National Farm Toy Show: 1/16-Scale Model Scores First Place

Tim Carlson wins champion's trophy with his first entry at the National Farm Toy Show

| December 2009

For Tim Carlson of Stanchfield, Minn., the first time was the charm.

“I spent two and a half years making my 1/16-scale 1970s dairy farm display,” he says, “and just after I finished it, I showed it at the National Farm Toy Show in Dyersville, Iowa.”

The result? First place amidst some high-class competition. “I was so surprised I didn’t know what to say,” he recalls. “I couldn’t talk, and I almost started crying. I knew of people who had been trying for years and hadn’t won. I thought I might be in the running but there was a lot of competition, and I never thought I would win.”

Hooked as a kid

As a kid, Tim helped on his uncles’ dairy farms, and fell in love with “dairy farm stuff,” as he calls it. “I had a bunch of toy tractors when I was a little kid, and played with a Tru-Scale manure spreader and red tractor,” he recalls, “and Ertl’s 544 International Harvester tractor, all in 1/16-scale.”

In those days, Tim says, the Milaca, Minn., area where he grew up boasted four hardware stores, all with farm toys for sale. “They had quite a few of them, pretty much all 1/16-scale,” he says. “I remember the Slik drag, and planter and plow.”

He customized a few toys too, but wasn’t sure what he was doing. “I’d put duals on something that didn’t work,” he says, “or take wheels off another toy and never be able to get them back on.”

Eventually Tim started making farm layouts. Building farm sets out of cardboard boxes, with silos and fences made of string, served as instruction for his future displays. He was also learning about dairy farms. “I just loved it. I’d go visit especially during hay season, which etched it in my mind,” he says. “That’s why I ended up doing a dairy farm.”

Barn research

As the idea of crafting a barn blossomed in Tim’s brain, he did more and more research. He came to realize that every barn was different. “Some had four-pane windows, some had six-pane windows,” he says. “Some were 30 feet wide, some were 32 feet wide, and so on.”

Tim settled on a hip-roof barn with a hayloft on top and eight-pane windows, all scaled down from his uncles’ 36-by-60-foot barn. “I didn’t know how detailed I would have to build it,” he says, “but I decided I was just going to try to do it.”

Seeking authenticity, he decided on a model based on a barn 36 feet wide. “In a barn that size, if they didn’t have a barn cleaner, some farmers had to run a small tractor and manure spreader down the middle. Then you’d use a shovel to clean out the gutters and throw the manure in the spreader,” he says. “I know, because I used to help my cousin do it.”