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Railway rarities once belonging to Halesworth stalwart to go under the hammer

PUBLISHED: 12:15 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:16 14 December 2017

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

Elizabeth Talbot

The romance of the rails is something that has resonated with many people over the years.

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth TalbotThe Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

However, few had a greater passion for this than former signalman Peter Punchard, who working in a number of roles for British Railways for almost half a century.

In this time, Mr Punchard of Halesworth amassed a stunning and rare collection of rail memorabilia, from signs to station furniture, from lamps to signalling equipment.

Mr Punchard’s mementos filled an entire shed in his garden, now, following his death in 2016, the unique collection is to go under the hammer, presenting a rare opportunity to own a piece of railway history.

The collection - which includes station signs for Beccles, Halesworth and Halesworth for Southwold - is to be auctioned of by TW Gaze in Diss, in a sale which has been named Railywayana.

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth TalbotThe Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

Elizabeth Talbot, director of TW Gaze’s Diss auction rooms, said: “What makes this collection so unique is that it is the result of the life’s work of somebody who was greatly involved in the history of the region’s railways.

“Mr Punchard followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who helped to build the Southwold Railway, and began his collection from items he acquired from him.”

Alongside the signs, the Peter Punchard Collection of Railwayana includes a variety of hard-to-come-by artefacts such as parts of the signal boxes he operated, headlamps, and various pieces of paperwork.

Mrs Talbot added: “We have a real passion for our railways in this part of the country - we have lots of small branch lines, museums like Bressingham and enthusiastic groups like the Southwold Railway Trust.

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth TalbotThe Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

“It is very much a passion of the area and an integral part of our history and this collection comes from somebody who was clearly very passionate about it.”

The collection has been valued by auctioneer Dan Woods - himself a qualified steam engine driver - and it is thought the signs in particular could fetch in the region of £3,000 at auction.

Other, smaller items, may be obtainable for around £50.

The auction takes place on Friday, January 5 at the Diss auction rooms from 11am.

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth TalbotThe Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

Peter’s Life

Peter Punchard began working in the rail industry in 1954, when he joined British Railways as a porter at Brampton.

In 1961, he then became a signalman, mainly based in Halesworth, where he lived.

He worked in a variety of different roles on the railways, before retiring in August 2003.

The Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth TalbotThe Peter Punchard Collection. Photo: Elizabeth Talbot

Throughout his life, he showed a keen and passionate interest in railway history and would frequently organise nostalgic fundraising events to share his passion with the town.

A Halesworth stalwart, Mr Punchard was often recognised for his fundraising efforts, named Halesworth Lions Club Citizen of the Year in 1988.

In pursuing a career in the railways, Mr Punchard followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was one of the men that helped build the Southwold Railway in the 1800s.

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