Getting up Steam for a January Special

The words “private” “local” and “collection” always add a frisson of excitement to any auction promotion, but add “Railwayana”, “East Suffolk Railway” and “GER” to the mix and I begin to hear steam whistles blow!

The passion for local history generates much interest when opportunity arises to purchase artefacts which have played an integral part in forming that history; but there is something especially emotive about the history of the nation’s railways which pushes the importance beyond county boundaries.

The first section of what is now the East Suffolk Line opened in 1854, going from Halesworth to Beccles and on to Haddiscoe. In 1859 the line extended south to Ipswich, the northern terminus being Yarmouth South Town station and the Beccles to Lowestoft branch opened at the same time. The line north of Beccles was closed in 1959; trains then used the remaining branch to Lowestoft. The development of this transport network left Southwold nine miles from a railway line. A once-a-day horse-drawn omnibus service from Darsham was not adequate to cope with needs.

Thanks to the sterling work of The Southwold Railway Trust which is ongoing and gaining momentum all the time, an awareness and understanding of train activity up and down East Suffolk in the second half of the 19th Century and early 20th Century is growing all the time. The East Suffolk Railway (and later the GER) refused requests for a branch line, so in 1875 the Southwold Railway Company was formed with the help of local people (many of whom bought shares). It was decided to build a 3ft gauge link track, and two successive Halesworth-based boards set about raising the money. The line, 8¾ miles in length, was opened on 24 September 1879. It linked Southwold with Walberswick, Blythburgh, Wenhaston and Halesworth, where passengers could connect with GER main lines.

It is with great pride TW Gaze has been instructed to sell the Peter Punchard Collection of Railwayana and the auction has been timetabled to be held on Friday 5 January 2018.

A Suffolk man, Mr Punchard followed in his Grandfather’s footsteps and began working for the railways. He joined British Railways in 1954 as a porter at Brampton. He then became a signalman in 1961, based mainly in Halesworth. He undertook various other roles over the years before retiring in August 2003. His grandfather had helped to build the Southwold Railway, and Peter Punchard started his collection with items he acquired from his Grandfather. He continued to collect until his death in 2016 and will be well-known to many. His passion and determination to rescue and preserve artefacts from the railways which would otherwise have been discarded and lost is tangibly evident from the pieces in his collection.

The term Railwayana references items relating to or concerning all aspects of railways, from pamphlets and ephemera such as line maps and station registers to station furniture, lineside equipment, lamps and enamelled signs. The Peter Punchard Collection represents all of these elements and more, almost exclusively from the Suffolk region. There are over 400 lots in the auction. Some of the rarities and highlights are a large “Halesworth for Southwold” enamelled sign, station totems, Lowestoft paychecks, single line tokens, pocket watches and named oil cans.

For further details please contact Sale Organiser Daniel Woods on 01379 650306. Catalogues will soon be available on