It was only many weeks after the death of Adrian Batty last year that she entered his private room at their large home near Brough and discovered that for decades the one-time Hull City Council pest control chief had pursued a great passion – for Hornby Dublo!
The huge collection of the vintage electric model railway system completely filled the room – more than 130 locomotives, thousands of items of rolling stock and rare trackside accessories that remained in their original packaging.
Now, the amazing collection is up for auction in Scarborough.
Graham Paddison, a model railways specialist with Scarborough auctioneers David Duggleby, said: “The room was so jammed that there was no space for a layout.
“Mr Batty studied it, he preserved it, he maintained it and he created a wonderful inventory of his collection – but as far as is known he never ran a train around a loop of track.
“The family did of course know that Mr Batty had an interest in model railways and they were aware that he bought the odd item, but he never spoke much about it and no-one intruded into his room.
“Mrs Batty was taken aback to see the scale of the collection and a bit stunned when we told her that it was worth £20,000-£30,000.”
“It is an extraordinary story and it is by a country mile the most extraordinary private collection we’ve ever seen. The auction in Scarborough will be the first time we have ever devoted an entire sale to a single owner model railway collection.”
Mr Paddison added: “The collection spans the entire 25-year Hornby Dublo period, from its launch in 1938 through to the early 1960s.
“Mr Batty was dedicated and knowledgeable. He hunted down the rarest items, in the finest condition, meticulously recording the details in his inventory – including whether he had bagged a bargain or paid over the odds.
“Picking highlights is ridiculously difficult. The collection is just one gem after another.
“The A4 Pacific locomotives include no fewer than eight versions of the world steam record holder Mallard, five versions of Sir Nigel Gresley, six Silver Kings, two Golden Fleeces and a Golden Eagle. And that’s just the LNER steam stars.
“We also have Castle Class, Duchess Class, West Country Class and even Canadian Railways locomotives, not to mention getting on for a couple of dozen Deltic and Diesel Electric models and 50 tank locomotives of various ages and types.
“Tank locos may seem rather humble but some of his tank goods sets are particularly rare. We have a Southern Railway 0-6-2 tank locomotive set with two wagons, a guards van, a quantity of track and a controller that we rate at £350-£450, purely because the engine is a very rare malachite green colour rather than the usual olive green.
“The collection also includes a number of the track accessories produced in the final Hornby Dublo years, when its popularity was waning. Those are now rare and items that originally cost just a few shillings are now worth hundreds of pounds.
In total the auction extends to 219 lots. The catalogue is available at davidduggleby.com.
The sale takes place on Thursday 23 September. The viewing sessions at the Vine Street Salerooms in Scarborough are today (Wednesday) 10am-6pm and on Thursday from 9am until the start of the auction at 11am.
The sale is to be webcast, with online bidding through DD Live and thesaleroom.com.