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In times like these our hobbies become lifesavers. At GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE and FARM COLLECTOR, we have been tracking down the most interesting and rare vintage farm machines and collections for more than 80 years combined! That includes researching and sourcing the best books on collectibles available anywhere. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-866-624-9388 or by email. Stay safe!

Iowa's Youngest Steam Engineer

Meet Craig Dobbins, an Iowa steam engineer who got an early start.

| September 2001

  • steam engineer
    Young steam engineer Craig Dobbins observes one of his restoration projects.
    Photo: Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • steam engineer - Nichols Shepard
    A one cylinder Nichols & Shepard, Craig's first engine
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff
  • steam engineer - American Abell
    A 1910 American Abell engine, Dobbins' entry in an engine restoration competition.
    Farm Collector Magazine Staff

  • steam engineer
  • steam engineer - Nichols Shepard
  • steam engineer - American Abell

If you have a young child or grandchild, go get him or her now.

We'll wait.

Now take that child's hand and look at it closely. If the child is around 7 years old, you'll probably see short, Vienna-sausage-like fingers readying themselves for a growth spurt. If he or she's about 11, you'll see fingers on the far side of a couple of growing sessions. They'll probably seem so thin - hands like two spiders. No matter what, they will not be the hands, yet, of an adult. They will definitely not seem the hands of a steam engineer.

Someone forgot to mention that to Craig Dobbins.

Now 20 years old, Craig began learning to run steam engines at the age of 7, traveling with his father to the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, from his nearby hometown of Durant, Iowa. Kendall Tippett was the first man to give him a ride on a steam engine and, after that, he would spend the five days in Mt. Pleasant on the platform of a steam engine.

At the age of 11, he sold a 'bunch' of hogs he'd raised for 4-H and bought his first steam engine, a 16 hp, two-cylinder, 1916 Nichols & Shepard. He knew to let others do what he couldn't - steam man Roy Pressley did the crucial boiler work -but he did everything he could do himself. He put in a new flue sheet, new piston rings and repiped it, removing the galvanized pipe and putting in Schedule 80 steel piping. He built, with help, all new water tanks, added a little paint and the job was done.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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