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BEGINNERS GUIDE

Railwayana collecting embraces such a diverse field of interest and prices that there should be something to collect for everyone. The top price for a nameplate is over £60,000 and you can buy a luggage label for a few pence so there is a collecting area available for all pockets. The picture above shows Collectors Corner at Euston Station where you could purchase Railway items as they were replaced by BR. Sadly this has now closed and you are left with the choice of trying to buy items privately or via Auction. As a beginner I would advise against using general Internet Auctions as they often sell fakes and replicas. Specialist Auctions such as ours vet all items and will not sell items unless they are genuine.

Most collectors start with local items – items from places they visited on holiday or perhaps Loco items from trains spotted in their youth – so nostalgia tends to rule the roost.

Railwayana is not cheap but is readily available so starting a collection is not difficult. I would advise that you decide on a theme for a collection and then focus your efforts in that area. I feel that railway enamels form a good starting point as all collections seem to end up with a good selection of enamel signs in them.

Prices start at about £80 for a 24" x 18" split station sign to £200 plus for a southern railway target, £250+ for a station totem and into the thousands for an early company marked sign or a BR enamel with an evocative name.

The general rule with enamels is the smaller and more displayable they are the more expensive they become and particularly so if they carry a company or place name. Enamel running in boards can be picked up fairly cheaply as they can be up to 10 foot long but they can look very dramatic if you have the space to display them.

 Very popular at the moment are BR enamel Doorplates which can make a very displayable collection as they are only 18" long and come in the six regional colours. Prices have increased recently and you may have to pay around £200 for the most common sign which just says PRIVATE.

The top end of the Railwayana market is dominated by locomotive nameplates, with the most expensive being from the era of steam - but modern traction plates are becoming increasingly popular. Brass loco plates can look most spectacular in a collection but can hurt the wallet, with the cheapest being a Hall nameplate from about £4,000 or a Jubilee from about £7,000. The highest price achieved in auction is over £60,000! Other classes can be obtained for anything between these prices with scarcity and the quality of the name deciding the price. There are plenty of nameplates available if you have the cash, so decide what you want and can afford before you splash out as plates are far easier to buy than to sell. The market has dropped recently and this may be a good time to buy.

NAMEPLATES from modern traction locomotives split into two groups – the earlier locomotives remembered by the steam brigade and the later ones, many of which are still running. Prices of the earlier nameplates vary from about £20,000 for a Deltic brass plate and £7,000 - £10,000 for an early Western set. Modern plates from locos such as Class 47s go for about £3,000 + and stainless steel reflective plates for around £2,000.

Other loco items are SMOKEBOX NUMBERPLATES priced between £300 for a common GWR tank engine to £3,000+ for a mainline named locomotive.

WORKSPLATES in brass, cast iron and aluminium were carried by most locomotives from the earliest of days and go for anything between £50 to £5,000+. Diesel Worksplates have become very popular over the past few years and as a result the prices have increased dramatically.

GWR/BR(W) CABSIDE NUMBERPLATES, which are made of Cast iron or brass sell at between £300 for a humble workhorse to £8,000+ for a King.

The most affordable loco items are SHEDPLATES which were carried on the Smokebox door in BR days to show the home shed and will cost from £50 to £500+. You will pay more for an unrestored plate. Beware - they are easy to produce and can fetch quite high prices so there are many thousands of fakes in circulation.

The most collected station signs are totems as they are a convenient size (36 x 10 inches), come in a choice of 6 colours, and every name has a connection for someone. These have also increased in price recently. You can get an indication of whether a totem exists for your Station and. if so, what price each might fetch. This can be viewed in our Totem Guide Section.

Southern Railway targets are not in the same league as Totems as they only come in one colour and many are from London suburban stations. Even so the top price is over £4000. Some LMS stations also carried aluminium target shaped signs called Hawkseyes. These also fail to excite the collector as much as totems. Originally the surface had small pieces of glass in the paint to reflect the station lights but many have now been restored and have lost this originality.

Another very popular area of collecting is that of cast iron signs. These can date back to the early days of the railways and there are an enormous range of types from pre and post grouping railway companies. Signs vary significantly in size and can be very heavy – but they do have the advantage of being able to be displayed in the garden! Prices range from £50 for a common untitled sign to £3000+ for rare one off examples.

For more aesthetically pleasing items carriage prints fill the bill with almost certain permission to display in the living room. Carriage prints look best displayed in original frames or original type replica frames with prices ranging from £20 for unframed common prints to £800+ for the rarest. As with any work of art only buy if you like the picture!

Also in the category of decorative household items are Railway Posters. They come in two main sizes to match station posterboards i.e. double royal (40” x 25”) and quadroyal (40” x 50”). Posters can be preserved by putting on canvas or by laminating to a backboard but the most sought after, and valuable, are unfolded and in good original condition. Prices depend on rarity and image and range from £10 to £5,000+ - letterpress only posters are always much cheaper. Posters are best framed and glazed but the quad royal varieties can become very heavy so plastic is often a better option than glass.

Nearly all collections have a railway clock in them. These come in all shapes and sizes with the smaller ones generally fetching higher prices.

A fringe item for Railwayana collectors are jigsaw puzzles. Wooden puzzles were made by Chad Valley for the GWR for advertising purposes.

Railway signalling has a wide diversity of collectible items ranging from signal box diagrams, nameboards and instruments to single line keys and staffs. An item that most of us buy when we start collecting is a track side signal arm. These tend to be sold a little later on once you appreciate their size and I would caution you to delay this purchase. Signal box instruments and single line keys and staffs are the most popular with collectors, and prices range from £50 to £500+.

The railways were lit by paraffin and gas lamps and the variety is enormous. Station lampposts with the lamp displaying the station name, or a totem or target below, were on many stations and remained there until replaced by fluorescent lights with the name on the cover. Both the lampposts and lamps are sought after, particularly early ones, with lampposts costing from £100 to £500+ and the lamps from £50 upwards. Railway workers used Handlamps and all trains also carried paraffin lamps on the front and rear so enormous numbers were made. These are now collectible particularly with plates bearing company names and locations. Prices can range from £20 for a common British Railways Handlamp to many thousands for a rare example such as from the Somerset and Dorset Railway.

All the main railways had hotels, station dining rooms and dining cars and these were equipped with silverware and crockery generally marked with the company name. A large number of items have survived and these can be attractively displayed in a cabinet or made use of on the dining room table. Prices vary relative to condition and scarcity with most being fairly attainable. Try to purchase china items with no damage and silverware in good original un-replated condition.

Railway tickets have always been collected and continue to be so even in current times. There are specialist ticket auctions, the main seller being Great Central Railwayana Auctions ticket auctions where rare & common tickets can be obtained. Again prices vary from a few pence to many hundreds of pounds.

A cheaper alternative to tickets are luggage labels. Printed on thin paper they had company names and covered all stations in Britain and Ireland – it is therefore possible to focus a collection on a particular company or area. Prices range from a few pence to £2+

Station furniture came from both platforms with items such as station benches, and from the booking office/station master’s house with cabinets, tables and chairs, etc. A bench can cost from £200 to £1,000+ and they can make a functional addition to the garden. Other furniture items tend to be priced according to the company name marked on it and its functionality and attractiveness in the home setting.

Many workers on the railway had badges both of cloth and metal and these still exist in great variety. These have the advantage of being easy to display in a small cabinet. Prices are generally in the £5 to £100 region and so are relatively affordable.

In same area of manageable items are buttons, which were company marked and survive in great numbers. A useful book on this topic is Railway buttons, badges & uniform by David J Froggart which although out of print can be obtained second hand.

This is not an exhaustive survey, but does give a flavour of the wide variety of interests that are covered by the broad description of Railwayana collecting. If you want more information on any items then visit our Collectors Guides which give helpful information regarding the various categories of Railwayana.

Best of luck – Railwayana collecting is a very satisfying, if at times a little expensive, hobby.

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