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vintage toy train

Turner Auctions highballing vintage toy train sale April 28

vintage toy train
American Flyer S gauge 21573 New Haven Electric Locomotive. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Turner Auctions + Appraisals will present the Bill Drake Collection of Model Trains on Sunday, April 28, at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time. Featuring 290 lots acquired over 65 years, the assemblage features an exceptional range of model trains, with something to tempt all collectors. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

While the collection is predominantly American Flyer S Gauge, there is wide diversity of manufacturers and eras – from pre-World War II, as early as the 1920s, to modern day. Several related items from other collectors and reference books round out the sale.

Here is an overview of items in the auction:

  • American Flyer: Prewar Wide gauge and O gauge, HO gauge; postwar S gauge (both Gilbert and Lionel production).
  • Lionel: Standard gauge and O gauge, postwar and modern O gauge.
  • K-Line: O and S gauge.
  • S-Helper, Des Plaines Hobbies, Hico: S gauge.
  • European: Hornby, French Edobaud, Chad, Brimtoy, Mettoy, Marklin, Trix, Bing.
  • Japanese Tin Trains from Sakai and others.
  • Accessories from Colber, Minicraft, Lionel, American Flyer and Ives.
  • Marx, Hafner, Unique, Henry Katz, Chien, Mohawk.
  • Voltamp 2-inch gauge.
  • Dealer promotional sets and displays.
vintage toy train
American Flyer S gauge 24558 CP Christmas Tree Transport car with original box. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bill Drake received his first toy train at age 4 or 5 and “has been accumulating ever since,” he says. A Christmas gift from his family, his first train set was a Schilling battery-powered set (see lot 202); subsequent additions happily came as birthday and Christmas presents. While American Flyer is perhaps still his favorite model train, his collection amassed through the decades has been augmented by numerous other manufacturers, both domestic and international, resulting in a collection that at its peak numbered over 1,000 locomotives, more than 2,000 freight cars and several hundred passenger cars.

An electrical engineer by training, Drake graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering and applied science. After graduating, Drake began a long and peripatetic career in control systems for utilities and oil companies. Many of his business travels were outside the U.S., where he spent time looking for places that sold old toy trains. His collection has come from many sources here and abroad, including antique stores, train meets and Internet sites.

vintage toy train
French Edobaud passenger coach and log car. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

Both as a young boy and a seasoned engineer, Mr. Drake has always been intrigued by trains in general. This passion grew as he discovered a new model, a foreign example, or a new feature – a whistle, sound effects, headlight, a new coupler or a model that emitted smoke. As he says, “the engineer in me” always got excited the first year an innovation was introduced or when he saw something new. Curious to know how the trains worked then fixing them up, he enjoyed collecting “one of everything.” Over the years, learning the provenance and stories of his acquisitions has been part of the pleasure.

vintage toy train
American Flyer S gauge USAF 25515 Rocket Car with rocket and pilot. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

He and his son Kirk established a website,, that helps people identify what they have, provides service manuals and repair notes, and assists with troubleshooting and needed parts.

Drake retired in November 2017 and is downsizing his model train collection, offloading duplicates. Collectors will happily acquire Drake’s trains that are leaving the station.

vintage toy train
Lionel O Gauge 6-18007 Southern Pacific GS-2 Daylight Locomotive with RailSounds. Turner Auctions + Appraisals image

Here are some highlights of the auction:

– Lot 159: AF S gauge USAF 25515 Rocket Car with rocket and pilot. Car is C7. Estimate: $80-$125.

– Lot 31: Lionel O Gauge 6-18007 Southern Pacific GS-2 Daylight Locomotive with RailSounds. Locomotive has light run time and has its original box, insert and instructions, C7-C8. Estimate: $200-$300.

– Lot 198: AF S gauge boxed set 4607 with 312 steam locomotive and freight cars. The orange 625 tank car is painted and is a restoration. Set is C7. Estimate: $150-$400.

– Lot 52: French Edobaud passenger coach and log car. The timber may be a replacement. Cars are C6. Estimate: $200-$400.

– Lot 238: AF S gauge 24558 CP Christmas Tree Transport car with original box. Car is missing one stake and is otherwise C7-C8. Original box has one separated flap. This car has the original Christmas trees. Estimate: $200-$300.

– Lot 186: AF S gauge 594 Track Gang Set. This scarce set has one figure detached but present, two others missing, set is otherwise C6-C7. This is possibly the prewar version. Estimate: $300-$500.

– Lot 47: Voltamp 2-inch gauge gondola. It has original decals “P.R.R.” and “2111”, repainted gray over red body, has original “Voltamp” stamping on bottom, C5. Estimate: $150-$300.

– Lot 51: Tyco HO Disneyland Railroad Set in set box with internal component boxes. Set appears unused and is C8. Estimate: $30-$50.

– Lot 41: Lionel O 6-18302 Great Northern Electric Engine with sound. Engine has original box and insert, C9. Estimate: $125-$175.

– Lot 135: Hornby O gauge lot comprising clockwork 0-4-0 locomotive, Mobil Oil tank car, Portland Cement car, Castrol barrel car, LMS hopper, wine car, three boxes of half straight tracks, one box of curved half tracks, boxed water tank, and empty set box, C6-C7. Estimate: $60-$100.

– Lot 105: AF S gauge 21573 New Haven Electric Locomotive, C7. Estimate: $150-$300.

– Lot 127: Lionel O gauge 6805 Atomic Energy Disposal Car with complete nice original box, C7. Estimate: $60-$100.

– Lot 161: Japanese battery-operated tin toy trains, 19 pieces. A silver streamliner is C8, other pieces are C6-C7. Estimate: $50-$100.

For more information, contact Stephen Turner, president of Turner Auctions + Appraisals, at 415-964-5250 or

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vintage toy train