In the recent review of “The Basset-Lowke Story” Sir Henry Segrave is mentioned as a customer of that famous model making firm. It is not perhaps well known to younger readers of MOTOR SPORT that Segrave was indeed avers enthusiastic model railwayman and owned a large gauge layout installed in a 20 ft square building specially constructed behind his house. A short description of the Coombe Model Railway, as Segrave called it, appeared in the “Modern Boy” magazine in 1929 just before Segrave departed to Daytona Beach with the Irving-Napier Special “Golden Arrow” to make another successful attempt on the World Land Speed Record. In the interview with the “Modern Boy” representative Major Segrave, as he then was, is quoted as saying that he had done about 80./0 of the work in building his railway himself, and he is described as being
a good mechanic, carpenter, and electrician. A longer description of the Coombe Model Railway was prepared by Sir Henry himself just before his tragic death on Lake Windermere. This description appeared later in the February 1931 issue of “Model Railway News” at which time the railway was on display in Selfridge’s Toy Department in London.
By creating his own Channel Tunnel Segrave was able to have an International railway with British, French and German sections. Each section has its own appropriate rolling stock, stations, and scenery. Most of the locos were electrically driven picking up current from a centre third rail, but there were a few live steamers among the total of over 40 engines. Sir Henry admitted a fondness for locomotives and his passenger and goods rolling stock totalled only about 170 vehicles.
Four of the locos were American Atlantic 4-4-2 type made by the Ives Corporation of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and were purchased by Segrave when he visited that company after his successful LSR attempt with “Golden Arrow”. This visit was to lead to a very interesting sequel, for, I believe, Segrave was the only racing-driver ever to have toy train sets named after him.
The 1929 Ives catalogue list three such sets, all in gauge. The “Major H.O.D. Segrave Special” came into two versions, each with an electrically driven Atlantic engine, tender, three passenger cars and track. One version had a manually operated reverse gear on the engine, the other had a remote-control automatic-reverse system. The gent of the whole Ives gauge line was, however, the “Major H.O.D. Segrave De Luxe” set. This had the automatic-reverse Atlantic engine and three longer coaches than the other sets. However, engine and coaches were copper plated with bright nickel trim. The American author, Louis H. Hertz, in his classic book “Collecting Model Trains” says that only three of the De Luxe sets were ever made or sold. Since their price then was $50 (equivalent to £10 in those days), and the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 had precipitated the USA into a terrible depression, this seems probable. If any still exist their value now would be thousands of pounds. The Ives Corporation itself did not survive the depression. Though propped up by two other train manufacturers, Lionel and American Flyer, for a year or two, Ives ceased operation before 1934. Williamsville, NY, USA BILL CLOSE
[We make no excuse for devoting a letter to model or toy trains, when these have associations with a great racing driver. The advertising for them, not reproduced, shows the Irving Napier “Golden Arrow” with “No 486 Major H.O.D. Segrave Special gauge Ives Electric” and Segrave’s boat “Miss England” with “No 400R Major H.O.D. Segrave special de luxe gauge Ives Elect,: . — Ed.