The nostalgic appeal of steam railways has led to the development of an offshoot hobby called Live Steam, where devotees can actually purchase and run their very own steam locomotives. The term live steam usually refers to a model steam locomotive, or any other steam-operated model that is powered by steam produced by boiling water, often built by a hobbyist model engineer.
Though it is time-consuming to build a locomotive from scratch and it can be costly to purchase one already built, there are plenty of live steam fans who believe the time and expense the hobby demands is justified, as evidenced by the growing number of devotees around Australia who own their own locomotive. Live Steam models come in a variety of gauges, from the one that can be ridden, to smaller sizes which are perfectly suited to a home garden layout.
Ridable, large-scale live steam railways have become a popular aspect of the live steam hobby. Few live steamers who own and run a rideable locomotive have the room in their backyard for their own track, so they band together and form clubs which in turn negotiate with local councils for the use of land, often in a local park or an area of bushland, on which to build a track and run their trains.
Approval to develop the tracks is usually granted on the understanding that the club use the facilities they build on set days, generally once or a twice a month on weekends. Club members bring along their locomotives and run them. Being in public places, anyone is free to watch the activities at club meets.
Some clubs and associations have their own facilities, and have built rideable carriages and offer train rides to members of the public. The small entry fee and cost of a ticket to ride provide them with extra income to support their hobby and extend the club's facilities. Those in public parks and open spaces where there are barbecues, picnic and children's play facilities are the most popular, particularly among families, and regulars know to get there early if they want a parking spot or use of a picnic table.
Many Live Steam hobbyists are engineers who have built their own locomotives and rolling stock in their own wiorkshops. Others, who do not have the qualifications, experience, patience or all three, can purchase ready-built trains which they are ready to run. Some market additional rolling stock, track and accessories in a variety of gauges for a home garden layout. Listed below are links to some of Australia's better known suppliers of Live Steam models and parts.