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Scale Model Steam Engine Builder Found in Missouri

Missouri man a prolific maker of scale model steam engines.

| May 2014

  • Back view of David Lowe’s Reeves engine.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Bob Hart is careful when working with thin sheets of tin. “I wear leather gloves,” he says. “Safety first!”
    Photo courtesy John Wilding
  • A 110 Case Bob built. This one is owned by Kee Groshong, Columbia, Mo., who bought it at an auction several years ago.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Another Bob Hart creation, this Advance-Rumely is owned by David Lowe, Wichita Falls, Texas. David often takes his pair of Bob Hart models to tractor shows, displaying them in inverted aquariums.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A Reeves steam engine from Bob’s workshop, owned by David Lowe.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Bob built this 23-90 A.D. Baker steam engine model for his son Steve.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Bob built this Nichols & Shepard engine for Craig Dobbins. Craig’s since passed it on to a young protégé in the steam hobby, Payton Rivera, Durant, Iowa. “I’m glad and proud to have it,” Payton says, “and humbled as well.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Bob refers affectionately to his 1917 20 hp M. Rumely steam engine as “Hot Carmelita.” The engine is now owned by his sons, Steve and Dennis.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

In the old iron hobby, we are so accustomed to mysteries that we don’t always think to turn to the best resource we have: each other. When I stumbled on to a wonderful piece of folk art — a lovingly handmade scale model of an Aultman-Taylor steam engine in an antique shop, I was so completely captivated by the piece that it never occurred to me that I might actually track down the builder.

In the February issue of Farm Collector, I wrote about the model I’d found and included a photo of the piece. About 15 minutes after the issue arrived in readers’ mailboxes, I heard from David Lowe in Wichita Falls, Texas. David was excited to report that he had not one but two models that he was sure were the work of the same person who’d built mine. “Holy Wakarusa!” I thought. “How amazing is that?!?”

David bought his about 15 years ago in El Dara, Ill. — roughly 50 miles from the small Missouri town where I’d found mine. And while the clouds of time had fogged over some aspects of that purchase, he remembered two interesting details shared by the seller, the owner of an antique shop there. The seller originally had five of the models (David bought the last two, an Advance-Rumely and a Reeves) and the builder, he said, lived in Hermann, Mo.

As I chewed on that information, an email fell into my inbox from Craig Dobbins in Iowa. He had yet another of the models from the same builder (a Nichols & Shepard 16-50)…and he was personally acquainted with the man: Bob Hart, of Hermann, Mo.

Bam! I dug through a stack of business cards and called John Wilding of Red Barn Crafts & Antiques in Hermann. I’d met John at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and he’s a regular in our “What Is It” section each issue. If anyone could lead me to Bob Hart, I figured John was the man. “Oh yes,” he said. “I walk past his door every week when I deliver Meals on Wheels.”

This world we live in, I reflected, is a very small place.


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