Windsor Ontario Live Steam Club
by Murray Bennell
Prior to my entry into this group, they were a small group of like mined individuals. I believe they met through the O Gauge club of Windsor. Syd Smitherman owned 2 acres out in the country and here they (Jack Hart, Ted Lee and Syd) built a circle of raised track of 2-1/2 inch and 3-1/2 inch gauge of about 50 feet in diameter. Jack had a 2-1/2 inch gauge NYC Hudson and Ted had a 3-1/2 inch Maisie. I believe the group consisted of Syd Smitherman, Jack Hart, Ted Lee, Gord Gilles, Jack Prest, George Lutzac and Al Liddel.
When I entered the picture in the summer of 1962, they were in the midst of trying to get together the wherewithal to build 600 feet of 2-1/2 inch, 3-1/2 inch and 4-3/4 inch gauge elevated track. They started to build this in 1963. Ted Lee had passed away by this time but Gord's son Bob had joined along with a friend who worked for a trucking company. They were able to get scrap dunnage from, I believe, International Harvester in Chatham. The stringers for the track were made from 3/4 inch x 5-1/2 inch x 6 foot long junk boards, doubled up on each side of the 2 x 4 uprights. This was all bolted together thanks to a magnificent benefactor.
The uprights were bolted to 2 inch x 2 inch x 4 inch thick concrete bases poured on top of the ground. Leveling was done after all was assembled. As luck would have it, there was not much grade in the lay of the land. The biggest outlay of money was for the concrete bases and the steel turntable.
With this track, we had a 1963 fall meet in September. This track, such as it was, lasted until 1967 where it deteriorated so bad as to be unsafe for large 1 inch scale engines. In the summer of 1968(?) the wooden uprights were replaced by cast concrete pyramids and the stringers by 2 inch x 6 inch x 16 foot pressure treated creosote wood. The ties were also creosote soaked and the rail replaced with 1/4 inch x 5/8 inch hot rolled steel set into 7/8 inch x 1-1/2 inch x 8 inch ties. The original track had 1/4 inch square hot rolled welded on 1/8 inch x 3/4 inch x 8 inch long bars. The new track was only 3/4 inch and 1 inch scale.
2 meets a year was held on this track until the mid to late 1980's when other tracks in Ohio and Ontario got going. Also, many of our members passed away. The track site was lost in 1992 and the Sunparlour Line, as it was known, ceased to exist.
Murray Bennell was a regular at Windsor also. When he had his engine to the point of running, he borrowed the Maisie tender from Ted Lee and ran his engine at the meets. Eventually, Murray would finish the engine and tender, using the steel sheet from the back of his mother's washing machine. His engine was also well traveled and was at most of the eastern US tracks, Montreal and Winnipeg too. Murray was always fun to travel to the meets with and for many years, he was the driver when he and Tom Sullivan would go to the Waushakum meet every year. At the time of his passing, he was working on a 3/4 inch Hoffman Hudson. For several years. Murray also had a high line track set up on his brothers farm in Ridgetown Ontario.