The Colin Knight Collection

Rare vintage items go under the hammer

Cheffins is due to sell an important collection of steam engines and living wagons in the firm’s April Vintage Sale, which is the largest auction of its type in the UK.


Having sold the majority of the Colin Knight Collection in 2016, April’s auction will include over 130 lots, which encompass steam engines, living vans, a steam car, a steam launch boat and a vast number of ultra-rare vintage parts and spares. Mr Knight, from the New Forest, died in September 2015 and was one of the well-known figures on the steam circuit.    

Expected to generate the most interest are the three steam engines on offer. The rarest model is the Fowler Class DNA ‘Hercules’ steam tractor, which was built in the 1920s. This is one of only two examples of Hercules steam tractors known to exist in the UK and was bought by Colin Knight after having been saved from a Liverpool scrapyard by a collector from Cumbria. The other Fowler steam engine for sale is a Fowler Class DN1 steam roller which was built in 1919. The engine was known to have worked at the Minehead District Council and in the London area during World War II. The last on offer is the Robey Portable Steam Engine No 15596 which was built in 1895. The engine spent its entire working life in South America before being purchased by Colin Knight in 2002. All of the engines are offered in a dismantled state.  

Among the more unusual lots are also the three living wagons. Dating back to 1914, the Burrell living van is thought to be one of only three Burrell living vans still in existence. Based in Thetford in Norfolk since 1908, Charles Burrell & Sons-manufactured steam engines are some of the most sought-after models today. During renovation work carried out in 2000 a dated pencil inscription was found beneath the internal cladding describing 1000 soldiers marching through Thetford on 20th August 1914. The living van has an estimate of £8,000 - £10,000. In addition to the Burrell, there is an aluminium-clad timber frame living wagon, which has an interior with a coal-fired range and original fixtures and fittings and which carries an estimate of £7,000-£9,000. There is also a Brayshaw-style living wagon which has ornate carving and showman’s script. It has been kept in dry storage for 30 years and is in need of restoration, however it has a coal-fired cooking range and all original fixtures and fittings, it has an estimate of £9,000 - £11,000.  

Willem Middlemiss, steam engine specialist at Cheffins, comments: “A section leader at the Bath and West Steam Show and a key member of the Great Dorset Steam Fair, Colin Knight was a well-known figure on the steam engine scene and his forte was to collect steam engines which needed restoring to their former glory. The Hercules steam tractor in particular ought to generate a considerable amount of interest from steam enthusiasts and especially those looking for a project to restore. We are offering approximately 90 per cent of the parts and we expect these will achieve around £30,000, however once in restored condition we would expect the Hercules could be worth around £140,000. We also expect the living vans to generate some significant interest, particularly the Burrell wagon which is one of only three known to exist in the world. Living wagons are not only popular with steam enthusiasts, but also those looking for an unusual collectors’ item and often, the more elaborate the model, the more popular with buyers.”  

Also available is the HB steam car which is based on a Morris Oxford Coupe and was built by Thomas Hill Ltd of Rotherham around 1938. Thomas Hill established his business around 1937 repairing and maintaining steam road vehicles, principally Sentinel. Having had various owners since being built, the car now represents an opportunity to restore this unique model and has an estimate of just £800 - £1,200 due to the specialist nature of the restoration. There is also a novelty 1967 half scale Leyland Titan double decker open top bus which was based on a London Black Cab BMC 1500 cc diesel engine and running gear. It has been in its current ownership since 1998 and has an estimate of £2,000 - £3,000 and will require some restoration work. One of the other most unusual items is the 21ft steam launch ‘Sir Lancelot’ boat. Built in 1991 by the famous Elephant Boat Yard in Southampton, it has a 6A twin cylinder Stuart steam engine and has an estimate of £8,000 - £10,000.  

Cheffins sold the majority of the Colin Knight collection in the October Vintage sale which saw four rare steam engines go under the hammer to make a total in excess of £230,000.  

Lots are still being consigned for the April Vintage Sale.  

The sale will take place on the 22nd April at Cheffins Machinery Sale Ground, Sutton, Ely, CB6 2QT.  For more information please contact the Vintage team on 01353 777767. 

Brayshawstyle Living Wagon



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