Dwight Durkee

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IBLS Secretary

Dwight Durkee served as BLS Secretary, Western Region, from 1977 to 1993. He assumed the role after Harry Dixon passed away. Dick Thomas assumed the job of Western Region Secretary after Dwight's passing in 1993.


"Grant" Locomotive

BLS Report

Charles A. Purinton

The Miniature Locomotive, July-August 1954

Dwight Durkee Jr. of Cupertino, California, has an excellent start on the Grant, an early American type of locomotive that was popular around 1873.

This is his first attempt at building an engine and, as you can see from the picture, he is doing alright, especially when you start from scratch with only a picture to follow. Patterns and castings were made for the drivers, front wheels and the cylinders, which are 2 inch bore and 3 inch stroke and use "D" valves. The drive wheels are 7-5/8 inch diameter and are sprung with working leaf springs. The side rods have the conventional brasses and working wedges, while the frame and pilt were made up from bar stock and brazed together. H states that he has some 740 hours of work in the engine so far, but also has the boiler and tender underway.

He is a tyro who praises the helpful instructions that Charles Arnold has to offer in his book on boiler making. Dwight has started this engine in 7-1/2 inch gauge and proposes to put down a 500 foot line at his home, where there is plenty of room for expansion and his round house begines to fill up with more locos as his future plans progress.

File:DwightDurkee Grant Miniature Locomotive JulAug1954 005.jpg
1.5 inch scale, 7 1/2 inch gauge 4-4-0 American built by the late Dwight Durkee, Jr. of Cupertino, California. Photo provided by Dwight's son, Dwight, Feb 2014.

Where is it?

Dwight's son writes:

My mother's understanding is that this and all of my dad's equipment went to Germany. Does anyone have any further information? Please send information to Daris Nevil.


The North American Live Steamer, Volume 1 Number 10

Harry Dixon

A recent visit was made to the Timber & Ferndale Railroad at Cupertino, California, where president and general manager Dwight Durkee, Jr took us on a tour thru the back shop and garden layout. After a short rain storm his engine Fern was fired up for a run. Later lunch was served by Mrs. Durkee, who is a very avid steam enthusiast. She is building a caboose for this line and expects to have it ready for the Goleta Valley run in August. In the afternoon we were honored with a visit by another live steamer from Modesto, who brought along his 1-1/2 inch scale engine of the Apache railroad. Ralph Sweely is the owner and he is being assisted with the unloading by Captain William L. Bay of the Pan Am Lines. Enclosed are four views of the activities of a very pleasant visit with the Durkees.

West Valley Live Steamers

John Grant wrote in Live Steam Magazine, July 1991

There is an ironic twist to the end of this story. As Silicon Valley grew, the orchard property of Dwight Durkee (chief founder of West Valley Live Steamers) in Cupertino, California, was rezoned, forcing Dwight to abandon his track and move away. An Apple Computer building on the track site now! (See Live Steamers and PCs).

Timber & Ferndale Railroad

Kenneth Shattock wrote in Call Boy, April 2013:

Call Boy Editor Dwight Durkee had a track at his apricot orchard in Cupertino, California. Even though he was editor, it was rumored that he was never seen at the Redwood track. Here we see, left to right: Dwight Durkee, Henry Steimle, Bill Smith Sr., Louis Lawrence, and Bill Bay. The engine is a 4-4-0 “Virginian”. Of course, the orchard and apricots are gone, and the property is now producing apples, under the names of iPod, iPhone, and other products created by the late Steve Jobs
DwightDurkee HenrySteimle BillSmith LouieLawrence BillBay 1965.jpg

Dwight Durkee and Golden Gate Live Steamers

Steve Vitkovits

The Call Boy, April 2013

While working for the Hewlett-Packard Company in New Jersey, I had the opportunity to visit the corporate headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Naturally, before traveling I made inquiries regarding live steamers in the area. One name I received was Dwight Durkee of Cupertino who reportedly had a back yard railroad among other items of interest to a live steamer.

Upon arriving in Palo Alto for the first time around January in 1963, I called Dwight and I was invited to his house to have dinner and visit his shop. I recall driving south on El Camino Real - 280 was still a dream - to Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road then to a location between Stevens Creek Blvd. and McClellan Road. There, in among a grove of apricot trees, was Dwight's house, shop and apricot orchard on several acres. He and his wife Marion were very hospitable and during the dinner I got filled in on the Golden Gate Live Steamers. At that time the track was at Redwood Park (off of A Street). There was only one loop of elevated track and a ground loop for 1-1/2 inch scale equipment. The public was etertained by watching operations from behind a fence at the front of the property. There was a very small building the features of which i can't remember.

Dwight was the Call Boy editor, a position he held for many years. For reasons unclear to me, he didn't visit the track site at Redwood or Tilden, but preferred to serve the club from home. Dwight was very active in the West Valley Live Steamers, a group whose meetings were mostly descriptions of who chased what full scale steam locomotive along what highway, and Bits and Pieces. The club met in a bank meeting room for many years and never had a track. Local train running was at Dwight's backyard Railroad by invitation. Dwight built an American 4-4-0 based on the Walt Disney Dixie Bell. His wife Marion operated a model of the Best Friend of Charleston. Dwight was also very active in the Brotherhood of Live Steamers, an organization that supports the live steam hobby by answering questions regarding the location of Live Steam clubs, Club Meets, model engineering suppliers, and individual live steamers.

Besides miniature railroading, Dwight was interested in stationary steam plant. He acquired a small, horizontal steam engine of about 4-inch bore from a cannery and connected it to a small alternator. A gas-burning boiler fired it. The output of the alternator was used to light a bank of lamps. It was essentially a replica of a small steam power plant.

New Year's Eve was a special event at the Durkee's because they invited anyone with a steam whistle to participate in sounding off at midnight. Dwight had a large manifold from the stationary steam boiler to which all the whistles were attached. One year the sound of all those whistles attracted the attention of the local police who investigated, but left without a word.

As the Valley of Heart's Delight became Silicon Valley, there was pressure on the Durkee's to sell their property for commerical development. Finally, the apricot orchard gave way and the Durkee's moved to Bonnie Doon (north of Santa Cruz) and built a new backyard railroad.

Ed: California records show that Dwight purchased the property in Cupertino June 4, 1948.