Small Wonders: Farm Scale Models

Craftsman's scale models reflect fascination with antique farm implements and equipment.

| November 2015

  • Bill Brinkman’s Waterloo water wagon is a one-of-a-kind design he developed from reading books and observing equipment at vintage equipment shows and demonstrations. The wagon is typical of those used to feed some of the earliest steam engines.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • For some projects, like this International Harvester planter, Bill enhances manufactured scale models. Here, he added a tongue, eveners and a seat for a 2-horse planter.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • Bill in his shop.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • This model replicates an 1890s J.I. Case 12-barrel steel water tank that replaced the company’s previous wooden tanks. Here, Bill uses an aerosol can for the wagon’s body, providing a very accurate likeness of the actual steel tank designed for this wagon.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • This Meadowbrook cart and horse is another of Bill’s first creations. The Meadowbrook cart was a popular one-horse, lightweight vehicle in its day.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • In years past, Bill made his own wooden wheels. He now relies on the quality and availability of ready-made wheels that he paints to match his models.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • The beaded harness and bridles Bill uses are made with as much realistic detail as possible. Fitting them on each horse, working with buckles and snaps, requires patience and a keen eye.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • This scale model hay sweep was one of Bill’s early projects. He has retained most of his “firsts” for his own scale model collection.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • Steel jigs designed to limit the width and depth of tiny holes help Bill create precise detail on models such as the simulated springs of this hitch wagon.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • Bill developed his own forecart design to create these realistic models.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • In choosing supplies such as these die-cast seats, Bill aims to find the best quality and most detailed items.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • Every piece of each model is carefully crafted, sanded, painted and striped to create the realistic quality that makes Bill’s work so appealing.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson
  • Bill’s interpretation of the American chuck wagon.
    Photo by Loretta Sorenson

It may be difficult to believe that more than 300 horses, dozens of threshing machines, countless wagons, corn planters and vintage toys are tucked away in Bill Brinkman’s basement. But it all fits – because every item is a scale model.

Bill’s collection includes a host of 1/16th and 1/10th scale items built by this collector-turned-craftsman. His passion is fueled by the combination of a farm background and a fascination with how equipment was designed, how it operated and what it takes to create a realistic model of it.

“My dad occasionally worked with a team of horses on our farm near Plainview, Minnesota,” Bill says. “I was pretty little then, so I didn’t learn much about the Belgians he used. Those memories have fueled my love for horses all my life. The first piece I collected was a handmade stagecoach I found in 1989 in an Arizona shop.”

The stagecoach drew him in like a magnet. He examined it carefully before balking at the price. Later, he returned to the shop to negotiate an agreeable price. Once he got the piece home, he says, “I had a feeling that I could make a similar scale model myself.”

Learning from the masters

After creating an even more detailed stagecoach, Bill started collecting ideas, plans and material to make scale model wagons, including circus wagons, sleighs, Budweiser 8-horse hitches, water wagons, corn planters and cultivators. Since then, he’s produced more than 300 models of two-wheel carts, log sleds, buckboards, bakery and milk wagons and a chuck wagon with a kitchen in back.

Until his death in 2004, Dick Eighmey, Waterloo, Iowa, served as Bill’s mentor. “Dick and I spent a lot of time on the phone,” Bill says. “He helped me find harness for my horses, which isn’t so easy now. There aren’t many suppliers. I’m fortunate to have a source who does quality work.”

2/20/2018 10:42:41 AM

yes thrashing days my Dad had a crew that went from farm to farm and I remember driving the tractor that pulled the binder making the bundles and shocking them later. We lived around Buckman/Little Rock Minnesota. I also remember driving the tractor while people stacked the bundles on the wagons going to the thrashing machine. I was 8 or 10 years old Yes the food was always excellent Baloney/lettuce/fresh bread sandwiches before and after lunch breaks and Fresh Lemonade to wash it down jjsimon

5/3/2016 5:22:38 PM

very sad news, Bill passed away April 30 2016 at 69 from a massive heart attack. he will be greatly missed.


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