Thursford steamroller auction makes �250,000

An auction of steam-age relics lovingly hoarded by the founder of the Thursford Collection has raised about �250,000 to help fund the future restoration of his legacy.

Hundreds of enthusiasts endured torrential rain showers to bid for 200 lots which were part of the collection amassed by the late George Cushing at his storage yard in Thursford, near Fakenham.

The star attractions were nine rusty 1920s Aveling and Porter steamrollers, stored outdoors since the end of the second world war, which brought in a total of �165,500.

A separate set of four wheels fetched another �16,000.

The money raised will be used to fund the continuous and expensive restoration efforts on the 40 vintage engines kept inside the museum now run by the founder's son, John Cushing.

Mr Cushing said he was pleased that the machines saved from the scrapyard by his father would now be preserved by other dedicated collectors.

'It has gone really well, and it seems we have had people here from all over the world,' he said.

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'Father could have sold these engines for scrap, but he didn't – and it is awful to think that these things could have been turned into razor blades or put into landfill.

'Everybody who bought these engines will do something with them and they have all bought them for preservation.

'Dad was a pioneer. He was the first person to buy steam engines for preservation and, for the enthusiasts, there will never be another day like this.'

One of the steamrollers was snapped up by a delegation from a museum in the Czech Republic, and two more became the property of Graham Vincent, a self-confessed 'crazy and eccentric collector' who travelled from Cornwall.

Mr Vincent spent �36,500 to add them to his collection of 50 bygone machines ranging from tractors to vintage cars.

'To be honest, if you look in my shed there is stuff in there that I've been collecting for 40 years,' he said.

'These engines have been left outside for 60 years and are seized solid, so the main thing now is to lag them in paraffin and diesel. We will get them running again, but 'when' is the problem. If I don't get to do it, someone else in my family will. We're saving them for future generations.'

Auctioneer Bill King, director of specialist firm Cheffins, said: 'A collection like this, with this provenance, probably only happens once every decade.

'The rollers went for much more than their pre-sale estimates. The trade reflects the fact that these items have got George Cushing's name behind them, and that is what brought people here to the place the Thursford Collection was founded.'