A jumble sale buy was the signal for a lifetime obsession which developed into a staggering model railway collection.
Tomorrow Leslie Almond’s railway world, built up over 50 years, will be sold by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland and is estimated to make between £40,000 and £60,000.
On offer among the 500 lots will be 170 locomotives, including a model of the Princess Elizabeth engine, valued at £1,500-£2,000.
There are also hundreds of carriages, freight wagons and railway buildings. Seven Pullman carriages are priced at £300-£500.
Mr Almond, 90, from Darras Hall in Northumberland, said: “I started collecting when my son was a boy Scout, when he was younger than 10, and he’s now 54.
“The Scout group held a jumble sale to raise funds and there was a box of little trains, which we bought for him to play with. We both ended up playing with them.
“Once I started to add to the selection of models I kept them in the loft, which was all floored out. It was quite a collection. I added to it, made models and altered models. It was my hobby and I didn’t stop collecting.”
Early Hornby trains dating to before 1964, when the company was bought by Tri-Ang, are particularly collectable.
After passing through a number of owners, Hornby Railways became an independent company in the 1980s.
Hornby produced its first clockwork train in the 1920s, but some of the models in Mr Almond’s collection pre-date that.
“Some of the pieces date to the early 1900s and even earlier,” he said. “I had one that’s a locomotive without any workings inside that was made in 1896 in Germany. We collected from adverts and also bought them from toy shops. When Hornby went out of production, shops were left with stock. Some of them were glad to get rid of it so we acquired some that way.”
A former agricultural merchant, with no connection to the railways, Mr Almond was also an enthusiastic member of the Border Counties group of Hornby collectors.
He now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease so he can no longer drive to the meetings, or enjoy his hobby like he used to.
He said: “It means I’ve had to abandon the trains because I can no longer easily climb up into the loft. I’ll be sad to see it go. The only bits I’m keeping are a few pieces for my son Gareth. He lives in Australia now and he can’t take the collection over there.”
Fred Wyrley-Birch from Anderson & Garland said: “This really is a very special collection, and it’s very rare to see so many examples of quality model trains and equipment together in one place.
“We’re expecting some frenzied bidding from collectors when the auction gets underway.
“In terms of the sheer volume of items and their diversity, it will be a remarkable sale.”