20 March 2012
German auctioneer Auction Team Breker will sale the Josué Droz model railway system on Saturday 26th May. ...
For centuries, La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Swiss Neuchâtel Jura has been regarded as an instrument-making centre of excellence, producing precision engineering, clocks, toys and musical boxes of the highest quality, some of which are now exhibited in the famous horology museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The La Chaux-de-Fonds district is also the birthplace of the renowned horologist Pierre Jaquet-Droz, whose three ‘androids’ can be seen in nearby Neuchâtel.
It is not by chance, then, that the name of the maker of this unique model railway system now offered for sale, is Josué Droz, a citizen of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Although Auction Team Breker does not know the precise family connection between the two Droz engineers, the spirit of the master is evident in this remarkable model railway.
Born in 1895, Josué Droz began work on the construction of his scale model railway station (1/30) installation modeled on the SBB - Schweizer Bundesbahn (Swiss Federal Railways) - when he was just 30-years-old. As a trained cabinet maker, he was familiar with precision modeling and devoted every free minute of his time to his meticulously-planned master work. It was not completed until 1936, 11 years and an unbelievable 18,000 man hours later. His complete railway station system, faithful to the original in even the smallest detail, remains absolutely unique throughout the world, surpassing the finest commercial brands in its precision and quality.
Droz designed and built the system himself, sometimes in consultation with well-known Swiss engineers and specialists. The system is designed to a scale of 1/30 (48 mm gauge), thoroughly thought out and executed with outstanding skill and care, and lacks absolutely nothing when it comes to originality and accuracy of detail. Its overall size is an impressive 6 x 16 metres (96 sq. metres / c. 1.000 sq feet)!
In November 1936, while the effects of the world recession were still being felt, the complete system was exhibited for 14 days by the municipal Documentation Office for Trade and Engineering, the first and only time that it has been seen by the public, in the old Apollo Cinema Theatre in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Since that time, the complete system has rested in sturdy custom-built upholstered wooden boxes, protected from humidity and cold, in the attic of its creator in No 17 Rue de la Réformation, La Chaux-de-Fonds, until it was discovered by ATB and made known to the public.
The extensive documentation material is the contemporary witness of this absolutely unique model railway masterpiece: original photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence, large-format professional glass negative photos and print blocks.
This important model railway represents the golden age ideal of a truly public transportation system which transformed the world during the first part of the 20th century. Words are not enough to describe the precision, accuracy, perseverance and patience, the great talent, which Josué Droz devoted to creating his masterpiece.
It will be sold by Auction Team Breker on Saturday 26th May 2012 and has a pre-sale estimate of $80,000-130,000 (€50,000-100,000).
The official auction catalogue will be available end of April against prepayment of €28 (Europe) or €37 (overseas airmail).
PICTURED TOP RIGHT A wonderful Wine Carriage, one of 15 various freight wagons that are alll extensively detailed and built by hand.
PICTURED BELOW One of two 3rd Class Passenger Wagons, 18in/46cm long, with seven lamps on roof, windows can be opened and closed.
PICTURED BOTTOM Part of the giant model railway layout, which is more than 1,000 sq feet.