The Live Steaming clam-bake shown here took place at the Flintridge, Calif. home of Oliver Johnston. His layout, with 970 feet of track, is one of the largest in the west.
It takes about 5,000 hours to make a good model and minimum cost to have one built for you is $5,000 (Live Steamer Walt Disney recently had two built for Disneyland, cost: $35,000 apiece). Plans are procured from a railroad, then scaled down to 1/24, the most popular size. Most workmen scorn buying parts, make even their own nuts and bolts.
Johnston's La Cañada Valley 515 is a typical model. The locomotive is three feet, 11 inches long, weighs 251 pounds. The tender is three feet even, weighs 90 pounds loaded, which includes 45 pounds of water and the Live Steamer's favorite fuel: pea-size Welsh coal.
Nothing much happens on a run, unless a boiler explodes (very rare) or a flying cinder hits a shirt hanging on the line (pretty common). Mostly, the train just puffs and smokes around the track whistling for a grade crossing, stopping to take on water, finally pulling into the station.
Just, in fact, all the wonderful, exciting, fascinating things that make life, for a Live Steamer, really worth living.
Please see Jenny and Jerry's round-up at Cartoon Brew.
Via Newspaperarchive.com, here's Johnston in 1954 (right) with Milt Kahl (left), doing some work for the opening of Marineland.