Brian Hollins: the man who collected Hornby trains

PUBLISHED: 12:02 19 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:33 20 February 2013

Brian Hollins: the man who collected Hornby trains

Brian Hollins: the man who collected Hornby trains

Stewart Orr, Toys Specialist with Halls, Shrewsbury, has the answer

What gets men all steamed up?

Stewart Orr, Toys Specialist with Halls, Shrewsbury, has the answer

If there is one thing that all men of a certain age have in common then, without doubt, it is a love of steam engines and all that goes with them.
Many theories have been put forward to explain this phenomenon but the most acceptable is perhaps that steam power was the first properly man-made engine and the elemental combination of water and fire produced a machine that seemed to breathe as if it were somehow alive.

To the many men, who cannot own a real one, the next best thing is a model. Train sets have been with us for more than a century and have always been avidly collected by men, sometimes under the dubious excuse they were buying them not for themselves, you understand, but for their children. The sale of a one-owner collection of Hornby Trains at Halls in June attracted worldwide interest from scores of men no doubt searching for a present for their imaginary children!

The sale comprised the lifelong collection of the late Brian Hollins, a man who found relief from the stress of his senior position at ATV with a passion for collecting Hornby Trains. What made the sale of this collection even more fascinating was the fact that Brian sought to acquire models that reflected changes in production methods or items that were obscure or little known.

Hornby Trains came into being shortly after the First World War, before which Meccano had imported train sets by German manufacturers. But their products had become so unpopular that Hornby decided to make his own versions.

Frank Hornby understood that most boys had a fascination for the mechanical world around them and sought to foster this interest with products that mirrored it. As a result a huge number of model railway accessories were produced to add realism to model layouts, most of which Mr Hollins assiduously collected. There were engine sheds, goods sheds, stations, platforms, cranes, buffers, water towers, model staff, passengers, gradient posts, signs, trees and fences, all produced in tinplate with sharp edges and all painted in bright enamel with lots of lead added in cheerful ignorance of child safety.

The Hollins collection contained a good selection of private owner vans. These were wagons in the liveries of some of the countrys best known manufacturers and are much sought after. A Fyffes Bananas van slid away at 100, one from Cadburys Chocolates consumed 180 and the excellently named Pratts Motor Oil went for 80. The Riviera Blue Train was a real rarity even when originally produced. It had taken Mr Hollins decades to find the original components and it steamed away for 2,350. A highlight of the sale and the subject of a bidding war was a superb Princess Elizabeth LMS 4-6-2 locomotive and tender. At nearly two feet long and in its original wooden presentation box, this model cost roughly two weeks wages in 1938, so perhaps its record price of 3,600 is not so much of a shock.

If you have a train set languishing in the attic, please feel free to give me a ring at Halls, Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury, on any Monday on 01743 284777. One final thought, I cannot help but feel that if Frank Hornby or Brian Hollins were in charge of our railways today there would be a distinct improvement in the service.


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