Charles A. Purinton

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Charles A. Purinton, known as Carl Purinton, founded the Brotherhood Of Live Steamers in 1932, and served as the sole secretary until 1962.

This shows four (4) generations of Purintons. Bob Hornsby took this at a live steam meet in Epping, New Hampshire. L-R: Charles S. with his grandson Zach (Cap’s son). Charles A. (Cap) and Charles (Carl) A. Purinton. June 16, 1984.

International Brotherhood of Live Steamers


The Brotherhood of Live Steamers was started in 1932 by the late Charles A. "Carl" Purinton of Marblehead, Massachusetts (1898-1999), after a suggestion to do so by famous live steam designer "L.B.S.C." (Curly Lawrence) of England. The Brotherhood's goal was to allow all the early live steamers to stay in touch with each other in the "pre-Internet" era.

Each live steamer who wanted to join the Brotherhood would register his name and address with the "Secretary". Once registered, these "lone hands" (early, independent live steam builders) would not be "alone" any longer and could be put in touch with one another through the Secretary. This registry of names was a service that connected these "lone hands" in the live steam hobby with others in their vicinity (and throughout the continent). It allowed for the exchange of information, the answering of questions, and personal visits when one live steamer was going to be traveling in the vicinity of another live steamer. Another goal was to have live steam "meets" each year where all the live steam "brothers" could travel to one location and "meet" for the purpose of running their locomotives and displaying their work.

Mr. Purinton served as the first Brotherhood "Secretary", and the first meeting of the Brotherhood was held at his home in Marblehead Massachusetts in 1932.....a meet at which where several men came to operate their 2-1/2" gauge locomotives on Mr. Purinton's 140-foot long "back and forth track" in his driveway. Several builders attended simply to show off their "works in progress", boilers, trucks, chassis, etc. that were not completed yet.

Mrs. Purinton always cooked up a huge pot of delicious fish chowder for lunch, and during the rest of the day would host the "live steam widows" whose husbands were outside or in the shop "playing trains" or "talking shop".

Meets became more popular each year, and were held at the Purinton home annually through 1937. So many people were attending by 1937 that the Purinton home could no longer handle the crowds. In 1938, the Brotherhood's annual meets began being held at the brand new New England Live Steamers track at the Friend Box Company at Danvers, Massachusetts. Other early Brotherhood meets were held at Montreal; Toronto; Lomita CA; and Golden Gate in CA.

Over the years, the popularity of the Brotherhood became such that Mr. Purinton needed assistance being Secretary. As such Mr. Harry Dixon of California became the "West Coast" Secretary, and Mr. Purinton remained the Secretary back east. In time, a midwest Secretary was added, as was a Canadian Secretary. The early issues of Live Steam Magazine have these Secretaries' names and addresses listed in every issue.

The Brotherhood became the "International Brotherhood" sometime in the 1970s, and as such it changed from being the "BLS" to being the "IBLS". IBLS "meets" were held from the 1970s to the tracks including Pioneer Valley Live Steamers, Los Angeles Live Steamers, and the final one at Waushakum Live Steamers.

By the 1990s, the Brotherhood had faced a decline in new signups, and a loss of many of its members due to age and death. This, plus the advent of the internet, led some to believe that the Brotherhood was an idea whose time had "come and gone", and as such the regional secretaries in the USA ended the American IBLS in the early 2000s.

Regardless of the reasons for the apparent decline in interest, the dissolution of the Brotherhood in the USA did not sit well with some, including Mr. Ken Shattock of Washington state. Ken is the grandson of Victor Shattock, the 1930s founder of the Golden Gate Live Steamers. Victor's name appears in all of the early magazines of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, as he was the author of several articles on live steam engine construction. His 1/2" scale "alcohol burner" was a popular alternative to coal firing, especially for 1/2" scale indoor running.



Bob Hornsby sent the following:

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill (A.W.) Leggett and wife at some of Carl Purinton’s meets. Carl Purinton did not live far from Dick Symmes and me, so it was a 10 minute drive for us. I vividly recall that some of the meets washed out by foul weather, we gathered in Carl’s shop and shot the bull. The women gathered in the house with Mrs. Purinton and enjoyed themselves. It was educational for me to listen to the various “Old Timers” talk about the old days, and it was not just about trains.
I wish I had a tape recording of the stories and tales I heard. All the “Old Timers” had many great and interesting stories. I could have written a book about them. I remember some stories, but not nearly all. I heard MANY from Carl as we traveled together to various steam meets around the country. I think you know that Carl was once a fireman for the Boston & Maine. Oh the stories he has shared with me.
Carl left the Boston & Maine when they started purchasing diesels. He did not care for them, had no desire to operate them, and many of his steam buddies felt the same. Those that were younger stayed on with the diesels.
After leaving the Boston & Maine, Carl went to work for the United Shoe Machine which had a huge plant in nearby Beverley, Massachusetts as a machinist. It was not far from his home. This is where he picked up his machine shop skills which benefited him in building live steam locomotives. He caught the live steam bug when he and his son, Charlie, when to a show in Boston. At the show he saw a model of the 4-6-2 Pacific that pulled Boston & Maine’s “Flying Yankee” passenger train in a special paint scheme. Also on display was a live steam Boston & Maine 2-8-4 Berkshire in 1/2 inch scale that was built by the late Harry Sait of Saco, Maine. That blew him away. He looked up Harry Sait, became very dear friends.
The live steam bug also bit his son Charlie and he started a Pennsy class A5 0-4-0 switcher. It turned out to be the fastest locomotive at the old NELS track in Danvers, Mass. And when it came to speed, Charlie loved to run fast! Ultimately, Charlie built MANY locomotives, all in 3-1/2” gauge except for two which were 7-1/4” gauge. I don’t want to tread on thin ice here, but I’d dare say that Charlie turned out to be more of a locomotive builder that his dad. On occasion, Carl called Charlie for help or advice.
With Carl and Charlie now gone, the locomotives are now in the possession of Charlie’s son. “And now you know the rest of the story.”

John Kurdzionak wrote:

Mr. Purinton flew a primitive type of "seaplane" in the World War I era, and was based out of Pensacola, Florida. Later on, he was a fireman on the Boston and Maine Railroad, most often firing the "Atlantics" that traveled to and from his hometown of Marblehead, Mass. When promoted to "engineer", he did it for a day and quit his position at the end of that very same day. He just wanted to say that he had "done it", and once he had, he felt it was time to "quit" and to move on.

Bob Hornsby wrote the following in Modeltec, April 1999:

Carl was a former U.S. Naval aviator, piloting flying boats out of Pensacola, Florida, in World War One.


Films of Carl Purinton

See The Films of Carl Purinton

trainJ5 posted a video of his Carl Purinton-built engine

John going up the hill at the deep run central railroad with my Carl Purinton engine built in 1969. It's a 2-6-0 Mogul. Almost all of Carl's engines are built the same so if you have a Carl Purinton engine than this engine should look somewhat similar. It is running up at the Pennsylvania Live Steamers alot too. Its kinda hard to see the lettering on the tender it says Boxford Outer Belt. If you know anything about Carl Purinton and the engines he built send me a message or comment. I don't know alot and it would be nice to know about my engine.

Live steam model trains at home of Charles Purinton in Marblehead, Mass. c 1955, by Charles Pyne.


  • "In Memoriam - Charles A. Carl Purinton", by Charles S. Charlie Purinton, Live Steam magazine, May-June 1999