under the Beeching axe when part of British Railways.

The building, however, was dismantled and reconstructed at Alresford, Hampshire, on the heritage Watercress Line.

No evidence of the original station now remains at the Lyme Regis site but memories of childhood holidays in the seaside town probably do. The medieval port of Lyme Regis became a very popular destination as a resort in the 18th century.

That holiday nostalgia appeal was also a factor when a later ‘totem’ station sign sold at Scottish auction house Lindsay Burns in May last year (ATG No 2544). Despite its grimy and battered condition, it still made £3900, heavily influenced by the fact it came from the disused, small station of Balloch Pier where steamers on Loch Lomond docked.

The Lyme Regis branch line became part of Southern Railway (established 1923), which used the distinctive green and white enamel ‘target’ design as seen in this example. They came in a range of sizes – to accommodate a longer station name for a start. When British Railways nationalisation took place in 1948 the totem designs were introduced and most targets replaced in the early 1950s (although some survived for longer).

Signs from smaller stations, being obviously rarer, can also command a price premium.

Measuring 13in x 3ft (33 x 91.5cm), the sign’s condition was described as ‘generally good, a few chips to the edge’.

It was found in a clearance of a local property belonging to an avid railway enthusiast. Richard Bromell of Charterhouse said: “The owner had an art shop in Sherborne. He was the fourth generation to run it and nothing much had changed in 100 years.

“Now deceased, he was a keen railway enthusiast and we recycled a vast number of railway-related magazines. He also had a weekend house in Lyme Regis. We have sold about 150 lots from this estate.”