Rare steam beam engine for auction

PUBLISHED: 11:36 23 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:26 03 July 2010

IT WAS the pride and joy of a self-confessed Norfolk eccentric and during his lifetime he had no hesitation in turning down a spontaneous £3,000 bid for it from an American admirer.

IT WAS the pride and joy of a self-confessed Norfolk eccentric and during his lifetime he had no hesitation in turning down a spontaneous £3,000 bid for it from an American admirer.

But since the death of William Sunderland, the gleaming model steam engine, which he took two years to craft, has been stuck in the conservatory of his daughter's bungalow home in Mulbarton, near Norwich.

Six years on, Susan Slaughter, 59, has decided it deserves a more impressive billing and has put it up for auction at Horners collectors' sale in Acle next Saturday.

Auctioneer Henry Horner-Glister said the model beam engine, made out of brass and copper, surpassed the quality of anything similar he had seen and was likely to generate considerable interest from collectors.

"My research has shown another engine of this type sold a long time ago for £2,800. With the local interest I am confident this will fetch more than £3,000," he said.

Mrs Slaughter said her father, who had lived in West Earlham and worked locally at Harford Engineering Company, "loved anything that was cleverly made by hand".

"He was a clever man and was always making things. As well as engineering models, he did oil painting, was a self-taught taxidermist and even made a mirror with carvings for a stately home," she said.

"He even built a Broads day cruiser and tried to cross the Channel from Dover to France after someone bet him it could not be done."

The ill-fated journey involved Mr Sunderland and his brother Bert coming within four miles of the Calais coast before turning back.

The engine - which can be powered by steam or electricity - was completed in 1978 and went on display for a time in the window of Cookes music shop in St Benedict's, Norwich.

Mrs Slaughter said: "An American saw it and offered my father £3,000 but he declined as it was one of his prize possessions."

Viewing for the sale will be from 10am on Friday, March 27.

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