Hot Air Engine Update

First Southwest Region Hot Air Meet a Success


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The Arizona Flywheelers spring show in Cottonwood, Ariz., usually provides a great exhibition and viewing of many interesting gas engines, tractors, vintage ice cream making, models, and farm-related antiques. A good show, indeed. But the 2001 show was unique, setting itself apart with the Arizona Flywheelers acting as host for the first ever Southwestern Region Hot Air Meet.

The idea for the meet was first discussed at Olaf Bjerge's, Lake Itasca, Minn., Hot Air Engine Exhibitors Reunion in August 2000. We thought a show for hot air engine collectors and model makers in the Southwest was needed, and Buster Brown, Yuma, Ariz., took it upon himself to find a location and a host for the show. Buster's discussions with Gene DeCamp and the Arizona Flywheelers were fruitful, and so it was that all hot air engine collectors and modelers were invited to the Arizona Flywheelers show in Cottonwood last March. The host club provided facilities, advertising and manpower to help make the hot air engine attendees feel welcome and comfortable.

The meet not only provided a place for hot air engine enthusiasts to show their collections and models, it also provided a place for enthusiasts to share experiences and information on all facets of hot air engine history, theory, model-making, collecting and so on. There was an unbelievable wealth of information passed between attendees.

We are especially pleased with the support for the show received, with attendees from 15 states making it to the show. Making a special trek to Cottonwood for the meet were Bob Sier from England, Dan and John Wiese from Canada, Jose de La Herrin from Mexico and Ted March from Argentina. These guys didn't just happen to be in the area, they came specifically for the show. Exhibitors traveled miles with their engines, including Russel Dickey who drove all the way from New Hampshire with his 10-inch Ericsson.

Lowell Wagner's Thomas & Smith hot air engine was probably made in Chicago, but the company also had offices in New York, N.Y. At present, it's thought only three or four of these have survived.

Lowell also owns this Amberg, which was built in Germany around 1900 by Gasmaschinenfabrik Feil (Feil gas plant engineereing works). Featuring a 3-3/8-inch power cylinder, this unit saw duty in a fabric plant, where air from its air compressor cylinders was used to dry fabric during manufacture. Around six of these engines are known to have survived.

Russel Dickey drove all the way from New Hampshire with this 10-inch Ericsson. Its exact age is unknown, but likely it dates from the late 1800s when hot air engines were a popular power source for running water pumps in urban areas.

A count of hot air engines at the meet included 14 full-sized working engines, seven medium-sized working engines, 150 toy engines, 62 models, 22 hot air fans and two estate collections of engines that were for sale. This will not be an annual event, and our next Southwest Region Hot Air Meet will take place either in 2004 or 2005. As he has for the last few years, Olaf will be holding his annual Hot Air Engine Exhibitors Reunion this coming Aug. 16-18. Hot air engine collectors will also want to attend Olaf's 2003 show, which will be an international show with collectors from England, Germany and other countries making a special trek to the U.S. just for this show.

Special thanks to Gene DeCamp and the Arizona Flywheelers. Your hospitality was greatly appreciated. For more pictures, visit Buster's web site at:

Contact hot air engine enthusiast Lowell J. Wagner at: 8 Arroyo Bonito, Sandia Park, NM 87047-9397, (505) 281-1624, or e-mail: