This 118-year-old Heartbreaker is a ‘truly Norfolk piece of history’
A unique 118-year-old scale-model steam engine described as a “truly Norfolk piece of history” is set to go under the hammer later this year.
Standing just 30 inches tall, the traction engine Heartbreaker was hand-built by 20-year-old wheelwright and carpenter George Long in his back garden in Dereham in 1902, and is now thought to be the oldest surviving working model of its kind.
It has been given a pre-sale estimate of £5,000-£6,000 - but auctioneers think it could fetch a lot more when it goes up for sale near Ely in April.
Jeremy Curzon, a director for Cheffins' machinery and vintage auctions, said: "It has been restored - but for a working, driving engine to have survived all these years is extraordinary.
"When we were told by the client that she had this engine that was owned by her husband's father who bought it from the original builder - and it was built in 1902 - I was thinking to myself: 'Can this be true?' But there is all the evidence to back it up."
The machine's history file includes a description of the engine's provenance and subsequent restoration, along with newspaper cuttings including a 1937 article in the Dereham and Fakenham Times showing the engine in steam and pulling four children in its tiny trucks, and a 1954 article in the Thetford and Watton Times recounting Mr Long's painstaking original construction of the engine.
It says: "With his home-made forge and a few simple tools he constructed this engine to his own design, incorporating ideas which have aroused the interest and admiration of experts."
Mr Curzon said that was "no mean feat for a 20-year-old wheelwright and carpenter".
"This model is based loosely on a Burrell design and is a slide valve, single-cylinder, three-speed engine," he said.
"Around 1955 the vendor's father purchased the engine from George Long as a present for his then seven-year-old son who spent happy years having rides around the West Country farm behind 'Heartbreaker'. Eventually the engine fell into disrepair and was kept under the stairs at the farmhouse until 2015 when a restoration was undertaken by David Clarke of Atlantic Design.
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"The engine is superbly presented with its brass cladding in Marshall Crimson with Best Red wheels and is lined out in red, gold, yellow and black. The original boiler and cladding are supplied with this two-owner, 118-year-old working model. Cheffins is unaware of any other similar working model of this age still in existence."
- The engine will be auctioned on April 18 as part of a 3,000-lot vintage vehicle sale at Cheffins' saleground at Sutton, near Ely.