Charles S. Purinton

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"Charles" Purinton was the son of IBLS founder "Carl" Purinton.

Running at W. H. Nichols Track

From Critical Past:

Children seated on a small locomotive at a mini railroad station in Waltham, Massachusetts.
This railroad was built as a hobby by Mr. W.H. Nichols at his Nichols Machine Company in Waltham, Mass. Mr. Nichols was a pioneer in the hobby of building "live steam" locomotives. He built a multi-gauge track at his factory and hosted "meets" of the Boston Society of Model Engineers. The film clip shows his 7-1/4 inch gauge locomotive "Ella Cinders" pulling a trainload of people around the track. The locomotive was copied after one that Mr. Nichols remembered from his home in Canada on the Hamilton & Dundas Railway. The prototype was a "dummy" locomotive which had a streetcar type body built over the boiler. Mr. Nichols never finished that part, and ran the miniature locomotive with no cab at all. The model still exists, and is owned by descendants of Mr. Nichols. It was still operable into the 1990s, and is scheduled for a rebuild in the near future. The boy in the close-up and running the train in the film is Charles S. Purinton.
"Charlie" was the son of the late Charles A. "Carl" Purinton, founder of the Brotherhood of Live Steamers and that group's secretary for many years. Carl built and operated many model steam locomotives over the years until his death at 101 in February, 1999. Charlie also was an avid live steamer and locomotive builder who constructed many model engines. He passed away in November, 2010. The man seen working on the engine in the film clip is W. H. Nichols himself.

Charles S. Purinton wrote in Live Steam of Years Gone By, page 13:

W.H. Nichols also had 7-1/4 inch gauge. The first in New England and the only one for many years. His locomotive was named Ella Cinders after a famous comic strip character of the times. The cylinders and feed pump came from a Stanley Steamer automobile, and the boiler was huge. A horizontal boiler of marine design with a cylindrical flue firebox. I can remember burning coal in this engine just once. Usually it was fired with "Ford" charcoal briquets and this occasion was for a theater newsreel. The producers thought there should be smoke and with the Cannel coal there was lots of it! So much so that I was ill afterwards. Cannel coal and hot dogs; boy, was I ever sick!

Live Steam Hobby

Bob Hornsby sent the following:

Carl Purinton caught the live steam bug when he and his son, Charlie, when to a show in Boston. At the show he saw a model of the 4-6-2 Pacific that pulled Boston & Maine’s “Flying Yankee” passenger train in a special paint scheme. Also on display was a live steam Boston & Maine 2-8-4 Berkshire in 1/2 inch scale that was built by the late Harry Sait of Saco, Maine. That blew him away. He looked up Harry Sait, became very dear friends.
The live steam bug also bit his son Charlie and he started a Pennsy class A5 0-4-0 switcher. It turned out to be the fastest locomotive at the old NELS track in Danvers, Mass. And when it came to speed, Charlie loved to run fast! Ultimately, Charlie built MANY locomotives, all in 3-1/2” gauge except for two which were 7-1/4” gauge. I don’t want to tread on thin ice here, but I’d dare say that Charlie turned out to be more of a locomotive builder that his dad. On occasion, Carl called Charlie for help or advice.

June 30th, 1973

Jim Leggett wrote:

I was going through some of the binders of 8 x 10 photos and came across six prints from that day, June 30th, 1973. AWL always used his old Speed Graphic press camera and would typically shoot a limited number of 4 x 5 sheets of film.
On this day he shot images 3039 to 3044.
Eric Davies, prominent in several photos here, was an immigrant from England and worked as a machinist for McGill University. He built a couple of Atlantic types but I believe this Maisie belonged to Charlie.

Byfield Highline

John Kurdzionak wrote on Facebook, 5 December 2019:

This is me in 1987 running a 1 inch scale Hiraoka Climax built for 3-1/2 inch gauge track.
The track is that of Charlie Purinton in Byfield Massachusetts. It was built about 1970 and was at this location until about 2008. It was moved in about 2009 to Georgetown Mass. where it was used infrequently until about 2018. In 2019 it was moved to our property in New Hampshire where it will receive a much-needed rebuilding and be used again.
I was 15 years old in the picture.
JohnKurdzionak at CharliePurinton track 1987.jpg

Nick Edwards Meet

19 Oct 1991 meet at Nick Edwards track before he moved to Wimberly, Texas. From "A Big Meet at Nicks", Norheast Live Steamers

Other Photos



In addition to designing and building Seth, Charlie also designed another 0-4-0 named Minnie, which is similar in design to the famous Minnitoka. Charlie began work on Minnie, and completed most of it. Daris A Nevil currently owns this locomotive and plans to finish it.

The drawings for Minnie (and an erection drawing for Seth) is available here:

2009 Club Meeting

John Kurdzionak posted on

Charlie Purinton and John Kurdzionak, February 8, 2009, Marblehead, Mass.
Here's me with Charlie Purinton, Sunday Feb. 8th 2009, at a meeting of our local steam club (held in Marblehead, MA).
Charlie's father was Carl Purinton (1898-1999) who founded the Brotherhood of Live Steamers in 1932. Charlie was 10 in 1932.
Charlie remembers late 1920s meetings of the old Boston Society of Model Engineers being held at his parents' home at Marblehead; he remembers LBSC's 1930 visit to the USA (met LBSC, too); was probably the youngest live steamer at the [[IBLS Journal 1938|1938 Brotherhood meet] at the New England Live Steamers at Danvers, MA (age 16); built his first engine when he was a teenager; was in the Navy in WWII; built a 2-1/2 inch and 3-1/2 inch track in Massachusetts; and, in the 1980s, taught me how to "run and fire" on a highline.
He knew Lester and Joe Friend of Yankee Shop; he has designed and built more than a dozen engines in 3/4 inch and 1-1/2 inch scales (mostly 3/4 inch, just one in 1-1/2 inch); he makes his 3/4 inch trucks out of PINE with axles running directly in the holes in the wood; for couplers he uses a set of two "screen window hooks + eyes" hooked into each other; he describes engines that run out of steam out on his mainline as "constipating" his track, and I could just go on and on and on.
I've known Charlie since I was 12.
-John K.


From The Steaming Priest:

AMESBURY, MA — Charles S. Purinton, 88, of Amesbury, and formerly of Byfield, died Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 at the Country Manor Nursing Home in Newburyport.. He was the husband of Barbara (Sweet) Purinton.

Mr. Purinton was born in Boston on July 22, 1922, son of the late Charles A. and Mary Russell Watson Purinton. Charles graduated from Wentworth Institute and was a World War II veteran serving with the U.S. Navy. Charles retired from Sylvania as a machinist. He was a member of the North East Live Steamers club and enjoyed designing, building and running steam locomotives.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his three children and their spouses, Charles A. and Jane Purinton of Salisbury,. Nancy P. and Thomas Cuff of Frederick, Md., and Sarah P. and Michael Lord of Rowley; also a sister, Harriot “Bunny” Nutter of Topsfield; three grandchildren, Aisha L. McKibben and Zachary W. Purinton, Chad H. Lord; and two great-grandchildren, Hannah and Vianne Lord.