There is no more enduring symbol of how the Old West became part of the New World than the American railroad, with its steam-powered “iron horses” that linked East to West. It is the lifelong fascination with early trains and the culture that surrounded them that inspired the late Roy Gay’s 65-year collection of railroadiana. A&S Antique Auction Co. will conduct the sale of the approximately 2,000-piece single-owner collection in March at its Waco, Texas gallery.
“Mr. Gay, who passed away on January 11th of this year, gave his whole working life of 40-plus years to the Union Pacific Railroad. He was an auditor for the company and traveled a three-state region in the course of his job, so that opened all the necessary doors to acquire railroad relics. When a depot closed down, he would know about it and be in a position to buy the pieces he wanted,” says A&S’s owner Scott Franks.
“This was the worst case of a passionate collector I’ve ever seen,” Franks says. “When he retired, Mr. Gay bought the old railway station at Troup, Texas, and literally had it moved to his East Texas farm. Later, Mr. Gay spent $35,000 to restore the station, which is where he displayed his remarkable collection.”
Most of the items Gay collected are from the “golden era” of railroads – the 1880s through middle “teens” – with a smattering of later objects whose timeline ends around the 1970s.
Highlights include a beautiful, all-original circa 1890-1930 MKT porcelain sign, conservatively estimated at $2,000-$3,000; and a 36-inch-diameter “buzzsaw” sign, referring to its serrated edges, which advertises Texas Pacific Lines on one side and Missouri Pacific on the other. Franks explained that the sign would be flipped over when a train crossed a state line where one or the other of the companies had jurisdiction.