GGLS Live Steamers

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This article appeared in the 1946 SP Bulletin.

Live Steamers

Their Model Engines Are The Real Thing

Like the real thing are these little steam locomotives built by members of the Golden Gate Live Steam Club. Accurate down to the last detail, these engines weight around 80 pounds, will haul loads ranging from 500 to 800 pounds.

Of all the countless railroad model-builders' clubs throughout the country none is more exclusive than a little group in Oakland known as the "Golden Gate Live Steam Club." This is a pretty bold statement, we'll admit, but before some of you other model-building fans rise up in arms let us explain.

Unlike the average rail hobbyists, this group, as its name implies, builds replicas of standard locomotives that are powered by steam generated in the engines, usually 100 pounds of pressure per square inch. Membership in the club is limited to builders of such engines and there aren't many in the country, according to Vic Shattock, SP water service foreman at West Oakland, who is the leading spirit of the club and largely responsible for the growth of this hobby in the West.

Started in 1936 by a few ardent hobbyists, the club now has a membership of 45, including railroaders, tradesmen, doctors and other professional and business men. Besides Shattock there are four other SP men: S. O. Sanden, Frank Walker and Charlie Rasmussen, locomotive engineers; and Al Hopkins, fireman.

Sparkplug of Golden Gate Live Steam Club is Vic Shattock (above, with granddaughter, Patricia), water service foreman at West Oakland, Pictures on this page were taken in basement of Shattock's home, where members meet regularly and operate their engines over 2-1/2-inch gauge railroad.

Meetings are held each month in the basement at Shattock's home in Oakland which contains a complete 2-1/2-inch gauge steam railroad. Along one 45-foot side is a three-track section containing a combination slip switch and spurs leading off into each corner of the basement. Back of the furnace is the roundhouse fitted with an electrically operated model of a 110-foot turntable where engines are "turned" to be moved from the roundhouse to fueling and firing-up tracks. The main line passes over trestles and steel bridges, through a tunnel and under signal bridges, past a water tank and column. Switches are hand operated by switch stands and ground switch levers.

The locomotives and equipment have not been built with the idea of just hauling a few box cars around the basement. The "live steamers" can run their engines while actually riding behind them on flat cars. Shattock has demonstrated, on numerous occasions, this method of operation and also the unusual power of these little machines by hauling four adults in addition to himself on flat cars coupled to one of his Mikado type engines. For these demonstrations tracks are placed on benches, permitting the engineer and passengers to sit sideways on the flat cars. The throttle lever sticks up through the roof of the cab for convenience in handling and the Johnson bar can be reached through the windows of the cab.

Since there is very little reliable literature on the steam engine building hobby, the engines are the result of research and work by the club members at their monthly meetings. They have learned to machine and build every part that goes into these little locomotives including wheels, axles, copper boilers, feed water pumps, injectors, mechanical lubricators, pressure gauges, throttles and safety valves.

One of the major projects of the club in the near future is to secure a piece of property where they can construct a permanent track of riding and operating their little trains.

The club has gained public notice through the press and radio, and as recent as February 12, Shattock was interviewed on a half-hour program on KPO in San Francisco, in which he described some of the intricacies of building the diminutive "live steam" locomotives.


Power Display by Golden Gate Live Steam Club members includes replicas of some of smallest and largest locomotives ever built. In foreground of picture below is engine being built by Tim Reardon of scale of 3/4-inch to the foot. When completed it will weigh about 350 pounds, will pull a 2500-lb. load. male club members in picture are (l-r): Lon Tate, Ed Turner, Lou McKnney, Tim Reardon, Walter Brown, M.P. Wright, Fred Braasch, Vic Shattock, Frank Dee, Larry Dugan, Chas. Rasmussen, Milton Rasmussen. Ladies are Mrs. Fred Braasch and Patricia Shattock.