A Visit to Riverside Live Steamers – A ride behind a 71/2″ Gauge Big Boy, 4-8-8-4 loco

On my visit “down south” earlier this year my guide, club member Bill Shepherd, arranged for us to visit Riverside Live Steamers (RLS). Anyone who is in the vicinity of Hunter Park on the second or fourth Sunday of the month and doesn’t visit is a twit. Why? Read on.

Bill explained the history of Riverside Live Steamers and its locale en route there. Because I am a geriatric with a failing memory not too much sank in. Fortunately for me the RLS website saved my bacon:

Back in the 1950’s, Joe Hunter, a well known Riverside industrialist, realized that steam locomotives were disappearing from the railroads that passed through Riverside. Knowing that future generations would not know the excitement of seeing, smelling and hearing the sounds of steam locomotives, he had a vision. Why not duplicate a steam train in miniature?

Setting aside 40 acres that surrounded his industrial complex, Mr. Hunter had a 4,300 foot railroad built at the corner of Iowa and Columbia avenues. While the railroad was being constructed, a locomotive and three cars were built. Steam up facilities were installed at the rear of the metal building now occupied by Familian Pipe & Supply.

Trains were operated on a sporadic basis with no set schedule. Ultimately, the property was donated to the City of Riverside, and was named Hunter Park. When Mr. Hunter died, the city had an unusual problem. They had a park because of the railroad, but no one to maintain or operate the train. A group of interested railroad enthusiasts in Riverside led by Dr. John Creighton undertook negotiations with the city to assure that the 7.5 inch gauge railroad would not be neglected. In 1965, the City Council officially turned over to the fledgling Riverside Live Steamers, the responsibility for maintaining and operating the train. In 1966, RLS was incorporated under the laws of the State of California.

During the past forty-six years, RLS has greatly expanded the original railroad to more than 10,000 feet of track, built three buildings and the station. With the cooperation of the city, six additional cars were built in 1972. Approximately 18,000-20,000 passengers ride the trains each year. The city owned equipment is greatly supplemented by privately owned locomotives and cars. Many times, three to four trains will be in operation.

With the exception of major items, like a new boiler, all of the equipment and trackage is maintained at minimal expense to the city. All of this requires thousands of volunteer man hours, but our members have stepped forward for forty-three years to keep the facility in top shape. RLS is pleased to offer thousands of people an opportunity to see, hear, and smell what steam locomotion is all about. We like to think Mr. Hunter would be very proud of our accomplishments during the past forty-six years.

While RLS does not have a club motto, it could easily be ” Hunter Park, where you can enjoy miles of smiles.”

Here’s the track plan:


When Bill and I arrived Bill immediately headed for the steam up area where he had a bunch of friends. I took the time to snap a few pics:

[Double click on one photos to set the slideshow in motion]

Bill and I accepted an invitation to “hop aboard” the Big Boy ……. and I was in heaven!!!!!!!

There are quite a few vids of RLS. I have chosen this one because it shows the Big Boy in a double header with a Southern Pacific Daylight.

Great visit. Thank you Bill.