18 September 2012
Last updated at 10:13
One of the largest single donations of Great Western Railway artefacts, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, has been left to the STEAM Museum of the Great Western Railway in Swindon.
The Harry Collection, which includes more than 40,000 photographs, was bequeathed to STEAM by Brian Harry - a railway enthusiast and prolific collector of GWR memorabilia from Wroughton.
The substantial collection of items, including this sign from the lending library at GWR's Mechanics Institute, are "high quality and really unusual and unique," according to Elaine Arthurs from the museum.
"We've got nine locomotive nameplates from some really iconic locomotives so we were very excited about these because they're highly collectable and they go for thousands of pounds so we don't often get to buy one," said Ms Arthurs.
Stored in wardrobes, the garage and the garden shed - it took two museum staff and eight volunteers a day to search Mr Harry's home in Wroughton and load up two vans and four cars with the vast collection including over 150 cast iron signs.
"Nobody knew he had it - it was like an Aladdin's Cave it was absolutely fantastic - and it's probably worth thousands of pounds but in terms of the historical value it's way off the scale. You can't put a figure on that - it's priceless," said Ms Arthurs.
The museum is currently sorting and cataloguing the collection and is still finding surprises including a drawing signed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Until Sunday 30 September some of the items from the Harry Collection will be on display at STEAM.