History of Live Steaming in AustraliaModel
Engineering and construction of Miniature Live Steam Locomotives in
Australia dates back to the early 1900s. Sydney Society of Model
Engineers seems to have the distinction of being the first Society
formed in this Country.
Over the years more and more Societies
have been formed in various centres, and at the same time possibly
hundreds of 'loners' have been building some model or other in a tiny
workshop, crowded into the corner of a garage, or house. Yes I say
house, because in my travels I have seen workshops in corners of
bedrooms, laundries, and even a disused toilet converted to do that
which some Model Engineer had in his mind to build.
As far as
the records show, in 1956 some of the more enthusiastic Model Engineers
arranged to gather at the track of the Sydney Live Steam Locomotive
Society at West Ryde. This appears to be the first
‘convention’, although it did not get that title until some
years later. There was no sit down and talk meeting, but just a good
old get together and swap yarns and ideas.
The following year
some members of the then Surry Hills Live Steam Locomotive Society
journeyed to Adelaide to visit the South Australian Society of Model
and Experimental Engineers at Millswood. There is no record of visitors
from other Societies being present.
1958 saw a gathering from other Societies at ‘Modok’ the property of one Captain James at Beaumaris, a suburb of Melbourne.
then on there were regular gatherings during the Easter Holiday period,
somewhere, and these gatherings appeared to alternate between
Melbourne. Sydney and Adelaide.
In 1966 they aspired to the
title of ‘Conventions’, and it was at that meeting, that a
Committee was formed to investigate the possibility of a Code of Safety
for the construction of miniature boilers. The following year 1967, the
Convention in Adelaide was recorded as the first Annual General Meeting
of the Australian Miniature Boiler Safety Committee, which is now known
A draft of a Code had been prepared since the 1966
meeting and was presented for consideration. At the meeting in 1968 at
the new Property of the Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria, in
Moorabbin, the code was officially adopted.
At each Convention
since that time, meetings have been held to discuss mainly boilers and
the Code, and the possibility of a Code for Steel Boilers. This was
eventually adopted in the early 1980s.
Other matters crept into
discussions, such as braking, couplings, safety of running, and it was
considered that some standards were needed. It became apparent that
another body, or Committee should be formed to handle matters other
than boilers, on a national level. So it was that at the Convention
Meeting 1975 the Australian Association of Live Steamers was formed
with a Secretary to try and coordinate these other matters.
late Ken Tinkler filled that position for 9 years. During that time we
progressed to a Constitution, By-Laws, and a Code of Safe Operation, to
ensure the smooth operation of the Association.
The matter of
Public Liability Insurance became an urgent requirement, and after a
couple of false starts we did organise a group Insurance. This later
'fell apart' due to the Insurance Companies withdrawing their support
for Public Liability Insurance. This left each Society to find their
own insurance cover. Other group schemes have been put in place with
the current Policies offering very comprehensive cover for Association
The AALS started with 17 Societies, and by 1984 had
progressed to 48 Affiliated Societies. That number seemed to be fairly
constant, but over more recent years there has been a gradual increase.
At present we have 81 Societies affiliated.
incorporated as a Limited Liability Company in 2005. The Board of
Directors consists of a President, Vice President, Secretary,
Treasurer, Insurance Officer, Chairman AMBSC, Hon. Secretary AMBSC,
Chairman Australian Live Steamers Safety Committee and the Hon.
Secretary of the Safety Committee. A Representative in each State acts
as the contact point for local members.
Over time, standards have been evolved for Wheels and Track plus couplings and brakes.
Code of Practice for Operations and Training has been produced to meet
requirements of Amusement Device Regulations and Occupational Health
and Safety matters. This document, along with our Boiler Codes for
Copper (Pt 1) and Steel Boilers (Pt 2) are recognised throughout
Australia and also overseas. Work on Pt 3 for sub-miniature boilers is
complete and it is now available.
From Club Membership Returns, there appears to be
around 3,000 Members of Affiliated Clubs, a number that seems to be
fairly stable at this time.