starting or ‘buy it now’ prices, deliberately designed to catch the unwary. The adage with ebay is ‘if in any doubt, don’t.’ Be aware, too, that several large reputable model railway stores put items on ebay, so look for the name/ location of the seller. Out of curiosity, I rechecked the availability of the Hornby-dublo suburban station (featured on page 62). There were three examples, one of which was complete and still boxed and had a starting bid of just £5, while another, with at least one missing window, had a ‘Buy it now’ price of £69.95. Caveat emptor! Several of the major model railway retailers now have large second-hand departments. Let’s not beat about the bush. A lot of ‘baby boomer’ generation modellers (I am of that generation) are reaching the end of their lives and their model railway collections are being sold off. Stores such as Hatton’s and Rails of Sheffield have recognised that such collections often contain lots of highly re-saleable items and they have a constantly changing inventory of pre-owned equipment. A check of their websites is the best way to find out what’s available at any given time. If it’s what you want, go for it. Some of these models come and go very quickly. It’s likely to be in good condition and boxed but may not be at bargain basement prices. These guys are experts and they know the value of what they are selling. The model railway exhibition ‘season’ starts soon, having taken the annual summer break. Shows are often a good place to look for bargains but you do need to do your homework first. Know what you are looking for and how much you should expect to pay for it. Several years ago, I needed coaches for my ‘O’ gauge ‘Railway Children’ layout. Second-hand ‘O’ gauge can be a minefield as it is mainly kit-built and scratchbuilt models and they vary widely in how well they’ve been built and finished. I found a couple of clerestories – Midland, I think – but I had no idea of their origin. They looked OK and were complete and I seem to recall I paid around £50 each, which made me hesitate at the time, but was actually quite a bargain. Most of the second-hand stalls at shows are either the club’s own sales stand or a part-time dealer – an amateur who travels from one exhibition and swapmeet to the next. Again, it’s a case of being sure of what you’re looking for and being discerning about what you buy. If the models look clean and well presented that’s a good start. If they look like they’ve been hauled from pillar to post in the same tray for months, they are best avoided. They may well have been in a poor state to start with and repeated handling won’t have improved them. Club sales stalls can be a source of some good buys. They are usually supporting club funds by selling members’ unwanted models or perhaps disposing of models on behalf of a member’s widow. Most such models will have been well cared for and may even be in their original boxes. Watch out for ‘improvements’, though. These could be replacement couplings or even wheelsets. Rolling stock might, for instance, have been converted from ‘OO’ to ‘EM’ gauge by changing wheelsets, or it may have had three-link couplings fitted in place of tension locks. Such things can usually be reversed but doing so will add to the cost.
So, are there specific things to watch out for and certain models to avoid? In short, yes. I cannot overemphasise the need to do your homework. Don’t just buy something because it’s cheap. Decide what you want and go looking for it. Use your model shop and the big name online model shops first, and then go to ebay. You may find a choice or you may have to decide whether the one example that’s available is at a price you are willing to pay. I recently went searching for Bachmann’s Scenecraft ‘Waggon & Horses’ pub. I found one, second-hand. It was in Australia and the price and shipping cost was far more than I was willing to pay. The first requirement with a locomotive is that it should work. Some traders will make sure that the model is in working order and will clean and lubricate it. Others won’t. Check the underside of locomotives for fluff, dirt and excessive lubrication. Over-oiled locomotives won’t work. Examine the wheel treads for wear and avoid anything on which the plating on the wheels has worn away. If you are buying from a high street retailer, have a member of staff test-run the locomotive. This is not usually possible at shows or swapmeets. A locomotive which is offered in its original box will usually have been better cared for than one which is unboxed. The wheels are often a clue to the age of the model. Tri-ang locomotives had sintered iron wheels. They are a dark grey colour and are
very thick, with deep flanges. Tri-ang became Tri-ang Hornby in the early 1960s, so these models will be approaching 60 years old. Enough said. Even after the move to plated wheels with a finer profile, Tri-ang Hornby and the 1970s arrival, Lima, continued to produce its models with very deep wheel flanges. Lima used brass wheels which, like the sintered iron versions, were prone to collecting dirt, impairing the performance. In the intervening years, most of the prototype locomotives modelled by Lima have been covered by other manufacturers with more up-to-date models which are generally better in almost every respect. Modellers have upgraded their collections with the newer models and the older ones have been sold off second-hand. The result is that the second-hand market is awash with these older models, which means there are some good bargains to be had. The Class 52 ‘Western’ diesel-hydraulic is quite a good case study as there have been ‘OO’ models by Lima, Hornby, Heljan and Dapol. I sold a Lima Class 52 ‘Western’ last year, fitted with Ultrascale wheelsets, for little more than I had paid for the wheelsets themselves. This is because the Class 52 has been covered by Hornby and Heljan, and even more recently with what is, perhaps, the definitive Class 52, by Dapol. So, if you want a bargain basement Class 52 and are willing to overlook the discrepancies in the Lima model, you should be able to find one for £20-£30 on ebay, (£30-£40 on Hatton’s/rails of Sheffield). The Hornby model seems to command £30-40 second-hand and the Heljan around £80. Similarly with steam outline locomotives, you need to have done your homework. Taking as an example the ever-popular Gresley ‘A4’ 4-6-2, we can trace ‘OO’ gauge models back to Hornby-dublo’s three-rail Sir Nigel Gresley, first produced in the 1930s and reissued as Silver King in the 1950s. The present Hornby organisation has issued two substantially different versions of the ‘A4’, the earlier version having the drive mechanism in the tender and, more recently, much more detailed versions that have the mechanism up front, where it belongs. Many thousands of tender-driven models were produced, including ‘A4s’, Stanier ‘Pacifics’ and SR ‘Schools’ class 4-4-0s, and all have been superseded by more detailed loco-drive versions. Whether or not you choose a loco-drive model or are content with a tender-drive version is your choice, but there’s no doubt that the older, tenderdrive model should be much cheaper than its more modern counterpart.
We’re all keen to have something for our locomotives to haul, and if there are hundreds of used locomotives to choose from there will be thousands of coaches and wagons. You may find a selection of boxed coaching stock, but boxed wagons are less likely. My local store certainly had a reasonable choice of boxed coaches in good condition, although it is always worth checking that the box label and the contents match. As with the tender-drive locomotives, so there are two versions of Pullman cars by Hornby, the more recent ones having LED table lamps and much better detailing than the earlier versions. On the subject of Pullman cars, Graham Farish made some plastic-bodied models of matchboard-sided Pullmans in the 1950s. These models still crop up frequently in second-hand sales but I’ve yet to see one on which the plastic body has not suffered irreparable distortion due to the unstable nature of the plastic used. Sadly, these are only fit for the bin. There are, too, older and newer versions of the Hornby BR Mk 1 coaches. In general, the size of the tension-lock couplers and the finesse of the underframe detail are the best clues. The newer Mk 1s have small tension-locks clipped into NEM pockets, while the older vehicles have the large, old-style couplers attached to the bogie. When we come to wagons, dealers tend to have so many of these that they will be in a bargain bin. My local store seals them in individual plastic bags, which is good way of preventing damage. Many will be old Hornby and Lima wagons but, as George shows on page 54, you can make these sow’s ears into silk purses with a little work. Just avoid those with the really large tension lock couplers, really thick wheelsets and open-ended axleboxes. You can find better.
Setting THE Scene
In the days of plastic and card building kits, many of the models simply did not survive to be resold. Attempts to remove them from the scenery resulted in so much damage that they were only fit for the bin. However, the advent of much more durable resin structures in the Hornby Skaledale and Bachmannn Scenecraft ranges has created a second-hand market for buildings, particularly in ‘OO’ and ‘N’ gauges. Most of these are likely to be unboxed examples and you will need to check that chimneys and other vulnerable details are present or, if they are damaged, that they are repairable. Thanks to Trains4u, Peterborough, for assistance with this feature and for allowing me to photograph their well stocked second-user section. If you have model railway equipment to dispose of, give them a call on 01733 895989 (or visit www.trains4u.com)
Unboxed rolling stock, individually priced. Just check that wheelsets and couplings are all present and correct, and that such models are not too old for your track. Remember that stock with wide wheels and deep flanges won’t run well through modern ‘universal’ pointwork. Deep flanges will rattle along the rail fastenings of nearer-to-scale track.
The scenic shelf has plastic and resin buildings. I have a nice Colonel Stephens-style light railway station converted from Skaledale’s cricket club.