LALS Celebrates 64th Anniversary

Golden Spike re-enactment in May 1963 at LALS. Mark Piper (l) and Dick Naumann (r) with their 1-1/2″ scale “Americans”.

LALS was launched in 1956 by a few Southern California Live Steamers members, as well as local live steam modelers interested in having a club closer to Los Angeles. Travel Town had been established in Griffith Park in 1952, and their founders had reserved a plot of land east of their premises, with the hope of finding a scale model railroad to occupy it. On September 9, 1956 interested modelers met at Travel Town to discuss forming a new live steam club. The name “Los Angeles Live Steamers” was adopted, and on September 21, about 35 attendees became the founding members. Initiation and annual fees were $10 each. Officers and superintendents were selected and plans for the new railroad commenced.

Early construction

1960’s: Joe Nelson (l) and Doug Alkire (r) install a new crossing diamond
for the offramp serving the 1-1/2″ and 1″ scales.

The Department of Recs and Parks graded the property and brought in topsoil, installed sprinklers, and planted grass and a few young trees. Our electricity and water were provided at no charge. The two circular steaming bays were the first items our members constructed, followed by the initial 800’ inner loops comprised of a track for 1” scale trains and a three-rail track serving the ¾” and 1” scales. Our first Golden Spike Ceremony was held in early May. The Roster was published in February 1957 with 151 names

In late 1956 Travel Town donated our original club car, which was a full-size, very weathered Tonopah & Tidewater RY coach. We repaired the roof and painted it green, using half as a machine shop and half as a meeting space.

LALS in 1963; north side of layout looking east with three gauges of track.
The old Tonopah & Tidewater coach that was used as our club car can be seen at the right.

Eastern expansion and Golden Spike ceremony

Lean-to stations were built on the north side of the layout in 1958. Eventually known as the Sherwood Station, they provided shade and seating for public and members awaiting train rides.

Our first Eastern expansion was constructed in 1959, serving all three gauges with loops measuring 1,100 feet each. Since 1959 was the 90th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad in Utah, we also held a Golden Spike ceremony with great fanfare on May 10, 1959. Dignitaries from Travel Town, the Parks Department and SP Railroad attended

Original IBLS Meet hosted at LALS in 1960

On Memorial Day Weekend, 1960 an IBLS Meet, the first in the history of live steam, was held at LALS after two years of planning. Railroaders from all over attended and it was a huge success. After that we hosted BLS Meets every five years through 1995, and LALS became known all around the world.

In 1964, Sutchville Station was built on the south side of the facility. Jim Kreider writes, “A. R. ‘Buss’ Sutch (the Club’s General Superintendent) was very instrumental in the early days of LALS, building steaming bays, painting, constructing locomotives, and more.”

1960 view of LALS layout with original inner loop for and the outer loop
built in 1959, serving three scales: 1-1/2″, 4-3/4″ and 3-1/2″.
1964: Sutchville Station underway. on the south side of our layout. To the left is our members parking lot (dirt), bordered by Crystal Springs Drive and the hills.

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