A few weeks ago Cathy and I were sketching guests at the Spring Meet of the Golden Gate Live Steamers Club in Berkeley’s Tilden Park. The train people were as curious about us as we were about them, and they wanted to see what we were doing. I usually don’t care when people look at my sketches, but I was drawing their trains that they had lovingly built from scratch, designing and engineering everything from the wood-burning boilers to the screws that held them together. It was like drawing their children—one thing out of place and they would know it.
Many of their members maintain and operate trains that their fathers or grandfathers built and they are now apprenticing their sons in the craft. Over the years the club has built a complete course of tracks with trestles, tunnels, and small buildings to match the 1.5″-to-the-foot scale of the trains. You can see photos and videos on their website including this one below of me sketching at the meet (much to my surprise!)
They hook up seating on wheels to the engines and the powerful little beauties pull quite a load. The nice man below took Cathy and I on a wonderful ride on his yellow engine. The views are spectacular from way up in the hills above Berkeley and trains go surprisingly fast (and there are no seatbelts). Wheee!
But my favorite of the day was this gentleman who designed and built his train from a cartoon he liked in the 1930s, the Toonerville Trolley.
He named his the Tooterville Trolley. I found the original 1936 cartoon on YouTube (below) and laughed when I saw how much both the engineer and the trolley in person and in the cartoon resemble each other!