Auctions, Trains — April 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Sterling Associates’ April 24 Prewar Train Auction

CLOSTER, N.J. – Since the beginning of commercial American railroading, trains have had a significant presence in New Jersey. Since the 1830s, hundreds of now-defunct companies operated on rail lines within the Garden State, although their landmark terminals are now long gone or, in some fortunate cases, protected as historic places. However, few in New Jersey knew of the existence of one bustling railway hub located in the city of Maywood in the 1930s and ’40s. It operated behind closed doors in the home of the late Ray Hoelz, whose “railway yard” was built to accommodate a superb collection of oversize scale-model trains.

On Wednesday, April 24, Ray Hoelz’s remarkable assemblage of antique and pre-World War II trains, which he began collecting in 1936, will make its public debut as the headliner in Sterling Associates’ Spring Auction.

“This is an exceptional estate collection, unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said Sterling Associates’ owner, Steven D’Atri. “Although Ray Hoelz was an accountant and auditor by profession, he came from a family with close ties to the railroad. His father worked for the Erie Railroad, so that early exposure to trains undoubtedly inspired his interest in collecting toy versions of them. His emphasis seems to have been on acquiring very large, extremely well-detailed trains, which is what collectors love.” All pieces from the collection will be auctioned individually.

The collection consists of more than 60 “third rail” train engines and cars that were either commissioned, purchased, or hand-built by Ray Hoelz. All are extremely realistic, with even greater detail than one would see on expensive antique trains, D’Atri said.

“These are big trains. The Pullman cars are almost two feet long, and some have wooden floors. Even the seats and people in the cars are minutely detailed. The freight cars have the same sort of writing and brand logos you’d see on real trains,” D’Atri continued.

Most of the manufactured or custom-made trains were produced in the 1930s by such firms as Icken, Lobaugh, Westbrook and Miniature Locomotive Company. The majority are of metal, while a few were crafted of wood. The engines, chemical cars and many of the components were expertly machined from brass and steel.

Sterling Associates’ Spring Auction will be held on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, starting at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. It is structured as a hybrid auction in which previewing is available at the physical gallery, but all bidding is exclusively absentee, by phone or live via the Internet through Artfact or LiveAuctioneers. The sale will be run exactly like a live auction, but without a live audience.

Gallery preview times are 10-5 on April 19 and 20; 10-7 on April 23, and 10-3 on auction day. The gallery is located at 70 Herbert Ave., Closter, NJ 07624. Inquiries: call 201-768-1140 or e-mail sterlingauction@optonline.net. Visit Sterling Associates online at www.antiquenj.com. View the fully illustrated catalog at www.LiveAuctioneers.com or www.Artfact.com.