Life-time collection of model trains from rail fanatic who worked on Yorkshire locomotives as a youngster fetches £100,000 at auction

A huge model railway set which was collected by a train enthusiast throughout his life has fetched £100,000 at auction.

Nigel Thornley founded and co-founded a number of model railway societies in Yorkshire and Lancashire
Nigel Thornley founded and co-founded a number of model railway societies in Yorkshire and Lancashire

Nigel Thornley amassed the toy engines for more than 70 years after being given his first train set as an 18-month-old toddler.

Over the decades he went on to build up an enormous hoard of more than 300 models and had a lifelong passion for the railways before his death earlier this year, aged 72.

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Experts estimated the collection could achieve £70,000 at auction but it steamed to success to fetch £100,000 when it went under the hammer on Tuesday (14/9).

Nigel Thornley sadly died earlier this year at the age of 72.

Four individual locomotives fetched more than £1,000 by themselves as rail enthusiasts bid for more than 350 lots at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, Derbys.

Mark Holder, trains and railwayana expert at Hansons, said: “Interest was strong right from the start.

"Some models had been specially commissioned at great cost. Individual model locomotives were selling for £1,800 each.

“This collection was a joy to bring to market. The response from bidders was a tribute to Nigel’s rail knowledge and expertise.

"Fellow enthusiasts recognised how exceptional his collection was. And there’s more to come.

"The collection is so vast Hansons will be selling more Nigel Thornley railwayana in its October 9 Toy Nostalgia Auction.”

The "once in a lifetime" collection was said to feature an eclectic mix of locomotive models as well as postcards and train books.

A gauge 1 ‘City of Manchester’ locomotive fetched £1,700 by itself, while a scratch built NWR 0-8-0 by Bill Davis made £1,250.

A 0-4-0T Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) Railmotor made £1,200 while a 7mm finescale L&YR Dreadnought locomotive sold for £1,800.

Mr Holder added: “This model train and railwayana collection was so large and comprehensive it deserves an auction all of its own.

"Nigel’s love of trains was all-encompassing and his passion comes through on every level."

Nigel, of Chester, also devoted his life to preservation of Britain’ railway heritage, according to his family.

Paying tribute, they said: “Nigel began his love of trains with Hornby Dublo 3-Rail track as a small boy.

"When he was 12 years old, he used to go to the local signal box and help out. On one occasion he got a warning the inspector was on his way, so hid round the back.

"But the inspector knew he was there, called him in and put him through his paces answering a series of questions about signal boxes and how they were used.

"He then got Nigel to demonstrate the correct way to operate the levers and signals. Finally, he said ‘the lad can stay’ - much to the relief of the signalman, and Nigel.

“At the age of 14 he used to be picked up by Richard Greenwood, a father figure in railway preservation, and taken to Haworth in City of Bradford, West Yorkshire, for the weekend to help restore a Pug.

"That Pug is still in service at Haworth’s Keighley and Worth Valley heritage railway. He became a founder member of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Society.

“In his late teens/early twenties he got together with his friend, Trevor Hughes, to form the Rochdale Model Railway Society which is also still thriving.

“His real passion was the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Society, and he became an avid modeller of engines, coaches and rolling stock and collector of anything he could find of his beloved L&YR.

"However, he still modelled and collected locomotives and stock from other lines too.

“He was fanatical about wanting to preserve things for posterity and, determined that nothing should be lost, he and his fellow society members worked with the Manchester Archives to ensure as much information as possible was saved and recorded there.

“He literally spent hours searching the internet for items which he then bought on behalf of the L&YR and sent to the archives.

"He was a member and supporter of many railway societies, heritage trusts and guilds and a regular face at exhibitions.

"He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”