IBLS Journal 1951

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From The Live Steamer, March-April 1951

A Cellar Meet was held on February 3rd, 1951 at Bill Van Brocklin's home at 1036 South Strett, Roslindale, Mass. and about 20 people attended, including a few women. Various projects were displayed for interest such as Carl Purinton's new mogul chassis and Al Rothermel's "Nana" and a nice time was had.


From The Live Steamer, March-April 1951

Another similar meet was held on March 3rd, 1952 at Carl Purinton's residence in Marblehead, and 21 men attended. Projects seen were B.M. Biergiel's 3/4 inch scale 4-4-2 chassis which was a nice job. John Garnder's 3 cylinder 2-6-2 LNER English chassis in 3/4 inch scale. Al Rothermel's "Granny" type 0-4-0 with boiler mounted was of interest. T. Shimeld's 3/4 inch scale drivers and Walschaert valve gear frames in 3/4 inch scale by Nelson Rickson added to what was seen and discussed.


Victor Shattock is featured on the cover of the April edition of "Model Railroader" magazine, along with Golden Gate Live Steamers member Al Forst.

VictorShattock Model Railroader April 1951.jpg


The Live Steamer, May-June 1951

by George Murray

The Brotherhood of Live Steamers Annual Steam Meet for 1951 will be held this year at the Golden Gate Live Steamers track at Oakland, California over Labor Day weekend, September 1, 2 and 3, 1951. This was by special invitation of the Golden Gate Live Steamers and there is 1300 fett of continuous track in 2-1/2 inch, 3-1/2 inch and 4-3/4 inch gauges. All live steamers who can possibly get to this event are urged to attend and bring their engines.

An International Live Steam Meet is to be held on August 25 and 26, 1951, by the Toronto Society of Model Engineers at their track in Toronto and all live steamers are welcome to attend.


The Live Steamer, July-August 1951

by George Murray

A Pacific Coast Section of the Brotherhood of Live Steamers is being formed. Harry Dixon of 1182 Russell Way, Hayward, California is the Secretary and would appreciate it if any of the live steamers he does not know would get in touch with him.

For those especially who may be planning to attend the Annual Brotherhood Meet at the new Golden Gate Live Steamers track at Oakland in September, readers are advised to see the August issue of Railroad Magazine which has a brief article and photo illustrations showing the complete layout of the track.


In September 1951, the 19th Annual BLS meet was held in Oakland, Calif and was hosted by the Golden Gate Live Steamers. Both Carl Purinton and Lester Friend attended from Massachusetts.

BLS Meet Report

The following report was written by George D. Murray, Editor & Publisher of The Live Steamer magazine, November 1951.

(Note: Facts about this GGLS Meet were sent in by Harry Dixon, Larry Duggan of the GGLS, also by Carl Purinton, Brotherhood Secretary.)

19th Annual Brotherhood of Live Steamers Meet

Oakland, California

No high strung prima-donna making her debut, but could be more nervous or excited than the Golden Gate Live Steamers as they waited for the opening session of the 19th Annual Live Steam Meet, September 1st, 1951. The weather was the opposite of last year, being cold & foggy but clearing in the afternoon. The Regional Park clubhouse had been reserved for the three days and the warm fireplace and coffee and doghnuts served by some of the lady live-steamers, helped to stave off the cold for those that came unprepared for cold weather.

Located in a most beautiful setting between two high hills and garlanded by native redwood trees, the Golden Gate Live Steamers' elevated railroad of 1/4 mile multi-gauged track presented a wonderful sight. The early arrivals were soon raising steam, anxious to try this superb track. Soon the smell of hot oil, steam & smoke was mingling with the heavy morning scent of oak and redwood giants that lent atmosphere to this live steamers Paradise.

Early on the scene were the Southern California and the San Diego Live Steamers, some of whom drove all night over 600 miles to be on hand. Jim Keith and son Sid of SCLS soon had their big inch scale loco popping, and it began hauling huge loads with its customary ease. Gordon Corwin, President of SCLS, got his 3-1/2 gauge 4-8-4 hot and took off around the track, hauling all and sundry. Other live steamers that got steaming that first day of the Meet were Phil West of the SCLS, who trotted out his 4-3/4 inch gauge Southern (British) Railway ten wheeler and put her through her paces. Gene Paul took to the rails with his 0-4-0 and was scooting around the track merrily. Undoubtedly the smallest engine there and certainly the most intriguing, was W. V. Hill's "Tich" of LBSC fame. Mr Hill & Mr Cuttell of La Jolla represented the San Diego Live Steamers and both had a lot of fun with this little rascal. A couple of other San Diego men, A. S. Chapmen and F. O. Themer, were busy getting boiler tests and tinkering with their engines. In the meantime, Jack Kerr, President of the Manitoba Live Steamers Association, together with son Bif and J. Hewitson, pulled in from a grueling three day and night trek from Winnipeg and promptly put their two beautiful loco entries on the roundhouse tracks. Both engines were 3-1/2 gauge and finished to a high degree, but beauty was not just skin deep, as the engines preformed in fine style. Genial Carl Purinton, Secretary of The Brotherhood, fired up "Granny" and started grinding out the miles without fuss or bother, characteristic of Carl's many locos.

Of special mention was John Mathews with his 3-1/2 gauge "Charlotte" Atlantic, which celebrated her Silver Anniversary (25 years of running) in which, John once told your Editor, that Charlotte had burned a few tons of coal and piled up immense mileage, which should earn her another medal since her momentous feat at the London Exposition in 1927 when she hauled a load of 17 passengers to win a silver cup at that time. LBSC knows "Charlotte" well and has mentioned her and John in Model Engineer at different times & just recently in connection with Charlotte's silver anniversary, and this story perhaps added a bit of interest, seeing John and his famous engine at the Meet.

The local boys not wishing to interfere with their guests' obvious enjoyment, were a little hesitant about running their engines, but under Carl's persistent urging along the lines that many of the men had come long miles to see what the other fellow was doing, finally got busy. Previously, GGLS Ray Wieber, Chief Boiler Inspector had been warming up the rails with Captain Kubicek's B&A 4-6-6 Tanker. This engine owned by Captain Kubicek and built by W. V. Hill some ten years or more ago, was another record mileager, since Bill Hill says he knows he drove this engine over 5,000 miles when he had her and burned over 800 pounds of briquets in her before he sold her. (Ed: It would be interesting to keep actual records of all locos on age and mileage and amount of fuel consumed, which would surprise a lot of people as to how well these little locos stand up over the years).

Walter Brown showed off his fine Espee 0-6-0 switcher in inch-scale. A half inch entry to run on what is probably the longest 2-1/2 inch gauge track in the world, was Vic Shattock's alcohol fired Pacific. This little baby was driven around the loop lap after lap without trouble of any kind, quite a surprise to some of the visitors no doubt, but not even noticed by GGLS members who are familiar with the consistent good running of Vic's many locos. Harry Dixon, the newly chosen Secretary of the Pacific Coast Region of the Brotherhood of Live Steamers, found time to fire up his handsome 3-1/2 gauge "Dixie-Dee" an 0-4-2 Tanker which was a highly finished creation of a master-craftsman. Incidentally, many of the engines of the GGLS group are finished up without any paint of any kind and look real well that way. They have to be kept clean, but that should be done regardless. One of the most likable of live steamers, kindly Art Wegner, President of the Rocky Mountain Live Steamers in Denver, was on hand to greet old friends and make new ones. He had his 3-1/2 inch gauge coal fired U.P. Atlantic soon adding miles to her record. Ed Leaver of Providence, R. I. was there, but alas Maisie was not with him. Ed's presence added a lot of prestige to the Meet-so did another old timer Herb Robinson of Celeron, N.Y. It was good to see these old friends far from their native lands, but all at home in the mutual hobby-live steam. Live Steamers kept checking in from all over, the registration desk was swamped with big names signing up - Roy Ashley, Captain Shaw, Alf Chancy, Doc Fixit, Laurence Hiney, Fred Braasch, Al Fesco, Charlie Cole, etc etc. Most of the fellows brought their wives along and the girls soon sconced themselves in the adjacent clubrooms, to discuss their mutual problems - like how to entice a live steamer out of his beloved workshop for a movie or bridge party. Live steamers checked in from Indiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Nevada, Virginia and many other States.

On the evening of the first day, open house was held at the club's headquarters in Vic Shattock's home, where there was a nice display of GGLS members work on view, not to mention Vic's world famous half inch scale model railroad, complete with cars, tunnels, bridges, yards, etc. President S.E. Gordon of the Golden Gate Live Steamers, introduced Mr. Shattock, who welcomed the many visitors, some of whom spoke briefly on the nice time that they were having, and of course the high point was reached when Carl Purinton addressed the gathering on behalf of the Brotherhood of Live Steamers. It was a wonderful tribute to Mr. Purinton's indefatigable enthusiasm, that such a representative assembly of live steamers, the large majority of whom had never before attended an Annual Meet, should now hear his kindly remarks under such happy circumstances. Jack Kerr of Winnipeg had brought along some 8MM colored movies of the doings in his neck of the woods, which were thoroughly enjoyed. Coffee and doughnuts were served and the meeting broke up into chattering in formal groups.

The next two days were a repetition of the first. 133 signed the register book Saturday, 120 the next day and 60 on Monday, or a total of 313 live steamers and their friends, most of whom stayed for the three days of the Meet. The majority of the engines were solid fuel fired, only four oil burners and two alcohol, one propane, all the rest were fired by coal or Ford briquetes. There were 85 actual live steamers with 25 engines, one or two under construction & some that were on display and some others that did not bother to register them. The total operating engines were 19, and the track is large enough so there was no crowding or unreasonable delays. Only one engine left the track, when A.S. Chapman's engine went off when going to fast on a curve, but it was not damaged too seriously.

Of special note, was an electrically operated speed indicator, developed by Harry Dixon and Captain Kubicek and calibrated for 1/4 scale mile in all three gauges, 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and 1 inch. the wheel flanges tripped a micro-switch and set the device in motion and after traveling the 1/4 mile, another micro switch would stop the needle at the speed the engine was traveling in this distance. Some 3/4 inch scale engines would get up to 175 scale miles per hour. This feature was of great interest to spectators as well as some live steamers. There probably is not another track in the country can claim a similar device. It can and may be arranged so a red flag appears when traveling too fast in certain sections of the track, which would cause the driver to slow down and at the same time indicate to the Dispatcher, a violation of speed on the line. (Ed: the former speed record of 26 MPH set at Danvers some years ago by Norm Robinson & his 3/4 inch scale Fayette, or our friend Al Milburn's record of 22 MPH on his own former home loop with his 2-1/2 inch gauge Lucy-Ann 4-8-4, would very likely raise the hair on the necks of these California steam boys. These records were watch timed and are actual miles per hour, not scale MPH, what that would come out to in scale mils per hour, your Ed has not figured out.)

The GGLS track was in wonderful condition and a shelter over the firing up tracks had been started and will be completed at some future time, no doubt. A single block signal is installed near the Roundhouse section of track and was especially built by the S.P. Co. and operated by Tim Reardon the Roundhouse Foreman & Traffic Manager. Both Tim and Carl Nordberg at the parking lot deserve mention for jobs well done. All in all, the Meet was considered a success from every standpoint, and unsurpassed for enthusiasm, good fellowship and attendance, Oldtimers from afar, declared it as being one of the best run and most congenial ever held, with the oldtime spirit very much in evidence. See photos below.

John Matthew's "Charlotte"

JohnMatthews Atlantic BLSMeet GGLS 1951.jpg

From Harry Dixon, The Miniature Locomotive, May-June 1953

Here you see John Matthews firing up his 3/4 inch scale Atlantic on her silver anniversary at the Golden Gate Live Steamers track during the 19th Annual meeting of the B.L.S., 1951. How many live steamers know the story as to how this engine was named "Charlotte"?

John claims some twenty odd years ago (about 1931) he and Mrs. Matthews made a trip to England and he took along his Atlantic with the hope of running it on some of the British Miniature tracks.

While there he had the privilege of visiting with LBSC only to find that his line was 2-1/2 inch gauge, but Curley was mighty quick to remedy this situation and a third rail was put down at once. The Atlantic was fired up and put through her paces much to the pleasure of both Curly and John. It was at this time that Curly convinced John that the engine should be named after John's daughter "Charlotte", which it was, and it was also reported that the Charlotte was put into passenger hauling service at one of the English model exhibits where a load of seventeen passengers was started and hauled.

The performance at that time was very outstanding for a small engine and John received a medal for it. John is one of the grand old men of live steam in America today and here's to continued success.

Attendance List

Here is a list of meeting attendees, courtesy of CAP Purinton, Carl Purinton's grandson.


From "The Live Steamer", November-December 1951:

The first of the season's Cellar Meets by the N.E.L.S. was held at the home of H.B. Eldrige of Topsfield, Mass on November 3rd, 1951.
A new group, The Western New England Live Steamers, held the first of a series of meets at the home of B.W. Barnfather, West Springfield, Mass. on October 26th. Nine men attended and a track site is being considered to be located at Southwick, Mass., if favorably voted on at the next meet.
Rumors of the likelihood of N.E.L.S. reinstalling the 2-1/2 inch gauge track at Danvers will be good news to those in this size. Most group tracks have the 2-1/2 inch gauge to keep everybody happy.