Hemswell Antique Centres

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A beginner’s guide to railwayana

Railwayana for sale


As with many areas of collectables, railway related items vary in price from a few pounds to several thousands. This helpful guide for the beginner collector aims to help the novice get on the right track!

What is railwayana?

Railwayana is the name given to any item or artefacts relating to railways and trains, either previously or currently in operation. However, it is generally accepted to be the term for collectable items. 

Types of railwayana

Today, railwayana is highly popular with collectors of all ages and from all walks of life. From the little boy who dreams of being a train driver, to the Grandad who remembers travelling on a steam train, there are collectors for every aspect of railwayana. Areas popular for collecting are numerous but the following are some of the most popular:

Nameplate – relating to just one area of railwayana, nameplates include railway engine nameplates, railway station names and railway shed plates. Locomotive nameplates occupy the top end of the market, with the most valuable harking back to the steam trains of yesteryear; one LNER Flying Scotsman nameplate achieved a record £64,500 at auction in 2018, an amount that will be hard to beat!

Railway art – a popular area for collectors, railway art includes posters, advertising, metal wall signs, and carriage prints. Posters are likely to continue to increase in value now that they have been replaced in most stations with digital displays. Carriage artwork caters to a diversity of tastes and some early examples were produced by some skilled artists, including Claude Buckle and Henry Rushbury. Coloured prints date from the mid-20th century; prior to this, scenic countryside scenes were displayed in colour-printed, sepia or black and white photographs.

Hardware railwayana – this is much more of a niche area for collectors and includes durable equipment such as tools, machinery, lanterns, and items from dining carriages.

Ephemera – perfect for the beginner or novice railwayana collectors, ephemera is paper railwayana. Timetables and tickets can still be found relatively easily for now, but prices are expected to rise with the demise of publications such as the National Railway Timetable, which went out of print in 2019-2020.  

How to identify genuine railwayana

The beginner collector should understand the difference between a counterfeit or forgery, and a reproduction or replica item. A counterfeit item has been manufactured with the intent to mislead, with the manufacturer knowing it is not a genuine item. A reproduction or replica, by contrast, is made as a copy and is not intended to deceive. A replica item should be clearly marked as such. Our previous article ‘Where to find quality vintage enamel signs for sale’ will help you to identify what to look for in a genuine enamel sign, but for those starting out, always buy from an experienced dealer or specialist auction house, both of which should be able to provide information on the authenticity of the item.

Railwayana for sale

There are many specialist auction houses that specialise in railwayana or that hold regular railwayana sales, with knowledgeable staff. The beginner collector should be aware, however, that auction house prices are often high when commission has been added to the final hammer price, and provenance can be difficult to establish. Buying from established and reputable antique centres like Hemswell brings peace of mind that items are authentic. Viewing online ahead of visiting the centres removes any pressure to purchase and ,if you are looking for specific items, our dealers can access the dealer portal to put a call out that other dealers may be able to satisfy. For visitors to the centres, each of our four buildings is home to a selection of railwayana, with Building 2 housing the largest collection.

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