Revealing the £1m transport memorabilia collections of Malcolm Guest

Malcolm Ivor Guest was born in 1943 in Torquay, Devon. From an early age he developed a great affection for the Great Western Railway, and this grew into a hobby and then a life-long fascination with British transport.

When he finished school, Guest had an opportunity to take up a temporary job at London's Paddington station before his planned course on architecture began, and he jumped at the chance, going on to make it a long-term prospect at the first opportunity.

100 Years Of Progress Railway poster
1935 '100 Years Of Progress' railway poster by Murray Secretan (£2,800)
(Click to enlarge)

Working at Paddington allowed Guest to see, amongst other things, a great deal of publicity posters for the railways, encouraging people to use them for leisure and enjoyment. The posters were primarily regional, showing off different parts of the country to holidaymakers, and a pleasant train journey there to be enjoyed in its own right.

However, the era that produced this kind of advertising was coming to an end. In particular, Dr Beeching's report led to the axing of many of the smaller regional lines, which took away much of the reason for them, and production stopped.

Cornish Riviera Express
Cornish Riviera Express (Click to enlarge)

As often happens, most of those coming into contact with the images on a regular basis failed to see them as in any way valuable, and vast quantities of the posters were simply binned and burnt, whilst the newer posters emphasised speed and technology.

Guest, however, saw the earlier posters (those from the second quarter of the twentieth century) as art works and classics they were, and rapidly assembled the first major part of his collection - which must have seemed very eccentric at the time.

This, the first part of Guest's collection - the 2,500 lots needed to be split across three auctions with the first held in January - brought a total of £411,000 at Morphets of Harrogate.

One poster, a depiction of Southport's Lido based on work by Italian artist Chevalier Fortunino Matania, fetched £6,200. Clearly Guest was on the right track in thinking they were valuable.

Guest's collection also included a number of Heath-Robinson cartoons, which are generally now regarded as classics whatever the subject. These related to the 1935 GWR (Great Western Railways) Centenary Publication Railway Ribaldry.

Training The Staff
Training The Staff (William Heath-Robinson)

The whole set of pieces set for the smaller second auction was valued at £90,000.

1,100 lots of posters and other memorabilia from Guest's collection still wait to be sold, and this will take place on July 21-22. The material is from his later days, including pieces he collected right up until his death in 2009.

The first day offers 650 more lots of railway memorabilia, and not only a number of very rare British Rail posters but also blueprints for stock and buildings, maps, diagrammatics and timetables and original instructional notices alongside period luggage labels, menus blanks and ephemera relating to Rambles and Holiday Haunts brochures.

The rest of the auction however shows that Guest later branched out into other forms of transport as the material offered covers Bus, Coach and London Transport material. Again he intervened to save posters and related ephemera from destruction.

Richard the Lionheart by John Finnie
Richard the Lionheart by John Finnie

Original posters extolling the virtues of bus and coach travel by artists such as Daphne Padden, Royston Cooper, John and Margaret Greene, John Burningham, Karo, Studio Seven and Ronald Bigg are all on offer - a startling range rarely seen together and perhaps never in this volume.

Likewise, the London Transport collection is impressive: artists represented in representing London's attractions include Hans Ungar, Eckersley, John Finnie, Gaynor Chapman, Peter Robertson, Pat Keely, Hannah Weil and Geraldine Knight.

Guest's collection, which may achieve a total sale price of over £1m is a great example of a collector with a passion and a good eye assembling a truly valuable collection for next to nothing. An inspiration to everyone!


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