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He had just seen records tumble as 35 such models contributed more than £50,000 hammer to the total at Sheffield Auction Gallery (18% buyer’s premium) on October 12.

Topping the day was a medal-winning 5in gauge model of an LMS 2-6-0 Hughes Crab loco and tender.

The 4ft (1.22m) long model of the class built at Crewe from 1926-32 was made in remarkable detail in 1994 and was offered with a track length and shovel, plans and boiler certificate. It sold to a private enthusiast within estimate at £13,400.

That was just one of the house records set at the sale which included £9500 for a 5in scale Garrett and Sons traction engine.

Betty, Dolly and Curly

Similar enthusiasm greeted a more costly steam loco and tender offered at Charterhouse Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) at Sherborne on September 22.

This was a 3½in live steam 2-6-2 locomotive and tender, ‘LBSC Betty’, made around 20 years ago and, consigned by the modeller’s widow, estimated at £3000-5000.

The 4ft 1in (1.2m) long model in British Rail black livery was constructed to the specifications of a remarkable modeller.

Initials on the loco, LBSC, once stood for the London Brighton & South Coast railway, but in this case were the pen-name of the designer who worked for the LSBC company for a while, the name-changing, gender-bending William Benjamin (1883-1967).

Born William Mathieson, known to school chums as Dolly, he changed his name to Lillian Lawrence in 1902 and is generally known to enthusiasts as Curly Lawrence.

A married man, he was a confirmed and open cross-dresser which, as his biographer Brian Hollingsworth points out, was less acceptable in early 20th century society than today but his skills made him “readily accepted as an expert live-steam model engineer”.

Indeed, the only controversy he seemed to engender was his view that scale locos should be powered, like the real thing, with coal-fired, multi fire-tube boilers rather than the then common practice of building spirit-fuelled water-tube boilers. Such details matter in a collector’s world.

A prolific writer, his knowledge and designs were distilled into his influential 1956 book British Model Maker. His continuing influence fired collectors across Britain who competed at the Sherborne sale but were outbid by the Bishops Lydeard Railway Museum in Somerset, which secured the model at £17,500.