Walter Brown was one of the original Founders of the Eastbay Model Engineers Society in Emeryville, CA. He built electric and Live Steam models in 1/4" scale, O-gauge. He was also a member of the Golden Gate Live Steamers and built a stunning model of a Southern Pacific 0-6-0 switch engine in 1-inch scale in polished brass and a 1/2" scale model of NYC # 999. He owned the Industrial Gear & Machine Works at 5th & Alice Streets in Oakland, CA. Walter Brown & Vic Shattock were co-chairmen of the NMRA's Live Steam Standards Committee in the 1940-1945 time slot.
Ken Shattock wrote:
- Vic Shattock and Walter Brown were long-time bosom buddies. They were both skilled machinists and probably the best Live Steam hobbyists on the West Coast. My grandpa took me to Walter Brown's house and shop.
- Walter I. Brown was a professional machinist who resided for many years in the upscale Trestle Glen neighborhood of central Oakland, California on Longridge Road. He owned and operated his own machine shop for a living known as the INDUSTRIAL GEAR & MACHINE WORKS which was located at 6th & Alice Streets in Oakland.
- Walter provided the following services: "Gears for the Industries, Tool Making, Engineering, Designing, Experimental and General Machine Work". At his home on Longridge Road, he had an extensive machine shop which this author has visited as a young boy.
- Walter was also a model railroad hobbyist. He originally modeled in O-scale (1/4-inch equals one foot) and he scratchbuilt predominantly diesel locomotive models powered by electricity. In 1933, he was a co-founder, along with Jack Collier, of the Eastbay Model Engineers Society in Oakland, who at one time owned and operated the largest model railway layout in the United States. The club operated both O-scale and HO-scale trains in an old 15,000 square foot warehouse provided by the Santa Fe railroad company for many years. Walter also started getting very interested in building scratchbuilt models of miniature locomotives operated by steam as per the prototype. He made the acquaintance of live steam modeler Victor Shattock in the mid-1930's and they became very close personal friends for many years. In fact, Vic invited Walter to become a member of the Golden Gate Live Steamers, which he did, and was very active with both GGLS and the Eastbay Model club for many years.
- Two of Walter's first live steam models were built in O-scale. A Southern Pacific Class GS-1 4-8-4 'Northern' type locomotive and also a New York Central 4-6-4 'Hudson' type locomotive. Both locomotives burned denatured alcohol for fuel and operated a very few times on the tracks of the Eastbay Model Engineers Society. The sight of either one of these live steam models operating at the Eastbay Model club pulling a string of heavyweight coaches was quite impressive to say the least. However, a majority of the membership persuaded Walter not to operate these any more as they had a fear of having the layout possibly catch on fire.
- Walter also built two larger live steam models. A 1/2-inch scale model of the New York Central's famous locomotive # 999. This locomotive operated on Victor Shattock's basement railroad empire in Oakland quite a number of times. It was a very beautiful model. There was also a large one-inch scale model, in polished brass, of a Southern Pacific railroad 0-6-0 switch engine with a fantail tender. This locomotive had tremendous pulling power and operated many times in the early days of operation at the original outdoor track of the GGLS in Oakland's 'Redwood Regional Park'. Today it is owned by GGLS member Steve Peery who is quite a railroad collector in his own right.
- In the early 1940's when the Golden Gate Live Steamers started thinking about the possibility of constructing a permanent outdoor track on which to run their locomotives,
- Walter Brown was toying with the idea of purchasing the large Victorian home and property that was immediately next door to Vic Shattock's residence on 38th Avenue in East Oakland. The home was very large and included a ballroom and stage. It had a number of fairly large outbuildings and a huge empty lot in the rear of the property of about three acres, situated along the banks of Peralta Creek. The property had distinct possibilities. There could be ample room for a live steam facility for the club and plenty of indoor meeting space for displays and monthly meetings. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons at the time, Walter did not proceed with this idea, and it wasn't until 1948 that the GGLS club got permission to use the property in Redwood Regional Park in the Oakland hills instead.
- During the 1940-1945 years, Walter Brown and Victor Shattock were co-chairmen of the Live Steam Standards Committee of the National Model Railroad Association.
Walter Brown in club's basement workshop, where famous old "999" takes on water from replica of familiar trackside tank. Larger version of water tank will be built for use by members on outdoor track.
Biggest live-steam locomotive is 0-6-0 Southern Pacific switcher that hauls 10 men on four flatcars. Built to one-inch scale, engine and tender weight 250 pounds, measure five feet long. Left to right: Walter Brown, Louis Lawrence, Loris McKenney, Ray Wieber, unknown, Gary Kubicek, Bill Anderson, unknown, unknown, Harry Dixon.
At GGLS--Redwood Regional Park--Oakland with uncompleted 1" 0-6-0 SP switch engine. Larry Duggan riding behind the engineer. Larry was the Founder of the GGLS newsletter, "The Callboy". Photo provided by Ken Shattock.
Walter Brown at the throttle of live steamer. Special four-rail track takes three gauges of locomotives - 2-1/2-inch gauge for 1/2-inch-to-the-foot scale; 3-1/2-inch gauge for 3/4-inch scale; and 4-3/4-inch gauge for the big one-inchers.
Most models are reproductions, but this dock-side switcher is an original design by Walter Brown, shown here preparing for a run. It weighs 100 pounds, burns wood alcohol instead of coal.
The following tribute was printed in The Miniature Locomotive, March-April 1954:
- Our very good friend, Walter Brown, of Oakland, California has traveled on. He certainly made his mark while here among us. Many of you will remember his masterpieces in miniature. Perhaps the old 999 is his best known locomotive. Pictures of this little jewel were seen in many of the nation's leading publications. Walter had several locomotives to his credit, all showing his expert ability. The manner in which they operate are testimonials to his natural talents.
- Most important of all was the beautiful character and personality that was Walter Brown. Those who were privileged to know him personally will miss the fraternity of this good man.