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£35,000 Model Steam Engine Labelled "Mechanical Marvel of the Day" in 1898 to Sell at Bonhams
The steam engine was first described and illustrated in an article about the railway system by Robert Machray in Harmsworth’s Magazine (1898) entitled ‘The £10,000 Toy’. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- A six inch gauge model steam engine built by Lucas and Davies for a railroad hobbyist called Mr Percy Leigh in the late 19th century, which formed part of the most costly miniature railway system in the world, is to be sold at Bonhams, New Bond Street as part of the Bonhams Veteran Motor Cars and Related Automobilia sale on 5 November 2010. It has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £25,000 – 35,000.

The steam engine was first described and illustrated in an article about the railway system by Robert Machray in Harmsworth’s Magazine (1898) entitled ‘The £10,000 Toy’. Machray wrote that the steam engine was ‘an exact duplicate on a small scale of an express of the London and North Western Railway.’ More recently it has been referred to as looking ‘something like a real one’.

The engine and tender originally cost around £320 and took nine months to make. Machray also observed: ‘It is a real working locomotive, most exquisitely made’. Justifying his expenditure, the railway’s owner, Mr Leigh, said at the time: “Some men spend their money on racehorses, others on yachts, and so on, but this railroad of mine is more to my fancy.’

The engine and tender is sold together with its original rack of four well detailed passenger coaches and three wagons. It is part of a collection of 40 locomotives, previously owned by a private collector, being sold at Bonhams.

Other highlights include a 3 ½ inch gauge model of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway 2-2-2 Locomotive, thought to have been built in Brighton Loco Works alongside the real item in 1874 (estimate £5,000 – 8,000); a 5 inch model of the Great Northern Railway Stirling Single 4-2-2 Locomotive, originally from the estate of the Duke of Argyll (estimate £5,000 – 8,000); and a 6 inch gauge model of the East India Railway 2-2-2 Well Tank Locomotive ‘Express’ commissioned by the East Indian Railway boardroom in London (estimate £15,000 – 20,000).

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