Scratch-Built Scale Model Engines

Dave Leinonen collects and scratch-builds scale model engines

| March 2000

Dave with his Weeden steam engine, sold in the 1920s.

Dave with his Weeden steam engine, sold in the 1920s.

If ever a man was destined to build models – in this case, models of steam engines, hot air engines, and gas engines – it is Dave Leinonen of Buffalo, MN. 

"Ever since I was a kid," the 58-year-old machinist says, "I was always making something, or tearing something apart. I lived on a farm, and my dad would use silage blowers and things like that, so I would go out and build myself a little blower and blow grass with it. I'd use an electric motor that had bare wires – I probably should have been electrocuted already – and I don't know how many of those I made. I would wear one out, and then build another one. I was only 8 or 9 years old; maybe younger than that. I've always had an interest in things like that."

So maybe it's no surprise that today Dave's favorite thing to do is to build working 1/8-, 1/16-, 1/32-scale model steam engines, hot air engines, and fans. But first he took a detour through the collecting of small  gasoline engines. He used to have 40 or so of the real gas engines, he says, but he's cut down to a couple of dozen now.

"John Deere, Waterloo, Fairbanks-Morse, Sears & Roebuck, that one was made by Stover, seven or eight Maytags sitting there right now," he says. "I sell one or two once in a while. Eventually I won't have any of them left."

Part of the reason he's getting rid of the collection is the engines' size and weight, he says, which makes them difficult to take anywhere.

"They just got to be a little bit too heavy," he says. "And since I was always interested in making small models ..."