Wandering Locomotive Books

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Live steam modelers were scattered all over the United States in the late 1920's, most not even aware of each other. The first man to start any sort of organization was Carl Purinton, from Marblehead Mass. At the suggestion of E. D. Bergh, Carl put together a loose leaf book with names of live steamers, including a photo of their locomotive and asked that it be circulated around the country. The "Wandering Locomotive Book" as Carl called it, found its way from Mr. Gunnip, of Wichita Falls, Texas to Ernie Freeman of Los Angeles. In Purinton's letter of November 9, 1933 to Ernie, he states, "I can see no reason why you should not sign up Mr. Jackson and any other responsible live steamer in your vicinity."

Carl Purinton penned the introduction of the first Wandering Locomotive Book, May 1933.

Introduction page of the Wandering Locomotive Book, Volume 1, by Carl Purinton, May 1933. Photo by John Kurdzionak.

Steve Bratina wrote:

The books known as the "Wandering Locomotive Books" were started when paper, pen and a Kodak was the only way, other than going to a meet, of describing the locomotive you have. Would it not be possible to do the same only electronically?

John Kurdzoniak wrote:

Carl Purinton did this in the 1930s with his "Wandering Locomotive Books".....books that passed from "live steam brother, to live steam brother" and these builders (they were all referred to as "brothers" back then) entered photos, notes, their location, comments about their projects, etc. and then passed it on to the next person, who entered all of HIS information. It was like a website registry of people and their locomotives, but the people back then had no concept of "internet" of course. But those books provided for THEM back then, what the internet is able to provide for us today.
In the 1930s and 40s these books went via mail, auto, (and probably rail in some cases), from Maine to California and back, probably Hawaii, and all across Canada. The only cost Mr. Purinton charged was the cost of more paper and supplies, etc. And I suspect each individual contributor paid the postage to send it to the next "brother", or, carried it in person via auto (or rail) when he was going to another club, or area of the country, during his vacation, hobby, or business travels and in order to give it to someone else while on the trip.
For example, if I had the book this month, and was taking my family to Florida by rail next month, I would bring it with me and drop it off at the home of another "live steam brother" who lived near where I was staying in Florida. Or if I was driving to Florida and not taking the train, I might drop it off at the home of a "live steam brother" while going through the Baltimore area.
Mr. Purinton said that he had SO MANY contacts from "the books", and his personal correspondences, that he could drive across the country and never be more than a few miles, or a few towns, away from someone he had written to in the past, or who was "in the book". Amazing. No computers to do that, either. Just paper and postage stamps.

See also:

* Harry Austin

Eugene H. Stevens

The following excerpt from the Wandering Locomotive Books was reprinted in The North American Live Steamer, Volume 1 Number 6, 1956 in the column by Charles A. Purinton.

Eugene H. Stevens, March 1938

Eugene H. Stevens fifth and sixth locomotives, from The Wandering Locomotive Book, Volume 3.

To My Friends Who Refuse To Bother With An Electric Driven Engine: Here I am with my first look at the Wandering Locomotive Books of the Brother of Live Steamers, having spent some years of my life poking coal into various kinds of engines that have a drag behind them, trying to keep the hand on the pin on that old fog indicator and having the smell of sulphur and burning coal in my system. I cannot jump right out of that and run an engine run with a motor or a spring, so I am a dyed in the wool live steamer, so much for the reason for the itch to voluntarily assume the life of grease and cinders.

These two engines, photographs No. 3 and 4 are my fifth and sixth locomotives. These were built without drawings and using a sense of proportion only. I wish to call attention to the boilers made from 3/16 inch or 1/4 inch by six inches in diameter steel tubing. It is sawed half way through at length of firebox and this is cut longitudinally and the halves opened out to make the outside of the firebox. The water legs are made of 1/4 inch plate welded, and all tubes are welded in at both front and rear, fitted with eight arch tubes 7/16 inch diameter and all boilers have had a test of 400 pounds per square inch without a leak, running pressure 100 pounds per square inch, but had to be cut down fro they were so slippery they would not pull your hat off. The No. 462 engine was built in 1936, cylinders 1-5/8 by 1-3/4 inch stroke, using link motion, 7/16 inch valve travel. The other engine has the Baker valve gear. The water supply by injector and eccentric pump on driving axle.

Of course, after an engine is built the itch is just starting. It is a great source of pleasure to know how she will act under a load on a track and under running conditions. Will she keep up steam, will the fire burn even, will she keep the water up? That means everyone wants a chance to keep his engine running, and that is exactly the case, using the circular track at Oxford, Maine.

This track provides a continuous track of 1/5 of a mile. All gadgets can be given a running test. If a running test appeals to you, try to come along to Oxford, Maine and bring your engine and meet the gang. 2-1/2 inch and 3-1/2 inch gauge track. The track is mounted on posts so track is about 32 inches high. You ride a flat car behind your engine and blow your whistle and cuss the train dispatcher to dig the cinders our of your ears, just like a regular railroad. Come to the next meet if possible. I have now an Atlantic type engine about 3/4 complete, but expect to have this ready for the next meet. This engine has 1-7/16 inch bore and 2 inch stroke with six inch driving wheels. There were six engi9nes under steam at our meeting and at another about ten engines under steam, all day long and some the next day. Engines from Boston and Montreal have been there.

An effort will be made to let everyone know in good time so you can make plans to be there. Free coal, water, oil and the coal is not plain ballaet which railway companies give their men to burn. Let everybody see everybody at the meet, generally in August each year.

Harry Sait

The following excerpt from the Wandering Locomotive Books was reprinted in The North American Live Steamer, Volume 1 Number 6, 1956 in the column by Charles A. Purinton.

Harry E. Sait, April 1, 1938

With these notes are two articles taken from one of the volumes of the Wandering Locomotive Books. Both these articles are by two of the old timers at live steam in the States and need no further introduction than to say that they have been written by Harry Sait and Eugene H Stevens.

I was, at my own request, not included in the list of those to receive the second volume of the "Book" not having anything new to offer. Now, however, having spent many pleasant hours buried in the fascinating pages of both Volume 2 and 3, I hasten to add my little bit to Volume 3.

I am sure all tickled to find more and more men in all walks of life victims of that little coal fired bug, sometimes known as "Genus Locomotivitis". I don't feel that I am quite so darn queer now.

Photo 1 of Harry Saits 3/4 inch scale B&A tank engine, from The Wandering Locomotive Book Volume 3, April 1, 1938.

Some photos of my latest effort, not yet quite complete, appear on the opposite page, and it will be noticed that I have joined the ever increasing ranks of the 3-1/2 inch gaugers, this for the reason that this size engine lends itself to more easy and accurate duplication of the various features of the prototype without qualifying as an expert watchmaker. Some of the Live Steamers more closely acquainted with me, and knowing my weakness for monster engines, I am afraid thought I was slipping because I did not use at least ten drives. (Mr. Purinton suggested I model the Russian 4-14-2). But after all, I want to be able to get the model in the family car when I take her visiting other "queer" people and not have to hire a moving van.

A compact model is one of the reasons also for the adoption of a tank engine. Although Mother Nature built me along the general lines of a bean pole, nevertheless I strongly object to having to bust a flue reaching over a long tender to get at the handles when driving one of my engines. Although there are very few tank engines in this country, anyone who has ever watched one of the 4-6-6 tank engines of the Boston and Albany snake a train out of a station will tell you they do a job second only to a very modern 4-6-4. The tractive effort is 41,000 pounds and they do just as good a job running either stack or bunker first.

My model is to scale as to height, width, boiler diameter and wheels, although I managed to sneak an extra inch length in the tank, giving it a water capacity of exactly 1-3/4 gallons. Drivers are 3-15/16 inch diameter truck wheels 2-1/16 inch diameter, cylinders 1-3/8 inch by 1-3/4 inch flat vales are used although I defy anyone to tell that they are not piston valves by looking at the cylinders only. The design is my own, Langworthy made the patterns and got me the castings in 1% cast nickle irons. Ports are 3/32 inch by 1-1/8 inch steam, 5/16 inch by 1-1/8 inch exhaust. Steam pipes 5/16 inch OD, exhaust pipes 3/8 inch OD, both thin wall. Boiler barrel is 5-1/2 inch OD & 3/32 inch wall, all flat plates with the exception of the backhead are 1/8 inch, backhead is 5/32 inch. There are 96 stays of 3/16 inch copper threaded 10-32 screwed thru both plates and nutted both sides. Twenty six 3/8 inch tubes and three 3/4 inch superheater flues. 3/8 inch tubes were used instead of 1/2 inch usually used in 3-1/2 inch gaugers because of the short tube length which is 10-1/2 inch. This boiler is the best steamer I have built yet. A pair of axle driven pumps supply more than ample water, they are 7/16 inch by 5/8 inch. There is no other means yet of supplying water to the boiler, but I plan to make a steam donkey a la Harry Austin to use when standing and also for something nice to watch working. Mechanical lubrication is used of course, the lubricator being on the right side ahead of the cylinder. I worked in several Langworthy's NYC Hudson castings, the Baker gear frames, guide yokes and front buffer beam. A friend gave me ten steel discs, from which all truck wheels were made. Both trucks have swing links. A front end throttle is used, being the third of this design I have used, although this one differs from the other two as it has ball valves instead of poppet. Having received several inquiries as to how this throttle is made, I might sya the Model Craftsman for March 1938 carries a description and some sketches of it.

Photo 2 of Harry Sait's 3/4 inch scale B&A tank engine, from The Wandering Locomotive Book Volume 3, April 1, 1938.

No. 1 photo is the right hand side of the engine, No. 2 the left, while No. 3 shows the engine and flat car at Oxford last October. On that day the engine made a continuous run of 10,000 feet on one fire hauling two passengers and was only halted then on account of the track being blocked by another engine due to misunderstood signals. I think quite likely she was good for another 4,000 or 5,000 feet before the tank would have been dry or the fire gotten down so that steam would have begun to drop.

I note that most of the brothers give some idea of what they do for a living, so here goes. If you are ever in Old Orchard and the old "Tiz Liz" refises to percolate, just call for the "begst" garage man in town and up will pop Harry Sait, and if you give the correct password and sign of a brother Live Steamer, your bill will be half as much as otherwise.

Now if some brainy brother will oblige with the correct answers to these universal questions. "What are you going to do with it after it is finished" and "How much is it worth", I shall be eternally grateful and will close this effusion with all the best to all live steam brethren.

See Also