Famous record producer Pete Waterman has another side to him. He has collected a number of live steam locos over the years, so why is he selling them?
Pete’s real love, like most modellers, is the real thing. The difference is that he has the financial resources to get a few normal size engines operating again. I am jealous!
His collection sold for over 600,000 english pounds, and he is using the money to restore a few locos to active service.
Pete has had a collection of steam engines over his lifetime and the video below is an interview with him showing off his collection.
I thought I knew the meaning of the word “envy”.
That was before I clapped eyes on Pete Waterman’s unique collection of model steam engines.
I turned as green as my Yorkshire miners’ tie gazing at these perfectly-crafted scale replicas of locomotives that I once saw in action on British Railways metals.
These are not kids’ toys. They’re works of art, built over many years by the best engineering modellers in the land. And that means the world.
But tomorrow Pete, the showbiz icon who gave us Kylie Minogue and Simon Cowell (we’ll forgive him for that, just) is selling these beautiful machines in a £1million auction.
It’s taken a lifetime of dedication to get them, but they’ll be gone in a morning. Collectors from around the world are bidding for 56 lots, ranging from a rare 1874 instructional model built by apprentices to a massive exhibition quality locomotive, Caerphilly Castle.
It’s obviously a wrench for Pete, but he’s doing it to keep his fleet of five full-size engines in steam on heritage lines around the country. They’re all “out of ticket” and renovation costs hundreds of thousands in man-hours and materials.
Buffers guide: Pete shows a model’s workings to our Paul
Pete is looking at a lengthy program of locomotive rebuilding under the auspices of his Waterman Heritage Railway Trust and the sale of the most expensive lot will support five apprentices for five years.
“These full-size engines won’t be back in steam for 12 years,” he says. “I’m 68 now and this is probably the last chance I’ll have to restore them. I’m making sure there is enough money in 10 years to continue the job,” he says.
Pete’s love affair with steam goes back to his infancy.
“I was born on the coldest January day of the Big Freeze in 1947, and almost the first thing I heard was a Super D pulling a load of coal waggons on the line from Coventry colliery right outside my window,” he tells me.
“When you live in a council house and these things go past your door, it’s your first encounter with beauty.”
The Super Ds were the workhorses of the old London and North Western Railway, built before WW1 with an 0-8-0 wheel arrangement.
There’s an example in the sale – number 1384 made by the late Geoff Holt and priced at £4,000-£6,000. Pete also funded the restoration and is custodian of the class’s only full-size survivor, 9395, owned by the National Railway Museum.
The loco-motion: Oiling The Flying Scotsman in 1994
Like me, Pete was a trainspotter. His favoured vantage point was Leamington Spa station, where the magnificent Great Western “Castle” and “King” class express engines tore through on their way to Birmingham.
He began collecting at 11, paying £8 for a rare engine out of production for 20 years. It was bought with money from his guinea-a-week paper round, from fetching coal in his sister’s pram at five bob (25p) a time and from singing at weddings for 10s 6d.
After he left school in 1963 Pete got a job as Wolverhampton Stafford Road engine sheds. “They were desperate for labour,” he recalls.
“They said, ‘You look like a fireman’ and that was it. I spent three weeks going up and down the sidings learning how to fire then I was on the footplate with a shovel. And I was crap!”
Music became his consuming passion, but the railway bug was in his system and it found expression in his growing interest in models. Not shop-bought kits but scratch-built engines constructed by an engineering elite: Geoff Holt, George McKinnon-Ure, who started working for Pete in 1985 and built all the GWR locos, Harry Dumas, Bill Lee and David Aitken – the Nigel Gresleys of the modelling world.
But Lot 53, “a fine exhibition quality model of a 7¼ gauge GWY Beyer Goods 0-6-0 locomotive and tender No 337” might run it close. The only known model of this engine in the world and 193 cm long, it’s also being offered at £100,000-£150,000.
Built by David Aitken over a 12-year period, it is “probably the greatest model ever made,” says Pete.
“He literally wanted to push himself as an engineer to see what he could make. It’s from the original Swindon drawings and is absolutely perfect.”
Head of steam: With Simon Cowell on World Idol
A 225cm long model of 3440, City of Truro, the first engine ever to travel at 100mph (if we believe GWR fanatics like Pete) also built by David Aitken, will set you back £100,000-£120,000, and a stunning semi-streamlined LMS Pacific City of Birmingham in brilliant blue livery is on the market for £50,000-£60,000.