Southwestern Live Steamers
As written in the 1990 SWLS Roster…
On January 15, 1972, Leslie Burford hosted a meeting at his home at 5516 Stonegate Rd, Dallas, Texas for people interested in forming an organization to promote interest in live steam railroading. This was the first of two organizational meetings with the second held on January 29th. The first meeting was attended by 14 live steamers and 3 others by proxy.
Les served as Temporary Chairman and Austin Barr as Secretary. The name for the club was agreed and the club’s purpose was to promote steam power of any kind. Allen Guiberson was named Chairman of a Bylaws Committee and Paul DeVerter agreed to handle the incorporation of the club.
At the second meeting, Les Burford continued as Temporary Chairman and Leon Lindner served as Secretary. The group agreed to DeVerter’s proposed “Articles of Incorporation” and Guiberson’s committee suggested adoption of an amended version of the Mid-South Live Steamers’ Bylaws. The motion carried.
The group elected the club’s first slate of Officers and Directors:
- President: Allen Guiberson
- Vice President: Paul DeVerter
- Secretary-Tresurer: Leon Lindner
- Directors: Harold Timm, Paul Torn, L.L. Yates, Austin Barr, Les Burford
Plans were also made for committees to handle issues concerning Boilers, Facilities, Safety and Publications. Regular monthly meetings were scheduled for the second Sunday of each month.
Prior to the formation of the SWLS club, scale railroaders abounded in Texas with tracks around their homes utilizing several different gauges. Some of these were Harold Timm of Dallas, Ces Beck of San Antonio, John Enders of Austin, Cliff Pettis of Houston, Vernon Greschel of Houston, Allen Guiberson and Lou Conklin of Dallas. Tracks were being planned by Henry Blossom of Wimberley and Roy Pickard of Priddy.
None had tracks large enough or knew enough other steamers to hold a meet until L.L. Yates of Falfurrias asked Live Steam Magazine to publish a notice of the FIRST TEXAS MEET AUG. 31 AND SEPT. 1, 1969. The meet was held on his 500′ loop next to the dry cleaning plant that he managed. The turntable was inside the big boiler room of the plant. Engines were unloaded on one side of the building onto the turntable, then to the tracks on the other side of the building. L.L. Yates, John Enders and Ces Beck had steam engines to run and Paul DeVerter showed his 3/4 inch Juliet II.
Attendance at this first Texas meet was 45 registered guests and the event was reported in Live Steam's September 1969 issue by Les Burford. The following year, Yates held his second Labor Day meet. He sent invitations to many and the meet was attended by 47 registered guests. Running were five locomotives belonging to Enders, Beck, Yates, Greschel and an Allen Guiberson engine brought by Paul Torn. Others attending were Clarence and Paul King, Henry Blossom, Burford, DeVerter, and Joe Dale Morris. This meet was also reported in a LIVE STEAM article by Clarence King in the January, 1971 issue.
His third and final meet was held on Labor Day weekend, 1971. It was attended by many of the same people and was also reported by Live Steam in the April, 1972 issue. L.L. Yates was without a doubt the “grandfather” of the Southwestern Live Steamers. But the true father was Les Burford.
Les used the names and addresses from those Labor Day meets, plus names from B.L.S officer, Austin Barr, and others he knew in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area to engender interest in forming the Southwestern Live Steamers, Inc.
The following was written by Paul L Deverter II and appeared in the April 1972 issue of Live Steam Magazine:
- September 4th, 5th, 6th (1971)
- The Third Texas Live Steam Meet was held in Falfurrias, Texas over Labor Day Weekend, and five 1-1/2" scale engines were operating - four steam and 1 diesel electric. The host, L. L. Yates, had his 4-6-2, Ces Beck from San Antonio ran his 0-4-0, John Enders from Austin with his 4-4-2 and Paul Torn brought Alan Guiberson's 4-6-0 from Austin. Clarence King showed his start on his engine and about 30 Live Steamers enjoyed a wonderful meet.
- The week after the meet, the rains came ... and washed out the roadbed! This track was also destroyed in 1967 when a hurricane swept through. To make matters worse, Mr. Yates suffered a stroke and was paralized for a time. He is now out of the hospital and working again at the Bright Star Laundry. You can't keep an 82-year-old down!
Michael McGrath wrote the following on Facebook, 19 October 2018:
- Since I was oh, 4 or 5 years old, my life revolved around the annual Southwestern Live Steamers Fall Train Meet. Dad hosted the very first Fall Meet here in Annetta. He was taken by the arm from Les Burford and told, "You are hosting the meet". Incidentally, "meet" is short for "Business Meeting" [we don't race trains] of which, there where two originally. One was in the spring hosted by John Enders and the other in the fall hosted by Dad. It was always the first full weekend in October.
- His enthusiasm was contagious! From the very beginning it started out BIG! At the time, there was no other railroad touting what he had built. A whopping 1,500 feet of mainline track! This of course is laughable today but, in 1972? It was unheard of. Thanks to notifications in Live Steam Magazine, he had calls from coast to coast. The confirmed guest list for the very first annual Fall Meet of the Southwestern Live Steamers was the who's who at the time! Names like, Leo Myers, Chet Peterson, Austin Barr, Frank Mann, not to mention, half of the officers from IBLS (International Brotherhood of Live Steamers). Looking back...what an incredibly exciting time!
- The first meet was an absolute disaster! I remember seeing Dad face down on the bed swearing he would never do this again! Everything that could go wrong did. It poured down rain. The water well quit working and he had them come to drill a new well. Of course, the drill truck became stuck in the mud. It was truly a nightmare! But do you know what? The camaraderie was exemplary and everyone left Annetta having had a great time. Needless to say, every year from then on, the SWLS Fall Meet grew and grew in popularity and that little upstart club was on the verge of being the largest in the country. Most members, having joined right there in Annetta.
- 1972 Allen Guiberson
- 1973-74 Terry McGrath
- 1975 Ces Beck
- 1976 Ed Landrum
- 1977 George Berg
- 1978 Clarence King
- 1979 Harold Timm
- 1980-81 Clarence King
- 1982-83 Ed Leatherwood
- 1984-86 Jake DeVries
- 1987-88 Tom Stamey
- 1989-90 George Maddox
- 1991-92 Jack Haskins
- 1993-94 Lee Balkum
- 1995-96 Gerry Stuteville
- 1997-98 Henry Todaro
- 1999-00 Carroll Enders
- 2001-02 Harvey Mattison
- 2003-04 Philip Bell
- 2005-06 Stephen Balkum
- 2007-08 John Oglesby
- 2009-10 Darren McNeely
- 2011-12 Terry McGrath
- 2013-14 Jerry Schoenberg
- 2015-16 Kari Wirth
- 2017-18 Bill Childers
Terry McGrath, 1973-1974 and 2011-2012
Leslie Burford Memorial Award
Each year the Southwestern Live Steamers present the Leslie Burford Memorial Award to an individual or family who make significant contributions to the Live Steam hobby.
From Live Steam Magazine, February 1984
- March 30 thru April 1
- Ces Beck, host
- San Antonio, Texas 78212
Annual Spring Meet
- April 27 thru April 29
- John Enders, host
- Austin, Texas 78723
Memorial Day Meet
- May 25 thru May 28
- Hank Blossom, host
- Wimberley, Texas 78676
- June 15 thru June 17
- Alex and Grace Hitzfelder, hosts
- Devine, Texas 78016
Annual Fall Meet
- October 2 thru October 7
- Terry McGrath, host
- Fort Worth, Texas 76109
Fall Blowdown Meet
- October 26 thru October 28
- Ed Leatherwood, host
- Dublin, Texas 76446