Perhaps it was an ad just like this one that got the Indiana Live Steamers (ILS) started way back in 1957.  Maybe, it was something else.  We will explain it all on this page.  So, sit back, relax and take a trip through history and learn a little bit more about the Indiana Live Steamers.


1957 - 1967

Like most groups, the ILS started off with just a handful of members.  Many of the original members were drawn to the club via involvement with the Pioneer Engineers of Rushville, Indiana.  The thought was that the ILS could be a group focused on building smaller scale steam traction and trains that were much easier to transport and display.  By the early 1960s, the group was meeting at various members' homes and shops.  A very early meeting hosted by Carl Goodknight was held in his shop and involved a pitch-in dinner and show and tell.  Dave Jones and Carl had started building a 3" scale Pacific and they were more than happy to show off patterns and castings that would be part of the engine.  Other people brought their traction and stationary models.  Of particular interest to many members was a small "hit and miss" engine that one could find popping along at meets.

It was also at that meet that many members met Harold Ekstam.  He brought railroad related movies to entertain the group.



1968 - 1977

Davis Sullivan allowed the group to build an elevated track on his property during this time frame.  This track was 4 3/4" gauge and was designed with the idea that the club would build 1" scale trains.  So far, very little is available about the history of this time period.  If you have any additional information, would you please share it?


1978 - 1987

During the 1982 - 1983 time frame, the club moved its operation to the Mt. Nebo location, near Martinsville, Indiana.  It was located off of Jensen Road and was in a rather heavily wooded area. The track property was leased from club members, Jim and Wanda Petty.  This location was a forested area with many changes in elevation and nice shade.  The trade-off was that summer time air flow was greatly reduced making for some very muggy days.

For those who may remember the track, either as a member or a visitor, the ILS has included a

Mt. Nebo Memories page for your enjoyment.   


Many times, the meet days ended with the group stopping by Poe's Cafeteria in Martinsville.  The group would eat and listen to stories from the best narrator in the group, Harold 'The Czar' Ekstam.  


Other members instrumental in the club at the time included:

  • Bruce McClary
  • Harold Goforth
  • John 'Everything' Huzinga
  • Jim Fain



1988 -1997

Sadly, it was during this period when the Indiana Live Steamers would lose A great friend to the organization.  Ms. Bert Behren passed away.  As a gesture of kindness to the club, she left the club three acres next to the track at Mt. Nebo. The club continued at Mt. Nebo for a while after this great gift.  

Attempts were made to renew the lease with the Petty's  and expand into those three acres.  Unfortunately, no deal was able to be made and the members knew that they would have to think about moving and the  members felt like it was time to start and to find a new home.  

   The a few members had a small loop of track in the Johnson County Park that had been there for several years.  It was only used one weekend a year, during the Heartnut Festival.   This track area was developed until it had 1000 feet and a simple unloading area. Dave Kirch and John Herman had made contacts with The Park Board and broached the Idea of moving the ILS track to the Park. Ground work was started, track panels were built and we were able to give rides to the public at the 1998 Heart Nut Festival. 


1998 - 2007

      Jeff Mitchell was President and Pete Pedigo was Vice President during this time frame.  Jeff and Pete put on a presentation at a Park Board meeting in an attempt to find a permanent home for the Indiana Live Steamers.  The Park Board was enthusiastic and offered us a long term lease along with incentives to move to the Johnson County Park. The Johnson County Park provided space for our club on part of a decommissioned military base, Camp Atterbury that they had been granted the use of.  Click Here to see a photograph of our current track location taken almost 60 years prior our move to the park. We began to develop our new permanent track plan in three phases. Phase 1

 In 2001, the golden spike ceremony was held signaling the completion of Phase I at Johnson County Park.  You can view a photograph of the spike ceremony.

2004 - 2014

John Herman was president, and Dave Kirsch was CEO, John Huizenga was secretary during much of this period. Phase 2 was completed in 2012 and Phase 3 was laid out and surveyed. The Dirt work began in 2013. During the winter several hundred track panels were built using the new plastic ties. Phase 3 switches were tied in and the first approach panels were laid. Much maintenance work was continued on the previous stages.

JCP Time Line

A general time line of what has occurred at JCP.

1986 First year weavers (Marilyn Spurgin through Nut Growers) started on the cabin porch.
1987 Sheila Herman joined in the weaving demonstration at Heart Nut
1988 Sheila Herman weaving and John Herman talked to John Harrell about possibly setting up a static display the next year.
1989 Kirch and Herman setup a display of interurban and Box cab
1990 Ran on Jim Fains portable track; on small loop south of Flag area
1991 Ran on Jim's track ballasted with wood chips (interesting).
1992 Purchased 3 bundles of 1.5" by 3/8" steel through the Park for $300.00 cost split between Kirch and Herman.  Gould, Kirch and Herman cut and drilled steel rail joiners, anddrilled and tapped rails for 10/20 bolts. Jones and Herman cut and grooved the wood ties to accept the rail. Then in one weekend 6 members assembled the first loop that we ran on.
1993 added second loop and loading area to the track
1994 Leveled and repaired some damaged track from mower marks.
1997 Kirch and Herman talked to park board about possibly becoming a permanent site. Discussed what we might be able to do and what we might need to do it. Began walking and working on site plan. Started ground work and laying some new track.
1998 Gave rides on new section of track on the original loop of the older layout at Heart Nut Festival with some static setup of equipment. Jim Petty was upset over the liability of us running at Heartnut Festival.
1999 Petty gave us one year to remove track from his land after refusing our offer to buy the land. Club officers took over direct talks with Park board and reached an agreement. We continued track work, roadbed, installed crossing signals and bridge supports. We poured concrete and erected the shelter for loading platform by cabin. Built panels and enlarged layout.
2000 We put-up building, worked on inside some in winter. Laid track and set bridge, added unloader and steaming bays. 2001 finished inside of building, and phase 1 and Held Golden Spike Oct. 20.
2002 Added storage tracks in the yards and worked on toward completion.
2003 Continued finish work on Phase 1 and planed start of Phase 2
2004 Groundwork and track laid in Phase 2.
2005 Continued work on Phase 2. We installed the truss bridge and culverts.
2006 General repair and track work on installed phases.
2007 Installed turntable, added steaming bay leads and steaming bays. Celebrated 50th anniversary of ILS September 20-23
2008 The June Flood hit and we spent over a month repairing the damage to several areas of the track.
2009 Installed the truss bridge and track on phase 2. Organized the first annual Dog Daze run.
2010 Framed form and poured concrete for ticket sales platform, general maintaining track and scouts helped clean the brush from the ditches.