Milestone Auctions to offer Brian Maiher estate collection of railroadiana, fire-related antiques and petroliana

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Mobiloil Gargoyle OPC oval gas pump globe, rated 9.5, excellent color, original copper screw base. Estimate $3,500-$4,500.
Mobiloil Gargoyle OPC oval gas pump globe, rated 9.5, excellent color, original copper screw base. Estimate $3,500-$4,500.

WILLOUGHBY, OH.- On Saturday, August 29, Milestone Auctions’ gallery in Willoughby (suburban Cleveland), Ohio, will be transformed into a virtual train depot for the display of Brian Maiher’s estate collection of railroadiana, fire-related antiques, and petroliana. The 676-lot auction devoted exclusively to the Maiher holdings is a testament to the late dealer/collector’s discerning eye and unwavering 40-year commitment to preserving 19th and early 20th-century American railroad relics.

“By profession, Brian and his wife, Jill, were partners in a very successful demolition and salvage company that was started with just one dump truck and small bulldozer,” said Chris Sammet, co-owner of Milestone Auctions. “For many years Brian did wrecking work for railroads, taking down train stations, roundhouses and other structures. Fortunately, he saw treasure where others saw trash, and often he would rescue the relics he had been paid to destroy. In fact, the bricks, trusses and lumber used to build his and Jill’s home came almost entirely from demolished buildings. That was the beginning of what would become a phenomenal collection containing many one-of-a-kind objects.”

Renowned in train, fire and petroliana collecting circles, the Maiher collection was amassed from decades of attending shows and networking within the hobby, and was displayed inside and on the grounds of the Maihers’ spacious Ohio residence. First-time visitors to the couple’s home couldn’t have been prepared for the astonishing sights that awaited them, including the centerpiece of Brian and Jill’s collection: an original 1890s P.J. Cooney (St. Louis) fire hose-reel carriage that took stood proudly in the foyer.

The maroon and gold four-wheel horse-drawn carriage was originally purchased for use by the fire department of Leadville, Colorado, a prosperous Old West gold and silver mining town where a well-equipped fire department was of utmost importance. Almost entirely original, the carriage is accompanied by two books about Leadville’s history, in which it is depicted. The pre-sale estimate is $100,000-$150,000.

Every aspect of railroad culture can be found in the Maiher collection. Take, for example, the rare and coveted drum heads that were typically seen on North American trains during the first half of the 20th century. These removable signs with interior illumination were mounted to the rears of passenger trains and showed the name of either the railroad or specific train. The auction’s drum head selection includes 19 outstanding examples with ads for The Meteor (Frisco), The Pennsylvania Railroad’s Airway Limited, the Illinois Central Square Club (with Masonic logo), Erie-Lackawanna Limited, several from Wabash trains, e.g., the City of Kansas City, the Banner Blue, Follow the Flag; and more. Estimates range from $1,000 up to $6,000.

Great Northern Railway, with trademark imagery of its mountain goat mascot “Rocky,” is represented by a drum head estimated at $3,000-$4,000; and a beautiful 30-inch-diameter porcelain sign graded 8.9 and estimated at $2,000-$3,000. Additionally, the collection boasts locomotive whistles, dozens of railroad lanterns, some with colored glass; and many other train-related objects of interest.

After Brian had acquired everything he ever wanted in the railroad category, he became interested in fire alarms, buying antique productions from as early as the 1860s and through to the present day. “There are around 40 alarms in sale,” Sammet said. “Some of them are really great looking, especially the early ones with gongs and unusual shapes. They’re both mechanical and decorative. There are also some old cast-iron ones from the 1910s and ’20s that came from either firehouses or buildings that were alarmed for safety.” A prime example is a 52-inch-long Gamewell Excelsior electro-mechanical fire alarm with a 24-wheel transmitter and 15-inch gong. Its housing is a handsome oak case with a bonnet top and beveled glass windows that reveal its substantial inner workings. Estimate: $4,000-$5,000

A treasured firefighting antique, a silver-plated 22½-inch fireman’s trumpet dated 1913 bears an inscription that says it was presented to Young America Hose Company No. 6, Poughkeepsie, New York, by Laurel S.F.E. Co. No. 1 of N.Y. Decorative engraving includes images of a fireman’s helmet and crossed ladders. Estimate: $3,000-$4,000

The last collecting category that captured Brian’s imagination, and one which he approached with enormous passion, was petroliana. He amassed an enviable array of gas pumps and globes, signs, service station display racks – preferably with their original motor oil bottles or cans – and other related items.

Among the many prized pumps are: a Penometer clock-face gas pump professionally restored in Sohio colors with a reproduction globe and new white hose and brass nozzle, $5,000-$7,000; a Tokheim Victory five-gallon visible gas pump professionally restored in Shell Gas colors with repro globe, $5,000-$7,500; and a professionally restored Bowser “pumpkin head” clock-face pump with spinner gauge, $7,000-$9,000. An especially nice Mobiloil Gargoyle OPC oval gas pump globe, rated 9.5 with excellent color and original copper screw base, is estimated at $3,500-$4,500.

Many rare gas and oil signs await collectors, including examples for: Sunray D-X Petroleum Products, $3,000-$4,000; Supreme Gulf Motor Oil At The Sign Of The Orange Disc, $3,000-$4,000; several for Mobiloil, and more.

Milestone’s Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020 auction of the Brian Maiher Estate Collection will be held live at the company’s gallery located at 38198 Willoughby Parkway, Willoughby (suburban Cleveland), OH 44094. All additional forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Milestone Auctions’ bidding platform, LiveAuctioneers, Proxibid, or Invaluable. Start time: 10 a.m.

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