In 1953, two fitters from Cardiff Railway Workshops, Alan Campbell and Sell Fisher, each decided to build a model steam locomotive. Very soon a young railway apprentice, Joe Huntley, who was destined to become a legend in his own right, joined them. The club was formed.
A small piece of council owned land in Seaman Avenue, Warners Bay, was allocated to them by the then Lake Macquarie Shire Council on which to build the original track. Other enthusiasts soon joined and a rather basic track of 3½”, 2½”, 1¾” was built out of steel flat bar, with timber sleepers, and supported on cement piers which varied in height to make the run quite exhilarating, if not nerve racking. The first loco was a 1¾” gauge 36 class, fired with a metholated spirit burner, and built by Joe Huntley (this locomotive can be seen in the Club house). The club used the Warners Bay site until 1968.
When Council decided to resume the land, an alternative site was sought and finally the Velinda Street property at Edgeworth was suggested as being suitable for club purposes. More than a little dismay was felt by club members when it was realised the amount of work required to rebuild the track and expand the facilities. The land was situated in an area alongside a creek and the Water Board’s sewerage treatment works; it was swampy, especially after rain, and had a jungle of fallen logs and lantana scrub.
Feb 1969: Members at the initial clearing of the grounds at Edgeworth: rear left-right - Frank Ford, Ray Cartright, James Brasnet Clarence & Les Lamb; front, Frank Thompson, Joe Huntley, Bill Crowther & John Hartley (photo Lyle James)
On 16 February 1969, the first axe blow was struck by club members to start what was to become an immense clearing and filling task. Council gave a lot of assistance with fill and machinery to help level the site. Due regard was given to preserve the many beautiful native trees so as to enhance and maintain the area as a shady park.
By this time there were approximately 25 members, which meant that they had to be dedicated to take on the hard work ahead. Luckily, enthusiasm was not in short supply and the 3½ ” track was first to be completed. Planning at this stage was for the 5″ track to be laid inside the 3½ ” gauge track. On-site decisions were quite common in those days to take advantage of situations previously unforeseen, and work proceeded with a maximum of effort and a minimum of fuss.
The club was very fortunate to have Jimmy Clarence as a member. He obtained much material from his representation to industries and manufacturers, which enabled the club members themselves to construct tracks and buildings. From his own works, he donated the angle and tie rods for both tracks, and at one stage was able to spend a fortnight (in a caravan with his wife) on-site cutting out the frame for the clubhouse. Subsequently, the 5″ station was named after him in recognition of his contribution.
Due to limited number of members, capital was in short supply for major works. The Club started public running days and it was considered great to take $28 in donations. That was when the ladies decided to give a hand.
Visitors were looking for light refreshments, so the ladies provided drinks, homemade sweets and ice blocks. Cakes were also made to raffle and sell. This all took place on the verandah outside the clubhouse with half 44-gallon drums as ice containers. From these humble beginnings there is now a wonderful canteen with our ladies serving everything a visitor could want.
The Club has had the pleasure of hosting four national conventions since 1969. All those model locomotive enthusiasts who participated agreed that our track had one of the best layouts, and visitors claim that the Lake Macquarie Live Steamers are some of the friendliest.
On club and public running days and national conventions, our ladies auxiliary have excelled themselves in providing the much needed support to visitors and members alike. Thanks to their efforts, the club has benefited financially to the extent that we could not exist without them.
It is due to the planning, hard work and co-operation amongst the members that the Club has progressed to its present stage. New major works - disabled toilets, covered stations, signal boxes, 7¼” carriage sheds, 7¼” track extensions - have been completed in the last decade and more projects are planned.
Our public patronage has grown enormously over the years to the stage where members operate their locomotives once a month (except in December) to cater to the hundreds of adults and children, and passenger rides of 1500-2000 per day are not uncommon - which provides great interaction with the community.