Small Wonders: Farm Scale Models

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

| November 2015

Wager wagon

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

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.”

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.