Scratch Built Models at the Gateway Mid-America Toy Show

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The first weekend of February each year I look forward with anticipation to seeing old friends, and making new ones at the Gateway Mid-America Toy Show.  This toy show offers something special, a chance to see scratch built toys from some of the best modelers in the country.  This year I enjoyed seeing an old face with new toys, and meeting a new gentleman that came to the show with a purpose.

Farm toy collectors come from all over to this show that celebrated 36 years this past weekend.  One modeler, Bob Gibb traveled from Oxford, Michigan.  Bob said he had not set up with a scratch built toy since 2005, but this year he came back with a particular reason in mind. Bringing an array of some of his favorite toys Bob shared, “I’m retired from skilled trades and recently I heard that there are six million skilled trade jobs going unfilled this year.  My wife Janice said I should share my knowledge with kids and that’s why I’m here.”

After he retired, Bob said, “I got into antique toys.”

Using the skills he acquired during his career, he began making implements to go with his tractors in the early 1990’s to go with his tractors.  “No one made implements, so I started making my own,” Bob said.

 At the Gateway show Bob brought his 8020 hooked up to an amazing scratch built F190 John Deere plow that he built.  It took him a day in a dark barn to take enough pictures to use as a basis to build the F190.  Along with the F190, Bob also built a Moore Sulky plow that was made in Michigan.  This plow now sits in his front yard.  “I found it in a monastery,” Bob added.

 Another lovely scratch built item that Bob had on display was a John Deere grain drill.  I have to admit, my favorite of them all was Bob’s one of a kind tractor that Bob modeled after one he saw in a book.  The book section says the tractor was built by Don Dufner.  He called it a hi-crop specialty tractor.  “This tractor was built in a machine shop,” Bob said.  “I never saw the real tractor, but copied this from the book.”

 This model Bob said was not a scratch build, but a custom build.  “I took the Ertl tractor and took the wheels off all the way down to the clutch.  I built the chains to turn the wheels.”

 Bob shared his message of trade skills adding that if kids learn to use their hands in their youth, it will carry over into their work lives.

Robert Denson was at this year’s show and he had a group of youth very excited about his remote control models that he built.

He had his combine moving across the carpet and the kids, young and old were mesmerized.  Before the model contest even began on Friday night Robert had his new remote control combine out and had a crowd around watching the combine move across the Sheraton’s carpet. The show was held at the Westport Sheraton in St. Louis, Missouri.

This year Robert who traveled from West Memphis, Arkansas had his 379 Peterbilt truck. “It is one of the newer pieces to my farm and truck collection,” Robert said. To create this beautiful machine Robert used a Tempe trailer bottom for his trailer and truck combination. “I am most proud of the hood tilt,” Robert said.  “This was the next to the last item added. This has been a work over the course of five years. The truck was a Tamiya King Hauler kit.  I modified it by stretching the frame by four inches.  I added authentic Peterbilt fenders and changed it to a 370 model.”

Living along I-40, Robert gets ideas from the Internet and watching the trucks travel down the highway.  “I would like to stand on the side of the road and just take pictures of trucks passing by,” he said.

Robert had a whole line up of enticing toys that kept a crowd gathered around his table.  Besides the trailer, he also had a John Deere 9620 RX.  “When I first saw it, my first inclination was to change it to a remote control.  I was able to get all the four-wheel drive tracks to drive.  It articulates like the real tractor does.”

Next in the line-up was a combine.  “No one had done the combine with tracks,” Robert said.   The project began with the 1/16th scale Ertl Big Farm combine and tracks from a JD 9620.  “I thought I could take the tracks off the tractor to put on the combine,” Robert said. 

The next item down the line was Robert’s Link Belt 1/14th scale excavator.  “I bought this as a model then had to modify it to work like it should.  I changed the hydraulic pumps and upgraded the cylinders and there are all new electronics.”

Robert added, “This runs on hydraulic fluid, not on air. There are two electric motors that run on a battery and drive the tracks.”

Bob and Robert were just two of the many talented scratch builders that brought their cool toys to the farm toy show.  Check your calendars for next year’s show and keep your eyes peeled for talented scratch builders that you find at shows everywhere!