Brenton "Barney" Barnfather was IBLS East Coast Secretary from 1972 until 1978. He also served as secretary for Pioneer Valley Live Steamers at Southwick, MA for many years. He was one of six committee members who helped develop the IBLS Wheel Standard.
Bridgeport Post Sun 1972
Retired Newtowner Keeps Busy Making Small Steam Locomotives
by Helen L. Huben
The Bridgeport Post Sun, 21 April 1974
Unquestionably one of the busiest "retired" men in Newton is Brenton W. Barnfather, who operates and owns a printing shop and a railroad steam engine hobby shop in his home on Fleetwood Drive, Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
These shops occupy the former garage and the entire basement area of the house. Mr. Barnfather has had to build a plastic garage adjoining the house to accomodae the family cars.
Mr. Barnfather was born in West Springfield, Mass. At an early age he studied photo engraving and joined a firm which supplied the four daily and Sunday editions of the local newspapers. While this was his vocation, his avocation for 42 years was anything that savored of railroading. In his 18th year with the photo-engraving shop he contracted cyanid poisoning in his hand and could no longer do this type of work.
Since he was married and needed a job, he naturally turned to his avocation, the railroads and found a job as a fireman with the Boston and Albany railroad. After the hand was completely healed, he returned to the photo engraving work. In 1964, he established a printing business from which he retired in 1970. Mr. Barnfather still does some printing. Known as the Sandy Hook Printing Service, he supplies commercial printing, offset lithography, wedding invitations, social stationery, business cards and small forms.
While living in West Springfield, he founded the Pioneer Valley Live Steamers, Inc. in Southwick, Mass in 1951, which is now the largest club of men who make made-toscale engines. These organizations are actually fellowships, rather than just clubs. Now the Brotherhood of Live Steamers are located throughout the United States and in parts of Canada. Mr. Barnfather's organization is in the Eastern regional section.
The steam engines and tenders, of which Mr. Barnfather has made four, are beautiful in their perfection. They take approximately 5,000 parts. The one he is working on now will be completed in about six moths, as he has been working on it for two and a half years. The boiler carries 135 pounds of steam and is very powerful, capable of carrying 60 people.
The black beauty now being made is 15 inches wide, 92 inches long and 22 inches tall. An engine such as this would cost approximately $30,000. Even the whistle's sound is an exact replicat of the old steam locomotives as they hurtled through the night across the prairies whistling at every cross road. Mr. Barnfather said that man has never made a piece of machinery that responds as delicately as a steam engine does.
Mr. Barnfather is interested in ecology, and this interest has caused him to study the difference in causes of pollution between the modern steam engine and theformer models which used coal. The pollutants from the modern diesel engine remain suspended in the air, while the old coal fired engine made cinders, whcih are carbon and fall back and enrich the earth.
Those wishing to take a ride on a Pioneer Valley Live Steamer can do so by going to the field in Southwick, Mass. on a Sunday. The field is open every Sunday and the charge is $1 per car, as the organization is not permitted to charge regular fares for the rides.
Mr. Barnfather is currently engaged also in making some really miniature locomotives which he will give to Buckingham Gardens Convalescent Home for patients in wheel chairs, who can set up small train races or other types of games with these tiny perfect trains.