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Model Railroading > Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...

Date: 10/29/10 08:29
Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: KeyRouteKen

Some time next year (2011) the "Golden Gate Live Steamers" will host one of their biggest Live Steam meets ever. Why ?? Because they will be celebrating their "Diamond Anniversary".
That's right---75 Years ... Oldest "Live Steam" club in the United States.

There was an individual responsible for this. He lived in Nanton, AB (60 miles South of Calgary). He had been scratch-building scale, miniature live-steam locomotives since 1913.
In 1923 he moved his large family to Suisun-Fairfield, CA and got a job on the Southern Pacific.
In the late 1920's he moved his family into the "Melrose" district of Oakland, CA and built a railroad line along the 'back fence' behind his house. (See Photo 1)

Different folks from around the East Bay heard about this guy who had "real steam trains" in his garden. People wanted to see it... They wanted to know more about it.. They wanted to know how "they" could learn to build something of this magnitude and this detailed... They wanted to know if "Kits" were available... and so on...

In the meantime, the hobbyist and his family were still looking for a suitable home to move to that might have a suitable, weather-proof, indoor space in which to construct a miniature
railroad. He selected a centrally-located two-story Victorian home in Oakland's "Fruitvale" district, a mere six blocks from the Southern Pacific's "Fruitvale Station" ...
"Fruitvale" in those early days was home to the Fruitvale and Del-Monte Canneries as well as
the "California Cotton Mills" and the big "Montgomery Ward" catalog distribution center.

The hobbyist built an elaborate system of tracks around his basement workshop (See Photo 2.)
More and more visitors came to see the "Steam Trains" in this guy's house. Finally, during the 1935-1936 period, the hobbyist and two other friends decided that the formation of a "CLUB" would be the best method of bringing similar hobbyists together and taking the time to impart the necessary information to show them how they could learn to build locomotives themselves.

Photo # 3 shows one of those early day meetings in the "basement" of the hobbyist's home.
Lectures were given while making sketches on a large blackboard with white chalk for everyone to see. Therefore, the "basement" became like a school as the "classroom" was always filled with "students" every Friday night thereafter.

The "basement" then, was the birthplace of the "Golden Gate Live Steamers" ... And that hobbyist from Nanton, AB was a foreman on the Southern Pacific by the name of "Victor Shattock" .

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/29/10 21:49 by KeyRouteKen.

Date: 10/29/10 08:40
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: trainman502

Do any of these great steamers survive today?

Date: 10/29/10 08:49
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: KeyRouteKen

Time marched on into the World War II years. More interest was being shown and more locomotives were being constructed. And that famous "basement" meeting room was getting more crowded every Friday night.

Photo # 4 shows a display of engines that the members put on.

The goal of the Club was to secure a piece of land (somewhere) on which to build an outdoor, passenger-carrying track. Secretary "Frank Dee" garnered the interest of officials of the Eastbay Regional Park District. The Park folks were receptive to the Club's proposal and offered them the use of about three acres of land in Oakland's "Redwood Regional Park".
The land had a terrible contour to it and needed considerable heavy grading in order to secure a nice level piece of property on which to build a layout.
On an initial inspection trip by Club members to "check out the place" in early 1948, here is what they found. (See Photo 5)

Right then and there, the members knew that they would NEVER get something built at that location in ten years. Plus, they had no money for material. The DUES were only "ten cents" a month, mainly to defray the cost of donuts for the Friday night meetings.
It was decided to hold a "Joint Meeting" in Vic Shattock's basement with representatives of the Park District as well as officials of the Southern Pacific Railroad, to see if the Club could receive any assistance from these large organizations. (See Photo 6)

Date: 10/29/10 09:09
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: KeyRouteKen

Scotty Gordon was the senior civil engineer for SP with his office at Oakland Pier. Scotty brought a team of surveyors to Redwood Park and designed a 1450-foot miniature railroad.
After printing up several "contour maps", they were presented to the Park District who had agreed to bring in their teams and do all of the heavy grading for gratis. The result was a nice level piece of ground on which to build a miniature steam railroad.

The Southern Pacific became like an "Uncle" to the club. They gave them anything they wanted.
Materials, tools, work benches, park benches, miniature water towers, everything.
Railroad ties and other timbers for roadbed construction. Several thousand miniature cross-ties for the track itself.

Photo # 7 depicts early construction activities at Redwood Park.

Photo # 8 depicts Vic Shattock spiking down the 3rd rail of a 4-rail multi-gauge track. There were some 7500 miniature cross-ties all cut from pure Redwood, packaged, banded and delivered by SP's B&B Department at West Oakland.
The young passenger on the riding car was someone who had recently come into Vic's life.
More on "him" in a moment !

Photo # 9 depicts a typical weekend work crew who gave credence to the expression "Working on the Railroad" ... The Club Founder, "Vic Shattock" is in the center, of the bottom row, in the photo...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/29/10 09:12 by KeyRouteKen.

Date: 10/29/10 10:00
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: KeyRouteKen

Photo # 8 made reference to a "young passenger who had recently come into Vic's life" ..

Vic had six grown children of his own at the time the Redwood Park layout was being planned.
At the age of only 18 months, one of his grandsons was basically abandoned by his parents who had divorced... Vic decided it was time to take him into his own home and take care of him.
So at the age of 59 years, Vic took in the young boy and raised him as his own Son for the next
fourteen years. They became great buddies together, working on various projects in that famous "basement".
Photo # 10 shows the two of them together. YES-- it's "ME".. (KRK)
And YES, he was a great "DAD" ... How could a kid escape a "train hobby" ??

GGLS member "Bob Morris" will be in charge of next year's 75th Anniversary Celebration ...
I'm sure he will put together a "first class party" Watch for the Announcement !!

Date: 10/29/10 10:14
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: KeyRouteKen

Let's hear from "VIC" in his own words, as to what happened so many, many years ago ......

Presented to members of the Golden Gate Live Steamers
Regular Monthly Meeting
Laurel Elementary School Auditorium
Oakland, CA
(Date Unknown)

The Golden Gate Live Steamers started in the basement of our home. You might wonder why in the basement ? Well, going further back, like all boys I was fascinated by steam railroads so much that I was determined to build a railroad of my own.
I had a number of railroads long before I built the one in my basement, and during WWI, I built a 2-foot gauge railroad in France. It became a regular target of the Germans thus making it very uncomfortable for us. So I got all this railroad work.

After the war, I came down from Canada and went to work for the Southern Pacific. Later, we built a railroad at U.C.-Davis for their big Spring Festival one April. They arranged through my employer, S.P., to go there. Their carpenters would build the runway, I’d lay the track and we would run the trains. They estimated that over 10,000 people saw the operating exhibit. So much for my accomplishments.

Every time we moved I looked around the house for a place to establish a railroad. Finally, in 1934, we found a nice house with a large basement some 32 x 45 feet in size. Ideal, as there was nothing else in the basement except for the furnace and laundry tubs. For the next five years we were requested so many times to display our trains or put them where people could ride them. So many were attracted to that basement that after several demonstrations, many got the yen to build their own locomotives. A number of them did !

The track ran all the way around the basement with two or three sets of rails and a turntable near the furnace. There was a model of a 110-foot electrically operated turntable. Being no electrician, I got a couple of my sons to help me in that direction. There was a double slip switch in the Yard area. At the time, I had three or four engines. The water tank was near the turntable which I also used as a firing up track. A blower fastened to the stack of the locomotive sent the fumes up the chimney. First thing we did was to have a test run as soon as the first engine was fired up, then we would hook up a freight train and let it take off. Sometimes a single engine and sometimes a double-header. The track was in the basement for some twenty-seven years when the property was sold and the house had to be torn down. I sold the track to someone who is still using it now. He said it went together perfectly. We had a lot of visitors to the track, some curious and some downright interested in the “hows and wherefores” of building them and locating raw materials. Naturally, they thought that kits might be available. The press was attracted to this new thing, running live steam engines in the basement of a house. Editors were fascinated and the concept of scenic steam trains in the basement of a house prompted them to write it up. From all this publicity we got many visitors, and the most frequently asked question was: “How do you get started?” “Where do you get your kits?” Two or three of us then and there decided to start a club and get the information to everyone.

This changed our concept from a scenic indoor railroad to an operating outdoor railroad.
We wanted to get some land to operate on and ride our engines. We catered to influential people whenever possible. We put on a show in the Auditorium and for the Southern Pacific and the Yardmaster’s Association who wanted something unusual. It was put on at 74th Avenue for the Storekeepers there. Moving benches, we built an 80-foot long track and had an engine running up and down hauling children. They queued up all the way around the block. Member ‘Larry Duggan’ wore himself out lifting kids on the riding car.
This had its benefits in publicity and we developed many friends which paid off later.
Eventually, we heard of a piece of land in Redwood Park. We went to look at it and it was necessary to cut away the “bullrushes” so we could lay stakes for the surveyors. I don’t remember when the yard dirt was put in but some may recall the Boy’s Clubhouse there where the steaming bays near the parking lot we use now.

Before stakes could be driven there was a tremendous amount of work that needed to be done. We had about eighteen hardy members and we would all go up and carve the weeds away until the ground was ready to use. Next operation was to fill the ground and then survey. We still had influence with the Southern Pacific who took care of that chore. Twenty-six of them, all bosses—twenty-six of them and they were all made Honorary Members of GGLS. Mr. McKinney, present here tonight, can probably remember the start, I guess. “Somebody told the SP Roadmaster, ‘here,give’em a few ties----“ . When we had the basement club the dues were ten cents a month, mostly for coffee and donuts which didn’t leave much of a kitty when we had Redwood available to us. Often in the red, so we decided to raise the dues to $ 1.00 per month, or the same as now, $ 10.00 per year.
So, here we are, with land in terrible shape, and we needed money to get materials. With only eighteen members ! We turned to the basement again and it served us well. We got donations when they found we had the project going--- several threw in $ 10.00 “to help you folks out” and so on.

After entertaining some Scouts from Crockett one night, the lady in charge of them later sent us a check for $ 120.00 to help us build. Then different ones made loans because we needed cash for rails which were very expensive. Being faced with the problem of spending all the money on rails, which looked like it was necessary, we called a meeting in the basement. We got S.P. officials down there along with officials of Redwood Park. We put on a show with engines all over the place. It showed the officials what we were doing.
We felt that we were advertising railroads anyway and if we could get their help, our troubles were over. Regarding those meetings, a lot of them took place during the War; not only various officials, but also the police. I don’t know why, but maybe the number of cars parked in front of the house aroused suspicion. “Wonder what all those cars are doing there?” Maybe subversive activities! Anyway, they were there. One early arriver introduced himself and said he wanted to know what we were doing there.. I invited him in and to stay for the meeting. He said he’d like that and it was not until then that he told me he was with the police department. I don’t recall if he left a donation or not, but it didn’t make any difference.

Well, we had the meeting, showing how worthy the work was that we were doing, and that it deserved their support and that any help they could give we’d be glad to have. The result was we got engineers to make contour maps, stake out the railroad, everything, so all they had to do was give it to the engineer of the Park District so those people could fill exactly to where the stakes had been driven. It was a great help, and we would up with a lovely flat piece of land. There were objections, of course, especially from the Horseman’s Association. “Why should we have all this level property?” Several complaints like that, but we had to prove ourselves. So we had meetings with discussions and decisions regarding the track and type. Most of the fellows wanted an elevated track so you could sit on a car and drive your engine. And where would we get the lumber ? I mentioned that the SP Roadmaster gave Mac McKinney and another fellow some ties. It was impossible to put anything down like that—we’d never get it done in ten years.
So one day I went to the Roadmaster and asked if he could let us have about 150 ties. Good ones, not new, but usable ones. He said, “You’ve got your nerve”. There’s dozens of customers who want them badly and we won’t even give or sell to them…… I told him I wasn’t interested in their customers, that we were only interested in getting 150 ties.
Then he said, “Where are we going to get 150 ties?” I told him GGLS has spies out and they have a lot of friends. SP is tearing up a “ballast deck trestle” at Cordelia and there is a boxcar in the Yard with over 200. “Where did you get that?” It makes no difference—
You have the ties and we want them. “Are you going to need that many?” Yes, we will!
He didn’t ask how we were going to get them to Redwood Park, but I was a foreman with two trucks at my disposal so I had them back a truck to the door of the boxcar and rolled them off. I think, too, that the Live Steamers were surprised when they arrived at Redwood one Sunday and saw that had been done. You see, we had to make piers to put the ties on.

It was finally decided to get lumber cut that way(demonstration at this point, in front of the membership, as to how lumber will be cut and placed) it would be fine for supporting the ties. Lots of lumber was kicking around the SP in various places that was 7 ½” x 17’ and 24’ … We took the lumber to a mill who wore out five band saw blades because of the sand and grit in the lumber. So we got plenty of piers and one day sent a truck with a gang to place them but I’m a little ahead of my story, as we had already laid out a 60’ circle, so it looked like we were going to have to be satisfied with that. Meanwhile, the “brain trust”, Harry Dixon as Secretary, Tim Reardon, Vice-President and I (Vic) as President, not being
Satisfied with the layout as it was, started working on options, so one day we went to the park and tore up the whole circle. I might say that the Park people were not as sympathetic as they are with you folks today. They thought we were just a bunch of crazy nuts anyway.
I guess they thought if it doesn’t work out, the land can be used for baseball or something.

After building toward the upper end, the fellows were getting sort of tired, but there was another thing about the ties. They were not exactly square! They had a twist in them, so it was necessary to get them flattened out. After using all sorts of tools, planes and adzes, etc., an SP man came along and said we could have a “planer” if we’d like. So we arranged for the power! We had all sorts of electric tools. Very little pick and shovel work was done. The ground there was hard as concrete. SP furnished the supplies and we got them all the way around. Next was ties for the rails. I do not know how many thousand there were (ed: 7500) but we got the Bridge & Building people at SP to cut them for us from pure Redwood. Band them, package them and deliver them to Redwood Park. So then there was the question of –all our money was gone for rail—so we were probably in debt. We needed nails to bind it all together. Good old SP had a kind heart ! I remember when we opened the track officially that one fellow told the SP Asst.General Manager (Mr.E.D.Moody) that “there’s more SP stuff here than you’d expect to find here, isn’t there?”
“Oh no”, he said. “We knew you were getting it!” But we used to take everything we wanted. We put in a Transfer Table, water tank, angle iron and all that stuff all made in the SP shop at West Oakland.

Next we had to justify to the Park that they had done the right thing in letting us use the property. Only two or three of us had engines, and you’ll see a picture of one of my engines pulling a string of cars. This showed the public that there was activity going on. I believe there is a picture showing a 3 ½” gauge engine as finished. Harry Dixon took that picture. We were up and it was cold that day. Speaking of weather, when we officially opened it was as hot as hades. We just melted. Well, as time passed the track began to get used. I feel pretty sure everyone enjoyed the work that was progressing. There were not many of us, but we worked hard. Then, there was this General Manager, Dick Walpole. He wanted a log house put up for a station. So we drew up something that looked like a log house for a station. That’s how he wanted it, to conform to the rest of the Park. We dug holes, put up poles, you ought to have seen it. There are pictures. We knew it wasn’t coming to anything and were glad when it came down. There was a new Administration who let us remove it. It was an eyesore, anyway ! So there is not much to add to the basement story except many wanted to know how to start engines, so the basement meetings in my home became like ‘school’, which most of the fellows that were there wanted. When they ‘graduated’ I don’t know if they got diplomas or not, anyway it got publicity and people building engines. They got pointers and information that served them well and would not have gotten otherwise.

For my own part, I believe I got most of my information from “LBSC” articles in England. (L.Lawrence) … I read every book on this subject that I came across, and that was way back, even before LBSC’s writings. I had enough from those books so I could impart a little information that the fellows could follow. I think therefore, that the basement meetings helped a lot of them get started in the right direction. The “Live Steamers”, in 1940, went to Stockton where one of the boys had moved and, since he decided to build a track in his back garden, we helped him by putting down the rail. We used square key stock. We drilled holes and put finishing nails down through it. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in the birth of the Golden Gate Live Steamers. It isn’t all that we could tell you because the time from 1936 to the present would take more than a half hour to tell. One thing I’d like to say, that the track has been developed and improved so well it serves as a commendable compliment to the members and officers who had anything to do with it. Further, I congratulate them and am proud to have had a part in it and had so much a hand in starting it. It makes me feel grateful to know that it has grown as much as it has. Our finances used to be three or four dollars, now you have several thousand. Our membership was eighteen, now you have some 150 odd. There’s a lot that canbe done with enthusiasm and muscle, of course, to make it really worth while. As Harry Dixon said at the beginning of this presentation, “one of the largest Live Steam clubs in the World” . And that’s something to be proud of ! Thank you for your attention ……

(Presentation given by Victor T. Shattock --- circa 1960 ……)

Re-copied from audio tape by Kenneth V. Shattock ……(January 20, 2008)

I hope everyone enjoyed the GGLS Story-- Today they have a wonderful miniature railway complex in Berkeley's "Tilden Regional Park" at the intersection of Grizzly Peak Blvd & Lomas Cantadas.. Check out the scenes on YOUTUBE about them-- it's really worth the "Ride"...

Ken Shattock (KRK)

Date: 10/29/10 11:12
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: asheldrake

Thanks for preserving and sharing this wonderful history Ken.

Date: 10/29/10 14:12
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: superchief73

Very passionate!

Date: 10/29/10 14:41
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: rschonfelder

Very interesting story. Next time I am in the Bay area I need to look this up. It sounds like your Grandfather was the founder of more than one great accomplishment.


Date: 10/29/10 19:26
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: upkpfan

What a GREAY story Ken. Keep them coming. upkpfan

Date: 10/30/10 12:42
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: spnudge

As I have said before, Im glad you kept this information and feel free to share it with all of us. There is so much railroad history (big & little) that has been lost over the years and at least this is safe for the future.

Thanks from me and a lot of other people who value history.


Date: 11/01/10 12:27
Re: Golden Gate Live Steamers plan celebration ...
Author: espee99

Ken, from one who visits from time to time, thanks to your Grandpa his vision has become a great success and source of many hours of enjoyment.

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