Arthur W. Wegner was a man who enjoyed a long career as a Railroader, a "dyed-in-the-wool" Steam Locomotive Engineer, who also became a scale model "Live Steamer". Born in Wisconsin in May 1886, Arthur moved to Denver, Colorado, as a young man in the early 1900's. Arthur was drawn to the spectacle of steam locomotives and railroading at an early age, and his interest grew into a life-long passion after moving to Colorado.
In 1905, at age 19, Arthur hired-out on the Colorado & Southern Railway, and worked long hours as a Locomotive Fireman on the famous narrow-gauge "South Park Line". Here, he made trips out of Denver, up the South Platte River Canyon and over Kenosha Pass, to Como, in South Park. He also made rare "Extra" trips out from Como-- over Boreas Pass to Breckenridge and Leadville-- and over the Continental Divide through the Alpine Tunnel, to Gunnison, Colorado. Hard work, but exciting times!! During this busy time, he somehow also courted and married his endearing sweetheart Emma.
Management policy changes, combined with economic downturns on both the Gunnison and Leadville Districts due to mining slow-downs, caused the C&S, in 1910, to suspend service through the Alpine Tunnel to Gunnison-- and service over the Boreas Pass Line to Leadville was also suspended. As a result, Arthur Wegner, one among many disgruntled C&S employees, was "Laid-Off" from his job.
With no other Railroading opportunities in sight, Arthur worked for his "In-Laws" in a Mercantile Store in Denver. During these few years, he had become friends with the Twining family, who owned and operated the curious, irregular, narrow-gauge Colorado Eastern RR. This 17-mile long decrepit railway ran from North Denver eastward to Scranton, Colorado, serving a small coal mine of dubious worth. And, the C.E. RR seemed to be in part, a figure in a land development "land-grab scheme". The sole motive-power on the C.E. was one of the original 1871 D&RG locomotives, the diminutive 2-4-0 #6, the "Ute". So, Arthur had some fun working very intermittently, during 1911-1914, on the C.E.-- where the crews and friends often used the little railway for steamy transport, to enjoy dove, pheasant, and rabbit hunts, on the high plains of eastern Colorado. The financially woe-begone Colorado Eastern RR finally succumbed in 1915.
Very thankfully, in 1914, Arthur hired-out as a Locomotive Fireman, on the standard-gauge Union Pacific Railroad, in Denver. He was promoted to Locomotive Engineer in 1918. As an Engineman on the U.P., he worked over all of the Mainlines out of Denver. By the 1930's he was finally able to settle into working preferred regular "Yard-Jobs". He held the envious "Day-Shift Switcher" at the Denver Union Station passenger terminal for several years, where he enjoyed running the U.P. RR 0-6-0 44xx number series steam locomotives. The advent of diesel switch engines, was about the last straw for Arthur. He retired in 1954, at age 68, with over 45 colorful, exciting, and proud years of exclusive "Steam-Era Railroad Service".
Sometime in the 1920's, Arthur was introduced to the concept of "Live-Steam" model-making. By the end of the 1920's, he was intensively reading both the Model Engineer and The Modelmaker magazines, and devouring the writings of Percival Marshall, LBSC, Bassett-Lowke, H. Greenly, and others. Arthur developed a keen interest in, and learned, the lathe-work and machine tool practices required to build live steam models. This ever-deepening endeavor led him to setting-up a small Shop in his basement, where he first proceeded to build a couple of fine "Stuart Models" Stationary Vertical Steam Engines and a 6" diameter by @ 18" Tall Vertical Boiler.
These activities naturally led in 1932 to the discovery of the newly founded BLS Organization, and the opening of correspondence with Carl A. Purinton, and other live steamers. By the late 1930's, Arthur had completed a beautifully-machined rolling-chassis for a Coventry 2-1/2 inch gauge 4-6-2 Pacific, the "President Washington"-- this he took with him to show-off, at the September 1938 Annual BLS Meeting at the NELS in Danvers, MA. He also attended the 1940 Annual BLS Meeting at the NELS in Danvers, where he got "seriously bitten" by the 3-1/2 inch gauge live steamer "Bug". Over the years, he became very good friends with Carl Purinton, Lester Friend, especially Ed Leaver, and innumerable others. While attending the 1949 Annual BLS Meet at the NELS, Arthur purchased a nicely proportioned, smooth running, 3-1/2 inch gauge 4-6-2 Atlantic locomotive, which was coal-fired and had "Southern" valve-gear-- from fellow live steamer Norman Steele.
Then, by 1950, Arthur had begun gathering together most of the "Lone-Wolf" live steamers in the Denver Region, and so was the original instigator and Founder (and Honorary President--) of the Rocky Mountain Live Steamers Club. This group, of up to only 8 or so Members, concentrated mostly on 3/4 inch scale by 3-1/2 inch gauge live steam Locomotives, Steam-Ups, and Bull-Sessions.
In September 1951, Arthur and his wife Emma, joined by Ed Leaver, transported Arthur's 4-4-2 Atlantic to the GGLS in Oakland, CA, to attend the 19th Annual BLS Meet. By now, Arthur had become very well known amongst the live steamers on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and by several others in-between. He was well-liked and respected as a good friend, a gentleman, and an honorable "Brother" amidst the circles of live steamers.
Of course, Emma kept Arthur quite busy with her favorite activities, too. She liked to participate in Charity Fund-Raising schemes in her church ladies group. One time-consuming activity was to seek out "Rummage Sales" (today known as Garage Sales--), with Arthur's accompaniment, to find worthwhile used or slightly damaged appliances and furniture, etc. Then she would task Arthur with any needed "repairs or improvements", so they could be re-sold or raffled in her ladies group. Arthur mostly enjoyed this activity, too-- but he sometimes found himself "overburdened" with the inroads into his own "Shop Time". Emma and Arthur were always an admirable, very congenial, kind, and generous couple.
Arthur's dedicated involvement in live steam, and with the BLS, and the Rocky Mountain Live Steamers continued through the 1950's, and into the late 1960's. Arthur was a wonderful friend and role-model, and a reputable live steamer, right up until he was sadly called to that Mainline in the Sky. Arthur Wegner left us in March 1969, at age 82. "Green Lights, Smooth-Running, and Full-Steam", Highball, my Friend!!
- A Tribute written by: Ken Scheer, Delta, CO, November 2015
- "The South Park Line--A Concise History", Colorado Rail Annual #12, Chapell, Richardson, and Hauck; 1974
- "Narrow-Gauge East from Denver-The Colorado Eastern RR", J.C. Newell, and P.R. Griswold, 1982
- "'Live-Steamer'-My Personal Tales from the Live Steam Hobby", Chapter II; An autobiographical sketch by Kenneth E. Scheer, 2014