Hello Simon. Can you tell us a bit about your background
My background has always been on the sales side of
things. Iíve been a director of companies and on
the mechanical side of things. From an early age, in my
teens in the seventies, I had an interest in railway
memorabilia. I bought the odd sign and put them in my
bedroom. And then, by chance, in the late eighties and
early nineties I met up with Tony, my partner in the
business. This was quite by chance as we live in the
same road. He was interested in this stuff too and was
slightly older than me. Iím a country boy in
Gloucestershire and we just met up by chance and started
doing a bit of wheeling and dealing, getting a
background as most people in any trade probably tend to
do. We got a good grounding in our subjects and by
natural progression we saw other people doing Railwayana
auctions and felt we could do them better. We had a bit
of IT knowledge Ė Tony was head of communications for
the RAC based near the M6, in charge of the radio
network, but then due to ill health he had to change what
he was doing. Weíve been doing these auctions for
about sixteen years now and used our IT background to do
the website Ė I think most people who find us still
find us the easiest to navigate because we keep things
simple and I think thatís jolly important.
Weíre so impatient on the web arenít we?
Yes, people want to find what theyíre looking for
Yes, youíve got a few seconds and a couple of clicks
to grab the attention and get people to buy.
Itís a competitive market, but we pride ourselves on
our presentation and IT skills to also add value to the
items weíre selling for people.
Have you any connections with the Antiques Roadshow
chaps because they often have Railwayana on there?
No, to be honest theyíre very vague. They get the odd bit on there
but theyíre usually quite wrong either way.
Oops! Itís Paul Atterbury usually, isnít it?
Heís one of the guys that does it but because they
have such a broad spectrum of things you canít expect
them to get it on the button. And we are really narrow.
Thatís still no excuse for them to get it really
Well, unfortunately they do and I donít know if
thatís the case for other items on programmes like
that. Cash In The Attic Ė weíve had a few items
featured on there and that have actually been bought by
people in the audience and then entered into a
specialist auction i.e. ours and still made a profit.
Which is probably what they aimed to do. So whereas
these TV programmes wax lyrical about what money
theyíve made the vendor, weíve actually made another
forty percent on top of that.
Digger: Iím not very impressed with the margins they
are happy with on these roving antiques programmes Ė
you know the ones which seem to be everywhere on TV. The
margins they get are quite small actually.
Talking about commission rates, we are a lot more
competitive than general auctions. Because weíre
specialised, we can do it on a better budget because we
donít do as many. But we do have auctions with 500
quality items from £50 a lot to the sky's the limit actually.
What advice would you give to someone starting to
Buy from reputable people. Because we get a lot of people
come to the auction Ė about 500 turn up in body and
Have you got the online version as well?
The online is mainly a vehicle for selling the lower
valued items. At the main live auctions, where the live
action happens, we do actually allow stallholders to sell
their wares at our auctions. Iím really hot on fakes
and forgeries and they know that they couldnít get
away with selling them at our event. And most of the
Railwayana guys are pretty fair people. There arenít
many rogues, which is nice. Itís different on the
clocks side, however.
Where are these fakes coming from?
Thereís copies which are coming from the far east and
then you go into the fakes and forgeries where they are
actually trying to forge the age and so on and which are
actually there to deceive which is a different kettle of
fish. A lot of road signs on eBay are out and out
forgeries and youíve got to be very careful. Quite a
few railway signs as well and the daft thing is a lot of
these copies are more expensive than the originals, so
collectors need to be aware of what the true value is of
an item. Itís all about knowledge and knowing where to
get these things from.
These road signs youíre talking about Ė are they the
ones that I vaguely remember with the reflective bits on
Yes, theyíre the ones. The ones that are usually
copied are the cast aluminium ones and theyíll
cunningly alter the makerís name by one letter so
Franco become 'Branco' and 'Gomshall' becomes
when you look at them they have gone to town on them
Ė they have aged the backs and painted them and
pretended to give them a mark on the back. So certainly
at GWRA Railwayana we have been very vociferous about fakes and
forgeries and our policy is, if it slips through our
net, then weíve obviously got a lot of collectors who
are friends who come to the auction. If theyíre not
happy with something, then if itís somebody we know and
respect and know their particular field we will withdraw
the item immediately. We will not sell it. Weíve never
had one single item back in sixteen years of trading
that weíve sold thatís turned out to be a fake.
Thatís my advice. Know where youíre buying from and
ours are extremely well policed and you wonít buy a
duff item from our auction. Thatís something we pride
ourselves on. Whatís the point of making a few quid
only for it to come back and get a bad reputation? Your
reputationís everything in sales and auctions.
Sounds good to me. So itís all down to source and
Yes, I really would resist some of the auction sites
unless you really know what youíre doing. Yes there
are bargains to be had there but youíve got to be so
Have you seen that photo on the web of the old-fashioned
fingerpost sign down in Kent? Itís on an old
crossroads and one way points to Ham and another points
I can go one slightly better than that because Iím a
collector as well. You know about the railway clocks
side but also station signs and Iím a cricketer too.
Iíve got Bat and Ball station sign which is coupled
with Bowling which is on Glasgow suburban. It took me
about twenty years to get the Bat and Ball because
itís actually quite rare. And Iíve also got
Clockhouse which is another station in the south. Then
Iíve got some other station signs which Iíve kept as
well. But then the rest of my collection consists of a
few bits in the garden and then the rest is railway
clocks, which is what Iíve come to specialise in now.
Digger: Does your wife love all this stuff?
Yes, she's not too bad.
Thank God for that!
The station side slimmed down somewhat when we moved
because the opportunity was there for her to put her
foot down. What we specialise in at GWRA Railwayana, and what we are
best at in the UK, is actually helping the general
public. I think the UK is unique in that we seem to be
an eclectic collecting fraternity and youíd be
surprised how many people have got the odd bit in the
garden shed. For me it gives me a great buzz when
somebody has found something exciting. And we had a guy
who bought a house in Somerset and was clearing out the
garden shed. He found a little brass plate and he was
going to bin it but he contacted us. The son-in-law said
it had Great Western on it and it was probably worth
contacting somebody about it. Fortunately he contacted
us and we recognised it as being something extremely
special and said straight away ď£6,000 Reserve.Ē It
actually made £13,000. And that went to one of
the museums because we do get the main museums bid with
us as well, such as The National Railway Museum and
others. In fact several of our items are in their
The LT Museum too?
Yes, theyíre definitely acquiring items still if it
fits in with their remit and theyíve bought a handful
from us over the past three or four years. Which is good
because itís always nice to have the museums buying
Yes, it gives you some kudos as well.
Yes, you build up good relationships with these people
and you can turn it round the other way and use them for
a bit of research. We do try and research every item we
put in as best as we can and produce a full colour
catalogue with roughly 400 photographs in it and 500
lots. So thatís quite a feat in its own right. Because
if you look at some of the bigger auctions itís very
rare that theyíll illustrate more than a handful of
lots really. But we go for quantity on the photographic
side and on the website as well.
People need to see an item and if there are any
blemishes on it.
Thatís right and in the digital age thereís no
excuse really and we try to use technology to do the
photographs and upload them. Other people are still
taking 35mm and snipping them out with scissors and
things which doesnít give you the flexibility or clarity.
We try to keep ahead of the technology because itís an
important part of life today.
What are the best things about what youíre doing?
As a business and the auction side it is actually
dealing with the public. Most of the dealers we know and
for me the most exciting thing is dealing with the
public. It never ceases to amaze me what theyíve
got. And itís always nice to make somebody smile
because theyíve got something which is worth more than
they thought rather than the collectors who always think
their stuff is worth more than it actually is.
Unfortunately, Railwayana has dropped so if youíre
looking at selling now is probably the best time to sell
and I suppose buying is going to be better in years to
come because there arenít going to be so many
collectors around. It is an age-related hobby and it
What are you doing to make yourself future-proof then?
I donít know if you can. I think thereís probably
another fifteen years of it left - the main collecting
age group is probably late fifties to seventies.
There was a guy on the Antiques Roadshow who had that
big collection of tickets Ė did you see him?
We actually did quite well on that. It appeared on the
TV and then a week later we had a call from another guy
who had a large collection of tickets and it was
stunning, absolutely stunning. But he put them all in
those photograph albums that peel back and said ďThere
you go.Ē And I said ďWeíll sell them for youĒ
but spent the next two weeks taking them all out.
Without damaging the backs?
They were okay, fortunately. That collection made
something in the region of £24,000 in two sales.
He wanted a new bathroom and it was an expensive one but
anything above £7,000 and he was in profit. So he did
more than okay. He was a publican who had a
railway-themed pub somewhere down south in the sixties
and someone came in with this trunk of tickets and gave
it to him. Thatís what he did with them. Comparable to
the collection that was on the Antiques Roadshow. It
was good that he contacted a specialist auctioneer as
opposed to a general one or it would have got lost in
the mish-mash and they wouldnít have been so well
promoted. I think one of the tickets there was quite
interesting from my point of view because one of them was
for the clockmakers of the Great Eastern Railway. They were issued with a free pass and that was one of
the tickets in the collection. He was allowed to travel
all over the system picking up and repairing clocks. I
think theyíre the kind of things that are very
What are the best sellers and the best investments?
I donít give advice on investments because if youíre
a collector you shouldnít be buying to invest.
Buy something that you like.
Yes, donít buy it as an investment, buy it because you
like it. If it goes, up then itís a bonus. But if you
get enjoyment out of it you could go and buy something
in the high street tomorrow and the next day it will be
worthless. Buy it because you get enjoyment from it.
These items probably will go up in value though.
If you ask me what will carry on in value and not go
down I would say clocks for starters and also posters.
Apart from that, I canít see a lot further than that
because everything else is related to steam trains and
that era. Now that will time-expire with the generation
that remember them.
I suppose if you go forward 100 or 150 years then it
will just be the rarity value?
Yes, it depends, because most of the collectors are
former trainspotters from the forties and fifties and
sixties maybe. The diesel-related items have increased
Ė first generation diesel plates. The western region
diesels and warships are now more expensive than some of
the Great Western nameplates by twice the amount. A
western nameplate off of one of the western diesels
would be roughly at todayís prices about £9,000
whereas a nameplate off one of the Great Western locos
would be about £4,000.
A similar thing is happening with jukeboxes actually,
because if youíd asked what was the most valuable just
a few years ago then the answer would have been fifties
Wurlitzers and Rock-Olas but now itís the jukes from
the seventies and even the eighties that are catching up
because itís the people who grew up with them that are
Iím an odd one because Iím not yet fifty so donít
remember steam but I was always into it. Most of my age
group are into the diesels. And most of my age group now
are coming to the point where theyíve got a bit of
disposable income and thatís what it revolves around
as well Ė you need some spare cash if you want to
collect things. You can then indulge yourself.
Surround yourself with stuff.
Yes, you can if you want to do that. But, certainly
looking around at the kinds of people you get at
auctions and in the collecting fraternity, my age group
is the smallest.
Yes, mainly blokes. Some bring their wives along. One or
two ladies are into it but itís mainly a blokey thing.
We do get a few ladies but I wouldnít say there are
any avid lady collectors.
Youíre running GWRA Railwayana and the clocks business as well?
The clocks are a hobby really, that Iíve done a
website for. That has progressed over the last thirteen
years or so Ė the mechanical aspects of clocks
fascinated me. Then I got into restoring them and one
thing led to another and so I created a website which I
use as a vehicle to try and further my collection. And I
just sell the odd one or two on there. I also offer a
free research facility if people do want any advice and
Iím quite happy to give that - if I think itís
a fake then I say itís a fake and if not then I can do
some research on it.
Thatís worth your time is it?
It is; I have it there in case I want to pack the day
job in and I can probably jump into that and start doing
restoration and buying and selling as a business. I
donít do it at the moment but thatís something I
could definitely do. There are one or two other people
that do railway clocks but once again, the word on the
grapevine is that theyíre thinking of packing it in in
the next year or two.
The same is true with the vintage radio community Ė
there are several people doing repairing and buying and
selling but most of them are thinking of packing it in
due to age.
Iím number three, probably, as far as the age goes.
And if you can restore railway clocks then you can
restore other ones as well and Iím mindful of this as
a possibility for the future. With the auction business
as well hopefully weíve got another ten or fifteen
years of business and that would suit me fine.
Thanks Simon. That's been very informative and we know
where to come if we need any advice or help with buying
and selling Railwayana and railway clocks.
Thank you David.
Railwayana Auctions Ltd
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Telephone: Tony on 01684 773487 or Simon
on 01386 421324
am a private Collector and restorer of Railway
clocks. After years of collecting and restoring
I thought other people might like to enjoy my
timepieces and also browse clocks that I
currently have for sale or exchange. I also
undertake Railway Clock research which is a free
service, records held of Southern Railway and
L.N.E.R Railway Clocks. I am also interested in
purchasing Railway Clocks in any condition and I
guarantee to pay a Fair price, or I can offer
Contact Simon T: +44 (0) 1386 760109
M: +44 (0) 7766 951724
Top Prices Paid for all Railway Clocks
in any condition.
Immediate Settlement and Collection.
Or if you prefer, Restoration and Conservation
of your clock Undertaken.