Australian Miniature Boiler Safety Committee (AMBSC)

At the 1966 10th Annual Live Steam Convention, hosted by the Sydney Live Steam Locomotive Society at West Ryde, the principal item on the Convention Meeting Agenda was a proposal for the introduction of a boiler code to cover the safe design, construction and operation of copper boilers for miniature steam locomotives; such a code to apply on a Commonwealth basis. The proposal was agreed to and the Code now known as the AMBSC Code-Part 1 (for copper boilers) was prepared and accepted for issue at the 1968 Live Steam Convention at Moorabbin, Victoria. This Code is now used in all states of Australia, for the construction of copper boilers for miniature live steam locomotives, and has promoted an acceptable level of safety in this field.

Locomotive type boilers in copper designed by the late L.B.S.C. (L.Lawrence) and published in the Model Engineer since 1924 and Model Steam Locomotives in 1922 by Henry Greenly had set acceptable standards for the construction of miniature steam locomotives here in Australia and throughout the English speaking world. The L.B.S.C. copper boiler standards, published in the Model Engineer, introduced an acceptable level of boiler safety and ease of construction and was the basis for the AMBSC Code.

In 1945 the New South Wales Factory and Shops Act, administered by the Department of Labour and Industry (DLI), was amended and regulations introduced to provide for design approval of all boilers and unfired pressure vessels in NSW industry; consequently design approval of miniature steam locomotive boilers was needed. It had been the practice of Cec MacKellar (Sydney Society of Model Engineers, and later Sydney Live Steam Locomotive Society) to submit the L.B.S.C. boiler drawings to the department for their approval before he commenced construction. When the above mentioned amendment came into force, two senior officers, Mssrs J.Burgess and J.Skidmore visited C.S.MacKellar's track at Rhodes, at his invitation, to view the operation of the locomotives-2 1/2 and 3 1/2 inch gauge-and examine the boilers then under construction. At this period, the formation of a Live Steam Locomotive Society was being considered, to provide track facilities for live steam locomotives only, as apart from a model engineering society. The Department of Labour and Industry on being informed of the intention, immediately nominated C.S.MacKellar and C.W.Gunning to supervise the construction of boilers and operation of steam locomotives that would be associated with the proposed Steam Locomotive Society (the SLSLS was formed in 1948) and they indicated that eventually a boiler code would be necessary, for the then current Departmental codes had no provision for copper boilers on miniature locomotives.

It was also pointed out without design approval, such engines would not be permitted to operate where members of the public assembled. Consequently, considerable discussion followed as to what action should be taken to meet the DLI requirements. It was envisaged the DLI might add an additional section to their existing codes. This did not occur.

However after an incident involving a boiler stressed the urgent need for an acceptable code, the DLI directed that a Code for Copper Boilers on Miniature Steam Locomotives should be prepared and submitted, as soon as possible for their approval. It was realised that such a code would need to apply on an Australian basis, therefore opportunity was taken on interstate visits to discuss the matter with members of Live Steam Locomotive and Model Engineering Societies in Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne. Discussion with Society members within NSW also occurred.

Eventually the matter of the introduction of a Boiler Code was entered for the 1966 10th Annual Live Steam Convention Agenda, held at the SLSLS at West Ryde, NSW. This meeting accepted the need for a Boiler Code on a Commonwealth basis, and recommended that a committee representative of NSW Live Steam Societies and Model Engineering Societies be formed to prepare such a code. The Committee formed consisting of 21 members representing the NSW Societies, i.e. Bankstown Steam Locomotive Society, Blue Mountains Railway Society, Illawarra Live Steamers, Lake Macquarie Live Steam Locomotive Society, Sydney Society of Model Engineers and the Sydney Live Steam Locomotive Society.

Cec Gunning was elected Chairman while Mr. S.L.N.Childs M.S.Mech.E (Aust) Consulting Engineer for Boiler and Pressure Vessels, was co-opted at the second committee meeting as Technical Representative. Mr. R.V.Wood was appointed as Secretary at the first Code Committee meeting.

Five meetings with an average attendance of 12 members were held in Sydney. Committee country members travelled from the Blue Mountains, 80 miles, Wollongong 120 miles and Newcastle, 200 miles, they returned the same night on the paper trains or in the early hours of the morning, such was the enthusiasm for the Code. The duration of the meetings often exceeded 4 hours of very serious discussion; the members were very keen to have everything just right.

The first Annual General Meeting of the Australian Miniature Boiler safety Committee was held at the 1967 convention at South Australian Society of Model and Experimental Engineers in Adelaide. Approximately seventy members, representatives of all states attended. The NSW Draft Code was reviewed and additional information from this meeting was received and incorporated in the Code. The AMBSC Code Part 1 was issued at the 1968 Annual Live Steam Convention, Moorabbin, Victoria, and was accepted as a splendid committee effort. Subsequently a code (Part 2) was published in 1974 for Briggs type steel stayless boilers following a similar process of consultation. The Second part has been subsequently enlarged to accommodate locomotive type steel boilers.

In 1976 Reg Wood received the Seventh Annual Live Steam Magazine Award an international recognition of the great step the boiler code has made to live steam.

At the 1985 convention at the Lake Macquarie society, a charter for AMBSC was discussed. Following comments from the Chief Inspector of Boilers in NSW on the charter, on 16 February 1986 a meeting of 23 boiler inspectors was convened to discuss amendments. The Chief Inspector expressed his satisfaction with the operation of the AMBSC for the past 20 years. The redrafted charter was discussed fully by the meeting, minor amendments made and then unanimously accepted by the meeting with instructions given to forward the document to all AMBSC registered Clubs and Societies for a postal ballot of their boiler inspectors. Since the publishing of the codes there has been continual updating and clarifications made. The codes generate significant discussion in the model engineering press and still today Australia leads the world in this area of live steam safety and standardisation. Other countries have not been able to achieve the national commitment to progress such matters.

In 1996, AMBSC became part of the AALS organisation, which then handled the administrative matters, and the charter became a part of the AALS by-laws, thereby ensuring the continuity of the successful operation of AMBSC in the ensuing years.

With the absence of major incidents there is no doubt that the code has kept the hobby safe.

Clubs and Retailers can obtain bulk copies of the boiler codes from the Treasurer. Please refer to the Contacts page for contact details.

For individual retail sales please contact one of the following retailers;

SMEX-Scale Model Exchange -

E & J Winter - Bolton Scale Models -

DNC System Technologies -

Australian Model Engineering -

Minitech -

For information on the contents of the boiler codes:

AMBSC Code Part 1 - Copper Boilers (Index only)

AMBSC Code Part 2 - Steel Boilers (Index only)

AMBSC Code Part 3 - Sub-Miniature Boilers (Index Only)

AMBSC Code Part 4 - Duplex Steel Boilers (Index Only)

Amended 1 May 2014