We’d like you to meet Chet Peterson
By: W.C.F. (MODELTEC September 1984)
“Chester “Chet” Peterson grew up in the railroad town of Iowa Falls, Iowa where he graduated in 1931. He at- tended Ellsworth Junior College and, while playing football on that school’s team in 1933, became friendly with a young sportscaster for radio station WHO, Ronald “Dutch” Reagan. Other contacts led him to his other love, flying, to enrollment at Parks Air College and on to graduation from St. Louis University in 1939. Chet then went to work for the Vega Airplane Company located in Burbank, California, where he again crossed paths with an old acquaintance. At the Wee Kirk of the Heather on April 20, 1940, Chat and Wilma Peterson were married … as were Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. During WWII, Chet was assigned to the Lockheed Modification Base in Dallas, Texas and was involved in development of the PV-1 Ventura Reconnaissance Bomber. Chet went with the first squadrons as a flight operation instructor and saw service in the Caribbean, South America, the Aleutians and the Pacific theater. Late in 1944, he accepted a job in Engineering Marketing with aviation industry firm, Garrett Corporation.
Working late one night, he stopped for a quick dinner break at a restaurant and was asked to share his table with an older gentleman who began talking about the railroad he had in his back yard. By the end of dinner, Chet had a new friend and an invitation to Dick Jackson’s home in Beverly Hills the following Sunday afternoon. Other guests that Sunday included Walt Disney and several from Disney’s studio. Chet recalls, “That afternoon, I was just sitting there, listening to them talk about their trains, trying to get the steam engines running, and all that mechanical gear just got to me!” In 1958, Chet announced to his wife, Wilma, that he wanted to build a locomotive in the garage and finally won approval after agreeing to build a carport for her car. His beautiful 1 ½“Scale Union Pacific was completed and running in 1963 (which is currently at Riverside Live Steamers’ railroad in Hunter Park). He joined the Los Angeles Live Steamers and was President of that club for three years. After 26 years with Garrett he retired and formed Railroad Supply Corporation in 1970 which has grown to be one of the world’s largest Live Steam supply firms. In addition to providing parts and kits and finished equipment for the hobbyists and promoting railroad park equipment (Travel Town Railroad (RSC built and opened in 1979)/ Griffith Park & Southern Railroad (RSC took over in 1975), both are in Los Angeles, CA) both were contracted out to Railroad Supply Corporation to run and maintain. Railroad Supply Corporation has provided the models and supervised construction of interior sets for the NBC-TV Supertrain series and other television projects. Currently the Silver Spoons series is their prime involvement. It is quite obvious, then, that the Live Steam Hobby can provide many opportunities as business ventures as well as the avocational aspect that most of us experience. Chet Peterson has tasted the best of both.”