Charles A. Purinton
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"......parts, boilers, trucks, chasses, 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 until 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 1990s.....at 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.
Films of Carl Purinton
Ken Shattock (IBLS Secty) says:
January 26, 2011 at 12:25 am
I produced a two-disk DVD entitled “IBLS: The Films of Carl Purinton” (1947–1963)… It shows a lot of the Eastern clubs and long gone famous Live Steamers.. Includes three (3) different generations of Purintons running their locomotives on their famous tracks they once owned.
Other DVD’s are available of the Western clubs and Pioneers. If interested, contact me direct, for more information at:
North American Region