Steam Powered Toys & Live Steam Models

Steam was used to power toys as an alternative to clockwork from the 19th century. By the mid 20th century it was largely replaced by electric or battery power. Steam powered toys are a keen collecting area for enthusiasts and some still build new models from scratch.

There are three main areas of interest. Firstly stationary toys made for children. Secondly moving steam powered models like trains and boats. However probably the most popular are the
demonstration models showing how different machines work. Larger models will always fetch a premium especially, if they are well engineered, particularly large demonstration models or trains
that could actually be ridden on.

Specialist Valuer Mr John Morgan with a 3 inch Scale Live Steam Model of An W.M. Allchin Traction Engine 'Mary'. Sold - £4,200
Specialist Valuer Mr John Morgan with a 3 inch Scale Live Steam Model of An W.M. Allchin Traction Engine ‘Mary’. Sold – £4,200

Generally the more sophisticated the mechanics the more desirable and hence the more valuable the model. The mechanics of the steam power was often very simple in the toys made for children.
This was usually with steam driving a flywheel that is attached to other parts with a belt, thus producing movement. Examples could be people working, playing or dancing, windmills, wells and
other novelty items. Far more complicated and true to life were the steam engines in the demonstration models, with some highly intricate and detailed designs.

A pair of 3.5 inch Gauge Live Steam Gresley A4 & A3 Locomotives
A pair of 3.5 inch Gauge Live Steam Gresley A4 & A3 Locomotives

Examples still containing original burners and other components are more desirable to collectors, but damage from both water and oil can be very common and will reduce value. Steam power was used by most of the main tinplate toy manufacturers, such as German makers Bing, Marklin and Wilesco, English manufacturer Mamod and American maker Jenson.

Senior Valuer Michael Dowse

For more information or if you have similar items, please get in touch with us, full details can be found on our company website

How ‘Big’ do you like your Model Railway?

It was once estimated there were around 50 different model railway gauges and standards throughout the world, how true this is uncertain. However here in the UK by far the most popular size is ‘OO’ being dominated by the ready to run manufacturers such as Bachmann and Hornby amongst many others. However for those with very little space how about Z gauge, developed by Marklin in Germany in 1972 a Z gauge layout where a single circuit of track will fit on top of a large cake tin! Then at the other extreme perhaps the choice is 7 ¼ inch gauge where large gardens and paddocks are required and motive power is provided by live steam and diesel engines.

5 Gauges of Model Railway
5 Gauges of Model Railway

As for the smallest gauge a trip to Japan is required – where else? – where in 2006 T gauge was developed with a track width of just 3mm which is half the size of Z gauge! Tweezers and eye glass compulsory with all purchases.

Whether you are looking to add to model railway or sell your collection, Sheffield Auction Gallery hold regular model railway auctions on all scales and gauges (next Specialist Auction on August 27th).

For more information please visit our Sheffield Auction Gallery website.