50 Years of Live Steam
A History of the Mid-South Live Steamers – 1966 to 2016
By Brent Gaddes
Go back in time, if you will, to the mid 1960's. Things were a little different back then, especially in the world of large scale model railroading. There were few suppliers of equipment, and most of them provided only rough castings that could be used as a starting point for a live steamer. Large scale model railroading remained almost exclusively the realm of experienced machinists capable of building practically anything from scratch. The wide selection of ready-to-run locomotives and rolling stock that we enjoy today simply was not available.
There were a few live steam clubs scattered around the country, but in middle Tennessee, there was no 7½" gauge track available for operation. In fact, there was no live steam club like the Mid South Live Steamers in the area at all.
Interest in operating steam locomotives, however, was strong. Diesel locomotives had only recently sent the last remaining steam locomotives to the scrap yards, and many people had vivid memories of the special mystic that can only be found around an operating steam locomotive. Against such a backdrop, the Mid South Live Steamers was formed.
Early Beginnings – 1955 to 1965
Our story begins much earlier, however. Back in 1955, there was at least one large scale outdoor railroad in operation in Nashville. Although he was only sixteen, Joe Ed Gaddes had built a 400 foot long 8½" gauge outdoor railroad using wooden rails and a home built locomotive powered by a 1½ horsepower Clinton gas engine. Everything was built from scratch, right down to wheels that were cast from aluminum using an iron skillet as a melting pot.
That very same year, a somewhat older gentleman by the name of R. F. "Bob" Wilson began work on a 1.6" scale model of one of the Illinois Central's finest dual-purpose 4-8-2 steam locomotives, number 2614. Bob was a master machinist who lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and had worked at the IC Nonconnah Yard Shops during World War II. Railroad-related activities were a favorite pastime in the Wilson household, and there were plenty of opportunities to catch Frisco, IC, and Mo-Pac trains in action around Memphis. Even around the house, trains were unavoidable. Bob's son, Bob Jr., remembers one rather unusual aspect about his father's locomotive construction: much of the original work on the locomotive was done in his father's bedroom! Bob re-calls stepping around the frame to kiss his parents goodnight.
Meanwhile, Leroy Nessen had been busy pursuing the railroad hobby in various forms. Born in 1910 in Pueblo, Colorado, Leroy had been a railfan for most of his life. He had built an elaborate Lionel layout and then a HO layout complete with a crosstie factory that really split scale ties.
In 1960, a Little Engines catalog inspired Joe Ed Gaddes to move into live steam, and he began building an 0-4-0 in 1964 while living in Decatur, Alabama. About a year later, in 1965 over in Whitehall, Arkansas, a gentleman named Austin Barr began constructing locomotive #6568, a 1½" scale Little Engines Pacific. In 1965, Leroy Nessen learned that Joe Ed was building a live steamer and he began "stirring the pot," looking for other live steamers. As Secretary of the Central Tennessee Model Railroad Association, an HO and O gauge organization, Leroy wrote several letters and made contact with Austin Barr and P. R. "Bud" Bartholomew, who lived in Nashville as did Leroy. Bud Bartholomew had gained experience with steam in the Merchant Marine during World War II. He later became a truck driver and was a skilled, self-taught machinist.
In mid-1965, Bud and Leroy visited Joe Ed in Decatur, Alabama. The sight of Joe Ed's 0-4-0 chassis helped motivate Bud to begin work on his first locomotive, a ten wheeler modeled after the Tennessee Central's #502.
On April 20, 1965, Leroy sent out a letter to members of the Central Tennessee Model Railroad Association suggesting that the club change its focus to live stream. The letter suggested that once a sufficiently large membership had been built up, a suitable strip of land would be purchased for installation of a track. Over the next several months, the various live steamers had a couple of get-togethers and made contact with others interested in the hobby. Among these were Paul Brien and Harry Wade, both of whom lived in Nashville. Paul had learned of the group of live steamers from Roy Stewart, a fellow member of the Nashville Model "A" club. Paul had considerable experience in precision metalworking from his job at the Fred D. Wright Company.
Harry Wade, who was the youngest of the group, recalls that his first exposure to a live steamer was at age eight or nine in the mid-1950's when he saw a model of a large engine in an old Mechanics Illustrated magazine. The builder, according to the caption, had spent over ten years and $25,000 building the locomotive. Harry busied himself with model trains over the next ten years until he was eighteen, when his curiosity finally reached the point where he wanted to know if there was any live steam activity in the Nashville area. A neighbor gave him the name of a person who must have been one of the first persons to build a live steam locomotive in Nashville. Harry enthusiastically hopped on his motor scooter and headed for the man's house. After introducing himself, Harry quickly discovered that man was not particularly impressed or distracted by his young visitor, but he did finally invite Harry into his basement shop. Harry describes entering a "cave of mechanical wonders", filled with tools, machines, stationary engines, and a ¾" scale Hudson, even then some twenty or so years old.
All too soon, the tour ended. Outside, the man asked Harry if he had any tools. Harry replied that he had some hand tools - files, a hacksaw, hand drill, wrenches. In no uncertain terms, the man proceeded to inform Harry that there was no way that he could ever build a steam engine without a shop full of expensive machine tools. A stunned Harry retreated with his tail between his legs. Fortunately, though, he soon met others who were more receptive and would go on to help form the Mid South Live Steamers.
A Club Forms – 1966
The stage was set for the formal beginning of the Mid South Live Steamers. A notice was sent out and nine charter members converged on Bud Bartholomew's residence in Nashville on December 17, 1966. In addition to those from Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee, Bill Pepper from Andrews, Indiana, made the trip to be at the first meeting. Bill had recently met Bud Bartholomew up in Canada at the Sunparlor Live Steamers, and graciously consented to come to the organizational meeting to give his support and advice. Bill brought with him three hours of films on railroads in operation in various parts of the country that were enjoyed by all.
Present at the organizational meeting were Austin Barr, Bud Bartholomew, Bill Pepper, Joe Ed Gaddes, Harry Wade, Paul Brien, Leroy Nessen, Bob Wilson, and Jack Nessen. Jack Nessen, like his father Leroy, was an avid railfan and had helped his father build their impressive HO scale layout, the Bethesda Southern. He was studying transportation at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville at the time. At the meeting, club officers were elected, dues were set, and suggestions for stationary and letterhead were presented by Austin Barr. It was decided to let Harry Wade design the club logo, which he did. Southern Steam was selected as the name of the newsletter and Leroy Nessen agreed to serve as editor. Several members brought projects in work. Paul Brien brought a heat engine and English locomotive chassis that he had built, and Harry Wade displayed a truck for a Heisler locomotive.
As advertised on the meeting notice, Bud Bartholomew had the chassis for his 4-6-0 running on air and ready for the boiler. Bud would test the engine by tying down the frame, oiling the drivers, and letting them spin in place on a short section of track. (Paul Brien said that this caused problems later. The porous cast iron drivers had soaked up plenty of oil on those test runs. Consequently, when the engine was first run at Austin Barr's track some time later, it would hardly pull itself around the track without considerable slipping! Eventually the oil dried out and the locomotive was a dependable performer.)
Operational Meetings – 1967 to 1972
By the time the first edition of Southern Steam came out in March of 1967, Joe Ed had moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, where he was planning a backyard railroad on his one acre lot. Herman Buettner, down in Cullman, Alabama, had installed a track on his wooded but hilly lot and had fired up his wood-fired Pacific several times. Mr. Buettner had served as an early inspiration to several in the club and had one of the first operating 1½" scale locomotives in the area. In September of 1967, the MSLS held their first operational meeting at Mr. Buettner's track. His railroad included an impressive 12 foot high trestle. Paul Brien had begun work on an 0-6-0 switcher. Since both he and Bud Bartholomew needed boilers, they had material cut and two identical steel boilers were welded at the same time, one for Paul's engine and the other for Bud's ten wheeler.
The first annual Spring Meet was held in April of 1968 at Austin Barr's recently completed track in on his rice farm in Whitehall, Arkansas. Austin had his Pacific under steam, and was joined by Bud Bartholomew with his recently completed 4-6-0. Leo Myers from St. Louis steamed his 4-2-4 "C. P. Huntington" and Bob Wilson brought over the chassis and smokebox of his big Mountain. By the fall of 1968, Joe Ed had completed a 500+ foot loop of track in his backyard with the help of other local MSLS members. Joe Ed recalls how Leroy Nessen, though several years senior to most, put everyone else to shame when it came to shoveling ballast. The track was laid using scale rail, spikes, fish plates, and even tie plates on the creosoted ties. Joe Ed's track was the site of the first MSLS Fall Meet. Present were Bud Bartholomew's 4-6-0, Lynn Lowe's 0-6-0, Austin Barr's 4-6-2, and Leo Myers' "C. P. Huntington".
Austin continued to host Spring Meets for six straight years, and Joe Ed hosted the Fall Meet through 1970. Club membership grew, but only slowly at first. It took four years to double the initial membership, but then momentum began to build and membership doubled again in 1971. In the fall of 1972, the name of the organization was changed from the Mid South Live Steamers Club to the Mid South Live Steamers, Incorporated. By 1973, membership had grown to 53.
The Club Track – 1973 to 1980
Paul Craft of Columbia, Tennessee, hosted the 1971 and 1972 MSLS Fall Meets and several informal run days at his private track. Paul knew that a club track had always been a goal since the inception of the club, and he also realized that Maury County had a park that needed development. He got the two groups together and an agreement was reached that allowed the MSLS to build a club track in the Park.
During the summer of 1973, work began in earnest on the club track in Columbia. After agreement was reached with the Park Board on a general location, exact surveys were made, and a route with 75 foot minimum radius curves was marked with stakes. Many loads of chirt rock were hauled in to limit the maximum grade on Phase I of the construction to 1½ %. Phase I consisted of the lower loop of track, sidings, three wooden bridges, a turntable with several steaming bays, and a long elevated track to the unloading area.
Oak ties were cut to size, notched for rail, and treated with preservative at Kermit Sudberry's farm in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Twenty foot sections of track were assembled using scale spikes, primarily at the Sudberry's, with the remainder being completed at the track site. Approximately 40,000 spikes were required. The rail ends were staggered five feet at each end. Rail ends had been drilled at Joe Ed Gaddes' house by members attending the monthly Tuesday night meetings. Bud Bartholomew also used Joe Ed's house and the members who came to the meetings to help him construct the first switches used in the track.
By fall of 1973, Phase I was complete and a golden spike ceremony was held at the Fall Meet. Dignitaries included representatives of the Maury County Park Board, the L&N Railroad and Southern Railway. Construction did not slow, however, as Phase II, the "mountain division", was under construction. This addition required a deep cut down to solid rock at the top of the hill. The maximum uphill grade was approximately 3%, with a steep 4% downhill grade.
Work on Phase II was completed in time for the Spring Meet in April 1974. Fifteen locomotives were present. In only 12 short months, the club had gone from primarily an armchair organization to an active, operating club with almost a mile of track. It was one of a very few clubs in the country that could boast having a true "club track".
In 1975, the Sudberry family constructed the first Club Caboose, a trailer-mounted caboose replica from which volunteers sold food as a convenience and fund raiser for the club. Due to its popularity, the Sudberry’s soon replaced the Caboose with a larger version to meet growing demand. When not set up at the meets near the White Oak Shelter, the Caboose was transported to and stored at the Sudberry’s.
The first two steel bridges constructed by Paul Brien replaced two of the original wood bridges in 1977. A third steel bridge was installed near original passenger loading area at Conners, and dedicated to MSLS supporter and Columbia resident Dr. James W. Derryberry in 1979. Over successive years, Paul built several more steel bridges, culminating in the massive three-section high bridge where the track crosses itself. As attendance grew at the annual Spring and Fall Meets, it became obvious that additional capacity was needed in the steaming bay area. An outbound track was built from the turntable in 1979 and three new 20’ steaming bays were added to the original nine in 1982.
The First Major Track Revision – 1981 to 1991
Since the beginning of the track, the steep 4% downhill grade on the upper loop had been an operating problem, particularly since it ended at the passenger loading area at Conners. To eliminate the danger of runaway trains and rear end collisions once and for all, the club embarked on its first major trackwork revision in 1981. The original track alignment downgrade on upper loop was rerouted to partially parallel the ascending track, adding 320’ of new track and reducing the dangerous 4% grade to 1.9%. The passenger area at Conners is named for Bill Conner, who made many valuable contributions to the club once he joined in the 1970’s. Bill is best known for his innovative designs and his unique, practical Conner beam locomotives, of which dozens have been built.
A growing club needed more places to park trains and an increasing number of non-steam locomotives, so in 1981 a three track storage yard was added below steaming bays, and in 1984 a four track storage yard named Gaddes was put in place across from main yards. A spur track with a small three track yard was also installed near the White Oak Shelter, a convenient place to park one’s train while lunching on food from the Club Caboose. By 1988, 57 engines were present at Spring Meet, and water and electrical utilities added for the convenience of campers. 1988 marked the arrival of a new permanent exhibit, a small but full size steam locomotive. The narrow gauge Vulcan 0-4-0 saddle tank engine and two phosphate cars were moved from Park entrance to the MSLS track for a covered display after a much needed refurbishment courtesy of MSLS members led by Paul Brien. A ceremony held on April 26th commemorated the 100th anniversary of the phosphate industry in Maury County. The display also included the largest phosphate rock mined in Maury County.
Typical challenges during this period included washouts from rains which necessitated digging new drainage ditches, repairing damage from park lawnmowers driving over the track, and the never ending task of replacing rotting crossties. Member Dwight Blackburn made frequent trips from his home in Mississippi to work on the track, and introduced several great ideas such as a track leveling tool that eliminated the need to bend over and adjust the track by hand. The club began using power-driven screws instead of spikes, which made tie replacement easier.
Up until 1991, there was no permanent storage building at the club track, which meant that all equipment and supplies had to be carried back and forth to the track. In an effort spearheaded by Lutz Braun, a 12’ x 16’ building was purchased, delivered, and set in place. The following year, a water collection tank was installed to hold rain water from the storage building roof. This could be used to supply locomotive water when the park water was turned off during the winter due to freezing. Previously, puddles had occasionally been used as a water source!
Additions and Track Rehabilitation – 1992 to 1995
New member Scott Baxter brought several fresh ideas to the club. Scott facilitated radio dispatched bi-directional nighttime running during 1992 Spring and Fall Meets. Names were assigned for key points on the track; for instance, a siding was added at Rockledge, site of the relocated MSLS ballast loading area. Rockledge shared its name with the NC&StL (now CSX) railroad high point on the Cumberland mountain line. The original ballast loading area had previously been located near the lowest point on the track, necessitating an uphill run for every ballast train. Crown Point was named for the scale station built by Hank Sherwood.
Scott surveyed the 3633’ main line, revealing grades up to 4.1%, with an average ascending grade of 2.25%. A 27’ elevation change was measured between the lowest bridge and high point near Rockledge. A 100’ main line bypass track with trestle was added around the congested steaming bay area in 1992. A pedestrian bridge added across the drainage ditch in steaming bay area, and for the first time, a test section of track with plastic crossties was installed. In 1993, Rhodes Barnett built a transfer table with help from Joe Ed Gaddes for the unloading area, and a crossover was installed between the parallel tracks near White Oak. Membership dues were now $12 per year. Some of that money was used the following year to add a five track storage yard at Shops and three storage tracks for the unloading transfer table. And, in 1995, a bypass track was added around the passenger unloading area at Conners.
Oh, and one more thing that would become increasingly important in the future: the first MSLS web page went online in 1995, accessible to entire planet’s internet population, a whopping 40 million computers worldwide at that time!
You can use the Wayback Machine at web.archive.org to see early web pages; search for http://home.hiwaay.net/~bgaddes/msls/index.htm
The current home of the MSLS on today’s much larger web is http://www.midsouthlivesteamers.com. Michael Haywood has done a great job with the website, which includes hundreds of photos.
By the early 1990’s, major sections of track, much of it dating to the original construction, were in dire need of work. Simply replacing a few ties here and there would not do; something drastic had to be done. Scott Hadfield stepped up and built hundreds of feet of prefabricated track at his home that was used for wholesale replacement of the old track with its rotten ties. The old track was pulled up and laid aside, and the new track sections were connected in place, with worn rail being reused later in yards. A generous layer of new ballast and careful leveling resulted in track that was as good or better than new.
MSLS Celebrates Thirty Years – 1996 to 1997
1996 marked the thirtieth year for the club. Not content to rest on their laurels, hard-working MSLS volunteer work crews completed many projects, including adding a new yard at Rockledge using trackage from old White Oak yard, installing a new 20’ turntable built by Jimmy Cunningham for diesels, and expanding Shops Yard with new and relocated bridges plus a bypass track. The last remaining wood bridges were replaced with steel girder bridges, and new track and a bridge were added to bypass the lower loop.
A second 12’ x 28’ building was bought for storage, and the Shops yard tracks were expanded. Three tracks were extended into the new building for storage of ballast cars and other club equipment. The track rehabilitation effort continued in earnest, replacing all the track from Conners through Crown Point to the lower bridge and also parts of the upper loop. Attractive new rockwork was added, lining the drainage ditch through Crown Point. A new record of 86 locomotives attended the 1996 Spring Meet, 40 of which were steam locomotives. All those locomotives needed a place for maintenance, so in 1997 a new transfer table was installed along with 12 new steaming bays, almost doubling capacity. A steel railroad and foot bridge was built for the outbound turntable lead track, and a new steel inbound turntable lead track with walkway was put in place. Steaming bay water and electrical utilities were expanded to meet demand. The reworked steaming bay area was accented by extension of the rockwork along the drainage ditch. To better accommodate rolling stock, the east end of Gaddes yard was extensively reworked to expedite yard entry.
An exciting addition to the track was completed in 1997. Jimmy Cunningham led an effort to add a concrete tunnel near the high bridge. This added a new dimension to a ride around the track, as hard working locomotives echoed through the tunnel, often blowing their whistles. In honor of his pioneering work that led to a home for the club track in the Maury County Park, the tunnel was named after Paul Craft.
Major Expansion and A New Station – 1998 to 1999
Forward thinking members determined that the time was right for a major expansion, so after obtaining approval from the Maury County Park Board, the club embarked on grading for a new phase in 1998 to introduce track to a different area of the park. The expansion was not without controversy initially, as a vocal Columbia citizen publically opposed the effort, writing multiple letters to the editor of Columbia’s Daily Herald newspaper. The drama culminated in a packed, emotion filled meeting of the Maury County Park Board in October 1998, where the Board considered whether to allow the expansion. As it turned out, there was overwhelming support for the project from local citizens, with the only dissenting voice being that of the author of the letters to the editor. Needless to say, the Board unanimously approved allowing the project to continue. The Daily Herald reported that “Many in attendance considered that the meeting was a waste of time since the views expressed by the those in attendance were positive for the Steamer’s expansion.” The entire episode served as a reminder of the importance of the close relationship between the club and Columbia.
With a green light, track for the new extension was laid. The new line track left the existing main line immediately beyond the high bridge, crossed the tunnel, and then turned to where it met and paralleled a park road over to near the Kiwanis Shelter and the Kid’s Kingdom playground. There, a balloon track was built on a large fill, allowing the track to return back parallel to itself until it rejoined the existing track near the upper three track bridge. The long section of parallel track provided an opportunity to add another interesting operating feature: a gauntlet crossing over the Park’s walking trail. Trains travelling upgrade were given the right of way over downgrade trains. The club could now boast 14,000’ of track.
This extension addressed a long standing need to move the passenger loading area away from the congested area at Conners. Over the years, longer and longer lines of eager passengers formed at Conners to ride. In spite of temporary fencing and additional tracks, a better arrangement for boarding trains was sorely needed. Primarily through the efforts of Jimmy Cunningham, the Mid South Live Steamer’s first real station facility was constructed in 1999-2000. First opened for use at the 1999 Spring Meet, the concrete and steel facility included an elevated walkway over the tracks, turnstile to count passengers, benches, water hoses for servicing steam locomotives, a train shed, and a lockable storage area. The unique pagoda roof topped with a locomotive weather vane was completed in early 2000. In honor of their family’s many contributions, the station was named Sudberry. This station has since served tens of thousands of MSLS passengers and has greatly enhanced the public’s image of the organization.
A Record Setting Meet for The New Century – 2000 to 2003
Track Work improvements continued with Conners yard being rebuilt and expanded to four tracks. The Derryberry bridge was widened to accommodate two tracks. And, Gaddes yard was completely rebuilt. Always concerned about safety, the club instituted a formal boiler inspection program and enhanced safety rules.
Perhaps the most important news of 2000 was the approval by the Internal Revenue Service of 501(c)3 tax exempt status for the organization. For the first time, donations over and above member’s annual dues were now tax exempt. The status was granted in recognition of the organization’s activities in four areas:
• Promoting and publicizing the history and virtues of steam power by the use of working scale models along with contemporary locomotives and cars.
• Providing demonstrations and rides free of charge to the public
• Promoting goodwill for the railway industry as a source of mass transportation for passengers and freight
• Promoting railway safety
The Spring 2001 meet was attended by a record setting 142 locomotives, with roughly one-half being steam and one-half diesel. There were also more than two dozen vendors.Several more projects were completed, including a roof between the two storage buildings. Up at Sudberry station, the number of approach tracks was increased from two to four, tracks were lengthened to increase capacity, and the tracks were raised to decrease the grade. After decades of tireless service, the Sudberry family determined it was time to retire the Club Caboose in 2003. Over the years, Buford, Martha, Bobby, and Nina Sudberry, Jean Gaddes, and several others had served up many tasty meals to grateful customers, with proceeds always being donated to the club.
A New Caboose and a Flood – 2004 to 2016
One day in 2004, the largest piece of rolling stock yet arrived at the club track as an oversize shipment on a special trailer. Unlike most, this car was there to stay. It was a full size CSX caboose, still in faded Family Lines lettering. Installed on a short piece of standard gauge track, the caboose soon received a new coat of red paint and was outfitted as an office for the club. It serves as a reminder to park visitors of the special, much-loved car that used to bring up the rear of almost every freight train.
In 2007, new insurance regulations mandated a track speed limit and safety test for all locomotives. In a sign of the times, all train riders had to now sign a liability release to help protect the club from frivolous lawsuits.
Ted and John Norcross enclosed the lower bridge in 2007, creating a covered bridge proudly decorated with the club name. A track was installed at Crown Point for displays by vendors in 2008.
The Spring 2009 Meet will be long remembered for a massive flood that occurred during the meet. Heavy rains damaged the track and cause serious flooding, prompting some live steamers to humorously discuss taking up radio controlled steam boats. Water reached over halfway up many of the elevated steaming bay tracks during the meet while the locomotives were on them. Fortunately, the steel steaming bays held firm in their concrete footings and kept the equipment from going into the temporary lake that had formed.
The following year, a concrete floor was poured under the canopy at unloading area, providing a dry spot to wait out the inevitable rains. To address ongoing rail wear problems in curves, new steel rail was installed to replace the outside aluminum rail in high traffic areas on the main line. Attention was not just focused on the main line; Gaddes yard was rebuilt yet again, this time with ladder tracks inspired by those used at Train Mountain to ease access. By this point it had grown into a massive facility capable of swallowing entire trains with room to spare.
Also in 2010, Greg Glos replaced Bob Brand as the secretary/treasurer. Bob had served in this capacity for 22 years, continuing the long-serving tradition of Paul Brien, who had preceded him in the same capacity for decades.
2012 marked the arrival of a new professional grade hydraulic lift transfer table at the unloading area. Jimmy Cunningham engineered and built this marvel that used remote control to position the transfer table to match the height of almost any vehicle carrying a train.
2000 self-gauging plastic ties and 1000' of steel rail were purchased in 2014 and installed in high wear areas on the outside of curves. Plastic ties were used for every third tie, with specially treated wood ties by supplied by Lutz Braun used for the remainder. Under the guidance of Scott Reedy, the main line from Craft tunnel to the three track bridge was regraded to ease the ascending grade coming out of the tunnel, and the track was replaced. Rockledge yard received attention as it was regraded and upgraded with concrete bumping posts at the end of the tracks. Lydia Norman replaced Jesse Livingston as editor of Southern Steam newsletter. For the first time, Southern Steam began to be printed in color.
Over the years, many people have made contributions to the club and our track in Columbia. We are all indebted to those who have gone before and helped build our organization and facility into something in which we can all be proud. No doubt, the strong membership that we have today will keep up the traditions begun by just a few members fifty years ago.
And what about those projects begun during the formative years of the club and the charter members who started them? Bud Bartholomew rapidly finished his 4-6-0 and went on to build a 4-4-2 before he passed away in 1979. Bud drafted the club By Laws and was a true "rock" in the beginning years. To this day those who remember him miss him -- it was Bud who kept the membership excited about building a club track.
Joe Ed Gaddes' 0-4-0 first steamed in 1973 at Columbia. He served as Secretary/Treasurer for the first several years, as President for many successive years, and as a member of the Board of Directors. His track, laid back in 1968, is still in place in 2016 with the original rail and almost all of the original ties.Austin Barr finished his Pacific and subsequently built a 4-8-4 and an E-8 diesel, in addition to relocating his track to Weiner, Arkansas. Austin also served as Brotherhood of Live Streamers Secretary for this region for many years. Leroy Nessen completed a beautiful scratch built scale stock car with hand planed shiplapped wood floor and hand-made fasteners and arch bar trucks. He subsequently started N&N foundries in his back yard where he and his son, Jack, cast Andrews-style trucks and scale air brake hoses. Leroy passed away in 1993. Jack built a 1½" scale model of the L&N/TC Vine Hill interlocking tower in Nashville, Tennessee.
Paul Brien completed his 0-6-0 and started the Nashville Locomotive Works, producing miniature boilers for live steamers. Paul's first boiler was finished in 1974 and delivered to Norman Gracey in Orlando, Florida. Paul's careful work and attention to detail enabled his products to be certified, stamped, and accepted by the State of Tennessee as Code Boilers. Paul also built many other locomotives and stationary engines, in addition to building most of the steel bridges, steaming bays, and the original turntable at the club track. The club lost a true asset when Paul passed away in 2010.
Bill Pepper faithfully supported the MSLS over the years and operated his own railroad in Indiana with a 2-8-0 steamer and electric interurban car until passing on in 1998.
Harry Wade constructed several steam models and served as a contributing editor to Garden Railways magazine. He also has 1½" scale "Harpeth River Railway Company" 4-4-0 partially complete. Bob Wilson kept everyone guessing with his locomotive. At every operational meeting from 1968 until 1977 when the 2614 became operational, there was speculation that Bob would have his locomotive running at an MSLS meeting. Bob passed on in 1992, but his son Robert was finally able to bring the locomotive to Columbia in October of 1994 for its first visit.
Over the years, many people have made contributions to the club and our track in Columbia. We are all indebted to those who have gone before and helped build our organization and facility into something of which we can all be proud. This history is just the tip of the iceberg, since many have made contributions over the years. No doubt, the strong membership that we have today will keep up the traditions begun by just a few members fifty years ago, and the club will continue to prosper.
Personal Reflections - 2016
As one who literally grew up with the MSLS, starting at the organizational meeting with my parents as a two-year-old, I can’t help but become nostalgic when I look back at 50 years’ worth of newsletters and pictures. One of my early MSLS memories is being confined to the house by illness during an MSLS meet at our house in the 1960’s. The exact malady escapes me, but I was apparently too feverish to do anything other than gaze longingly at fascinating railroad activity taking place outside our back door. Many other memories are indelibly etched on my mind - memories of multiple generations of families that have grown up riding the 7-1/2" wide rails, the amazing, creative, realistic, and downright clever engineering that goes into these models, the great times riding, rerailing, and repairing sometimes balky equipment in all sorts of weather, struggles against flood waters, rust, and rot, and all the smiles at every meet on the faces of both young and old. Most memorable, however, are the images of the people who have made the Mid South Live Steamers what it is today. Many have now passed on, but their memory endures through the legacy they have passed on to today's generation of live steamers. As they say, what we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others lives on.
Today, we stand on the shoulders of the pioneers who have gone before, who through their hard work, contributions, and love of the hobby, have built the Mid South Live Steamers into the organization we enjoy today.
- Brent Gaddes, May 2016