History of AALS

At the 1975 Easter Convention at Edgeworth, Sydney Live Steam locomotive Society representative Reg Wood put forward a motion to constitute a national association. The motion was adopted and it was decided to call the new organisation the Australian Association of Live Steamers. Ken Tinkler (Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria) was appointed Secretary to setup and guide the fledgling group. The following year at the convention at Ryde it was resolved that the Australian Miniature Boiler Safety Committee (AMBSC) would continue as a separate organisation. The traditional Sunday morning meeting was to become the AALS meeting with AMBSC matters being conducted on the Friday evening. While AMBSC has stayed on Friday evenings, the Sunday morning AALS meeting has moved to the Saturday night. By 1979 the AALS meetings were getting well into things, with the Saturday evening being insufficient for business and the meeting reconvening on the Sunday morning. The meetings discussed standards for couplings, brakes and so on.

In 1981 the first constitution was published for discussion. The Association subsequently published a Code of Practice for Operations and this was followed up with a Code for Training.

There was also the need to address changing regulatory requirements (particularly in the area of Work, Health & Safety) and major revisions to the constitution and codes were made to gain the benefits a united body of AALS and AMBSC would have in addressing this major issue. This was accomplished in 1996 and in conjunction with the creation of the Australian Live Steamers Safety Committee (ALSSC) to cover the safety aspects involved with the operation of miniature railways as an adjunct to AMBSC, both of which now came under the overall administrative umbrella of AALS. Improved processes which included the introduction of postal voting by the Societies for policy changes and alterations to the codes and AALS operations, have permitted greater time for dialogue before voting and has greatly improved the running of the Annual General Meeting.

In 1997, the Association has organised insurance for those Societies wishing to take it up, and the great majority of Society’s now have a common insurance which assists in the interaction between Societies.

In 1999, the first training sessions for boiler inspectors and club executives were held and over a period of 18 months, the training sessions have been presented in each state. These sessions have helped to cement the relationships across Australia and raise the awareness and help create a common understanding of the safety and legislative aspects of the hobby.

The organisation has matured over the years and is now on a sound footing with good relationships with the various regulatory authorities. This is important to let the organisation move forward and address the greater issues revolving around our operations. The Association has brought together the Societys Australia wide, and in doing so has had a success that no other country in the world has been able to achieve.

History of Live Steaming in Australia

Model Engineering and construction of Miniature Live Steam Locomotives in Australia dates back to the early 1900s. Sydney Society of Model Engineers seems to have the distinction of being the first Society formed in this Country.

Over the years more and more Societies have been formed in various centres, and at the same time possibly hundreds of ‘loners’ have been building some model or other in a tiny workshop, crowded into the corner of a garage, or house. Yes I say house, because in my travels I have seen workshops in corners of bedrooms, laundries, and even a disused toilet converted to do that which some Model Engineer had in his mind to build.

As far as the records show, in 1956 some of the more enthusiastic Model Engineers arranged to gather at the track of the Sydney Live Steam Locomotive Society at West Ryde. This appears to be the first ‘convention’, although it did not get that title until some years later. There was no sit down and talk meeting, but just a good old get together and swap yarns and ideas.

The following year some members of the then Surry Hills Live Steam Locomotive Society journeyed to Adelaide to visit the South Australian Society of Model and Experimental Engineers at Millswood. There is no record of visitors from other Societies being present.

1958 saw a gathering from other Societies at ‘Modok’ the property of one Captain James at Beaumaris, a suburb of Melbourne.

From then on there were regular gatherings during the Easter Holiday period, somewhere, and these gatherings appeared to alternate between Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide.

In 1966 they aspired to the title of ‘Conventions’, and it was at that meeting, that a Committee was formed to investigate the possibility of a Code of Safety for the construction of miniature boilers. The following year 1967, the Convention in Adelaide was recorded as the first Annual General Meeting of the Australian Miniature Boiler Safety Committee, which is now known as AMBSC.

A draft of a Code had been prepared since the 1966 meeting and was presented for consideration. At the meeting in 1968 at the new property of the Steam Locomotive Society of Victoria, in Moorabbin, the code was officially adopted.

At each Convention since that time, meetings have been held to discuss mainly boilers and the Code, and the possibility of a Code for Steel Boilers. This was eventually adopted in the early 1980s.

Other matters crept into discussions, such as braking, couplings, safety of running, and it was considered that some standards were needed. It became apparent that another body, or Committee should be formed to handle matters other than boilers, on a national level. So it was that at the Convention Meeting 1975 the Australian Association of Live Steamers was formed with a Secretary to try and coordinate these other matters.

The late Ken Tinkler filled that position for 9 years. During that time we progressed to a Constitution, By-Laws, and a Code of Safe Operation, to ensure the smooth operation of the Association.

The matter of Public Liability Insurance became an urgent requirement, and after a couple of false starts we did organise a group Insurance. This later ‘fell apart’ due to the Insurance Companies withdrawing their support for Public Liability Insurance. This left each Society to find their own insurance cover. Other group schemes have been put in place with the current Policies offering very comprehensive cover for Association Members.

The AALS started with 17 Societies, and by 1984 had progressed to 48 Affiliated Societies. That number seemed to be fairly constant, but over more recent years there has been a gradual increase. At present we have 81 Societies affiliated.

The Association incorporated as a Limited Liability Company in 2005. The Board of Directors consists of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Insurance Officer, Chairman AMBSC, Hon. Secretary AMBSC, Chairman Australian Live Steamers Safety Committee and the Hon. Secretary of the Safety Committee. A Representative in each State acts as the contact point for local members.

Over time, standards have been evolved for Wheels and Track plus couplings and brakes.

A Code of Practice for Operations and Training has been produced to meet requirements of Amusement Device Regulations and Occupational Health and Safety matters. This document, along with our Boiler Codes for Copper (Pt 1) and Steel Boilers (Pt 2) are recognised throughout Australia and also overseas. Work on Pt 3 for sub-miniature boilers is complete and it is now available.

From Club Membership Returns, there appears to be around 3,000 Members of Affiliated Clubs, a number that seems to be fairly stable at this time.