David Hannah III

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by Daris A Nevil from phone interviews, October 2015

David Hannah III at Houston Area Live Steamers. Photo by Rick White.

David Hannah III was a long-time live steam modeler. He built the famous Browning Railroad in Chappell Hill, Texas. He was a long-time friend of Jim Jackson.

David entered the Live Steam hobby in 1985. He purchased a Railroad Supply Corporation Mikado steam locomotive kit in 1986. Over the next 9 months David received 17 sections of pre-machined parts. The day finally came that the chassis was complete and running on air. David opened up the garage and attempted to set the values. But David suffered from hearing loss, and could not make out the bark from the stack.

Ted York was in the neighborhood visiting his daughter. While passing David's house Ted noticed the beautiful Mikado in the driveway. He walked up to David and said, "I will set the valves." David stood back and let Ted have a go at it. David walked into the house and said to his wife, "I don't know who that is." His wife replied, pointing to a recent issue of Live Steam, "He is the man here is this magazine!"

After an hour and a half of work Ted completed the task, and the chassis ran smoothly on air. He pointed out to David that the equalizers would need to be adjusted once the 350 pound boiler was mounted.

Jim Jackson assisted David with the construction of 2 miles of track at Chappell Hill, Texas, known as the Browning Railroad.

When it came time to sell the Browning Plantation, Jim Jackson approached The Harris County Park Board in order to secure Zube Park as a new location for the track. All the track and buildings of the Browning Railroad were moved to there to become the Cypress Creek & Southern Railroad. Jim also had a track at his house. Most of his track was relocated to the station area of Zube park.


In 1990 David Hannah III attended a meet at Train Mountain. It was here that David met Don Isom who was building miniature buildings for Train Mountain. The two were riding on a train headed by a GP-50 Diesel, with Don Isom driving, and David noticed something wrong; the miniature buildings looked small compared to the 1.5 inch scale trains. David suggested that Don build the miniatures to 2 inch scale. This would produce an effect known as "forced perspective". David commissioned Don to build the village of Isomville on the Browning Railroad. David planned to run narrow gauge equipment on his railroad, so 2 inch scale would fit right in.

David purchased $10K worth of buildings. Don made two trips to Texas to deliver the buildings. While unloading the truck David's father-in-law asked Don if the buildings would hold up under the tough Texas weather. Don's reply was to jump on top of a building and said "I drove here from the Northwest at 80MPH on the highway. If the buildings can withstand 80MPH winds they will hold together in Texas." Don used real shingles on his buildings, and sure to his word, not a shingle was missing upon delivery.

Building Bridges

Jim Jackson running David Hannah III's Mikado over 125 foot bridge at the Browning Railroad

David learned not to underbuild bridges. He rebuilt the long bridge on The Browning for strength and safety, using three 2x4s on edge, laminated. Some visiting kids rocked a caboose off the bridge, so Hannah made the bridges wide enough to stand on. He made the bridges strong enough to hold a Ford tractor.

While rebuilding the North spillway dam bridge Jack Lucks fell off the side! He was putting down 2x4 flats on I-beams, which were 30 feet long, a 60 foot long bridge. Jack stepped on a 2x4 not attached, fell off the side, cracked his arm, and had to have a cast. So Hannah named it Lucks Bridge.

The top of the dam had 500 feet of track, two tracks, for a total 1000 feet of track. The bridge was on the southeast end of Lake, just off the dam.

David never graduated from college, but became a self made engineer, always over-built everything.


David Hannah III


David Hannah III, 1944-2015

David Hannah III passed away peacefully and unexpectedly at home on Tuesday December 29, 2015. A native Houstonian, he was born September 3, 1944, to Catherine and David Hannah Jr.

He started his professional career with the Burkhead Manufacturing Corporation then entered the real estate business. As an officer for the Ayrshire Corporation he developed property in Texas, Louisiana, and Australia. His most recent position was with Houston Executive Airport.

Born prematurely, David was extremely hard of hearing which makes many of his accomplishments noteworthy, among them, earning a pilot's license before getting a driver's license, building a one and a half inch scale, working replica model of a Mikado steam engine and building by hand two miles of track for his model trains for The Browning Railroad in Chappell Hill, Texas.

David met Kenzie Ganchan when she was three weeks old when their mothers brought them both to the local sewing club. He married her in April 1970 and loved to boast that he met the love of his life when he was just three years old. His love of trains and planes was only eclipsed by his love and devotion to his family and his grandchildren. Always genuinely happy to be helpful in any situation and with the friendliest of dispositions, he never knew a stranger. He was a great husband, father, grandfather, neighbor and friend. He will be missed by many.

David served as the Vice President of the River Oaks Property Owners association, served as an Election Judge for Precinct 217, was on the Aviation Committee of the Houston Chamber of Commerce. He was also a founding member of the Houston Area Live Steamers (HALS) and most notably served on the board of the Houston Ear Research Foundation for over 33 years.

He was a life-long member of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston and a member of St. John the Divine.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Kenzie Ganchan Hannah, his sons David Hannah IV and wife Michele, Richard Ganchan Hannah and wife Lana, and John Marshall Hannah; grandchildren Julia, Lena and Pierce Tongate, and Price and Charlie Hannah, brother Douglas Hannah and wife Flo, sister Glen Hannah Cole and husband Hugh, his favorite aunt and uncle, Rita and John Hannah as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 3 to Jan. 4, 2016

David Hannah III at HALS. Photo by Rick White

Michale McGrath wrote:

A rarer individual you will never meet. Those of us fortunate enough to know him should rejoice that he was part of our lives. I believe that, a man's character can be measured by the friends he keeps and his generosity towards others. I never knew David to meet a stranger! In our world of the Live Steam Hobby, David was known from coast to coast. He would spread his own brand of Texas comradery and hospitality. He was oh so proud of Texas!
His Browning Plantation Railroad was legendary! A warmer and welcoming place you would not find. His generosity formed the Houston Area Live Steamers (HALS). The club was fortunate and should be ever so grateful to have had such a benefactor!
I feel truly blessed to be able to call David my friend. A man like David Hannah only comes along once in a life time. God Bless his family and dearest friends. He will truly be missed.



  • "Browning Railroad, Inc", Live Steam Magazine, David Hannah, September/October 1996
  • "Each One Teach One: Investment in the Future", David Hannah III, Live Steam Magazine, September/October 2005