Tiny History


| May 2001



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An 1870 model Case steam engine

It was all there, and all in working order. The powerful saw blade, the moving carriage, the dogs holding the log in place, the men ready to load the timber and unload the finished planks. A conveyor belt carried away the sawdust. And it was all in miniature.

Lanny Wesche of Wellsville, N.Y., spent 15 years handcrafting an authentic scale model of a sawmill rig. He used a lot of research but no kits. He said the project would have taken him much less than 15 years to complete, but he kept adding to it.

With a background as a welder and machinist, Lanny brought his sawmill, along with a model of a 19th century wood working shop, to the 5th annual Cabin Fever Expo held at Lebanon, Penn., in January. A log-cutting scene and one demonstrating 19th century steam-driven surface oil pumping equipment completed an extensive exhibit that demonstrated superior engineering knowledge and impressive attention to detail.

Back in the 1960's Lanny attended a steam pageant that sparked his interest in steam power. About 15 years ago, he got into building miniaturized versions of authentic 19th century steam engine scenes to show just how people operated them all those years ago.

'When I get an idea of what I want to make, I go to the library or go to shows and look around,' he said. 'This was the start of the Industrial Revolution and kids don't know about it. The working models draw a lot of interest and the more detail there is, the more people are interested. I enjoy watching the kids.'

Lanny's wood cutting scene includes a handcrafted scale model of an 1870 Case steam engine, one of the earliest made. The belt-driven frame saw is copied from one built in the 1880's at St. Alban's Foundry in St. Alban's, Vt. Back then a new one sold for $50. There is also a horse-drawn water wagon ready to keep the steam engine topped up. 'Initially steam power was an alternative to the tread mill or sweep power,' he said. 'Both were horse-powered. Development of the locomotive was an important factor in harnessing steam power.'