Disposal of much loved trains and railway layouts

Railway modellers occasionally get asked if they would offer help or advice in disposing of family members models and layouts. Some general advice is given here but don’t ask for valuations-that is for the professionals

Generally –

Don’t put anything out as rubbish until you have got some knowledgeable person’s opinion.

 If you can list items of rolling stock, together with scale, manufacturer and catalogue number if known, this will  be useful. The original boxes can sometimes add considerable value, so don’t throw them away either!

If its a large collection in good condition in boxes, get professional advice from auction houses experienced in model railway items- do not go to general secondhand dealers, who are looking to offer the lowest price,  so that they make more when they sell them on at specialist auctions.

For less specialised collections, some long established model shops offer to purchase models for resale and if you provide a list, will give an estimate of their offer for the items. Higher prices will be for items “as new”, in working order and in their original boxes. See major model railway magazines for adverts for these, including long established secondhand dealers.

If the models are of Continental, North American or Japanese outline then you may wish to contact an appropriate special railway interest group covering the particular country, but based in the UK. Most of these have links on this site and may be able to point you in the right direction for disposal.

There are a number of  specialist auction houses who have  regular auctions which attract collectors from far and wide. Do not put items in local auctioneers general sales, as you will generally not get enough interested parties to get worthwhile bids.

Was the loved one a member of a national model railway club or collectors association ? Some of them  offer an executors service, disposing of them in a professional way to gain maximum benefit to the family.

Complete layouts are particularly difficult to dispose of, even when well known. Take some photographs and list the layout’s size and the scale its built to.  Unless the layout was built for exhibition purposes, the major difficulty is in removing it from its current home-particularly when located in a loft. Often the work of removing the layout can partially destroy it, unless carried out very carefully. In the event of the builder being a former  member of a local model railway club, or having friends who assisted in building or operating the layout, approach them first to see if they can help in dismantling and  in seeking buyers within the club or from other local modellers or amongst themselves.

Modellers often have large collections of books and magazines about model and prototype railways. Again there are specialist booksellers and auctioneers as well, who can dispose of these. There are  a number of reputable magazine dealers, but the interest in secondhand print magazines is on the decline due to the storage space required and the introduction of electronic versions.  Some major model railway clubs may be interested in receiving them, but most  clubs have little or no storage space for such items.

Be prepared for your loved ones prized collection to be worth a lot less or a lot more than you thought! It is all related to the state of the collectors market, whether the items are collectable and who turns up to the auction.

You of course don’t have to sell  all or any of your loved ones collection. Keeping a treasured item in a display case is a nice way to remember the fun the owner had with this hobby of model railways..

Much of the distress this process can cause to railway modellers families, would be avoided if the owners of models etc would leave a list of items, photographs and a list of useful contacts for disposals. Clear instructions of items to be left to beneficiaries should be included in ones’ will if those drafting the will think appropriate.

We have also have members of the public wishing to use their local model railway club like a “charity shop” to dispose of their unwanted model railway items or magazines on, when spring cleaning a loft or shed, even expecting them to collect almost immediately! Clubs are not set up to provide such a service, nor should people expect it to be provided..

Local clubs sometimes offer to sell on a commission basis, small quantities of used model railway items in reasonable condition (No electrical transformers, controllers etc) at the secondhand items table at their annual event . Items are usually only accepted on the day of the event and any unsold items must be collected at the end of the day. Non collected items are disposed of at the discretion of the club.

January 2013/ April 2013/May 2013/August 2013/April/May 2016/ January 2017/February 2017/ May 2017/March 2020- general update