News & Insights

Steaming Ahead: Model Trains at Auction

7th October 2022. By Kegan Harrison

Model trains may have started out as children’s toys, but they have developed into a serious hobby on which collectors are willing to spend thousands of pounds to secure a prize piece to add to their collection. Over the last few years determined bidders have helped boost the sales of model trains at auction, and strong prices are being achieved for both vintage and modern examples.

Collecting model trains encompasses wide areas of interests, from those that collect modern examples to run over elaborately constructed loft layouts, to those that like decorative vintage models to adorn a cabinet in a living room. Engineering enthusiasts might seek out pieces with the greatest degree of accurate engineering in miniature form or collect every variation of a particular range or locomotive.

Hornby O Gauge Midland Railway Goods Set (1920/1), Sold for £2,600 plus buyer’s premium


As with everything at auction, the overriding factor deciding the value of a model train is quality. People will always buy quality items whether they are modern or 100 years old. The great manufacturers of the past such as Marklin, Carette, Bassett-Lowke and Bing are still highly sought after, as are modern high-end makers such as Dapol, HAG and Heljan.

Recently at Tennants, we have seen modern collecting trends veering towards serious buyers seeking out high-end scale models, rather than those collecting for children or as nostalgic reminders of their youth. For example, a collection of Bachmann OO Gauge models, made in China with a very high degree of accuracy sold well throughout. They are digitally controlled allowing for authentic speeding up and slowing down, automatic rear and head lights, and sound features to recreate the noises of the railroad when being run around a home layout.

Unusual collectors’ pieces have also caught the eye of bidders, such as a Marklin O Gauge 3 Rail Electric TWE 12930 Railcar from one of the finest German toy train manufacturers. This is a recreation of a Continental railcar, a single powered coach rather than an engine pulling passenger cars, which never caught on in the UK. Whilst variations of railcars had been around for some years, the 1930s saw the introduction of a variety of streamlined variants, like this one, which were used on lower usage passenger lines including in rural areas.

James Stanley Beeson O Gauge 2-6-2T Class 3MT Locomotive, Finished as BR 82007, Sold for £16,000 plus buyer’s premium


A rare model locomotive of superb quality sold for £16,000 this last July. The O Gauge 2-6-2T Class 3MT locomotive was made by James Stanley Beeson (1906-1990) of Ringwood, Hampshire, a model train maker of exceptional talent. Models by Beeson are considered the finest and most sought-after amongst collectors, the pinnacle of model train engineering and this price is close to the world auction record for his work. This particular example was finished as BR 82007 and was once illustrated in the October 1960 issue of Railway Modeller magazine.

Whichever area of model train collecting appeals to you, it is certain to get you hooked. With a wide variety of models on offer at auction starting at around £100, it is a great way of getting into this absorbing hobby. 

A Hornby O Gauge ‘Princess Elizabeth’ 1939, in presentation box, Estimate: £1,000-1,500 plus buyer’s premium

To be sold in the Toys, Models & Collectables Sale on 9th December

Kegan Harrison

Kegan Harrison

Toys and Collectables, Sporting and Fishing, Scientific Instruments, Cameras and Tools, Musical Instruments and Mechanical Music Specialist

+ 44 (0) 1969 623780

Find out more
< Back to News