Hot Topic

1 / 10
2 / 10
Essex hot air engine owned by Jack Strand from Texas.
3 / 10
Bremen Caloric engine owned by Perry Kolb.
4 / 10
Vern Kindschi from Wisconsin in front of his two Ericsson hot air engines.
5 / 10
Russell Dickey Jr. from New Hampshire with his 10-inch Ericsson hot air engine.
6 / 10
The family of the late Robert Yoder from Ohio displays Robert's rare Thomas & Smith hot air engine.
7 / 10
David Edwards displays his rare Type F Essex fan.
8 / 10
Perry Kolb from Kansas with his two Heinrici hot air engines.
9 / 10
Four rare Essex fans owned by David Edwards, Ralph Reeves and Lowell Waqner.
10 / 10
Ralph and Jean Reeves from Georgia display their Type S Ericsson hot air engine.

Vacationing in northern Minnesota in late August 2003, we went
searching for the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River.
Driving along Highway 200, we had almost reached the north entry to
Itasca Park and the Mississippi headwaters when we noticed some
interesting activity just before the entrance to the park.
Vintage-looking buildings made from rough-sawn lumber, and old
tractors, steam engines, farm equipment and large gas engines
piqued our interest, so we decided to find out what all the
activity was about. In the parking lot, we saw license plates from
California, Arizona, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas, New Hampshire,
Indiana and Maryland, as well as from Canada. What could have drawn
all these people to this remote northern-Minnesota destination? It
was the Hot Air Engine Exhibitors Reunion, put on by Olaf
‘Ole’ Berge and Wally Berge of Cass Lake, Minn.

In Cycle

Ole is known by enthusiasts as perhaps the world’s foremost
authority of hot air engines. He not only builds full-sized engines
from original patent drawings, but he also displays and runs these
engines every year at the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers Annual
Show. Ole’s enthusiasm and promotion of these Stirling cycle
(hot air) engine shows has probably done more to promote interest
in researching, collecting, running and experimenting with the hot
air engine than any other person. And for people interested in
Stirling cycle hot air engines, the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer
Farmers at Lake Itasca, Minn., continues to be the central
organization for the hobby.

The August 2003 reunion attracted approximately 80 exhibitors
who trekked from 19 states to Lake Itasca, with attendees
displaying their own vintage hot air engines, hot air engine
models, hot air engine toys and hot air driver fans. Experimental
engines built by individuals looking for an efficient, viable
alternative source of power were also on display. Some of these
experimentals use modern-day technology and knowledge coupled with
the ingenious ideas contained in the Rev. Robert Stirling’s
1816 patent in Scotland that launched the hot air engine.

Spectators were intrigued by the hot air engine’s ability to
rapidly heat and cool air in order to create an adequate
temperature differential on each revolution to create working
power. Among the engines displayed at last year’s reunion was a
5-inch Rider engine owned by Lowell Wagner, recently restored to
running condition by Ole. These 5-inch Riders are rare items, and
only three are known to exist. Four Bremen caloric engines were
also displayed by Harlan Hjermstad, Wayne Hawkins, Perry Kolb and
John White. With only a dozen known to exist, Bremen engines are
quite rare.

Modern-day, experimental Stirling cycle engines were displayed
by Don Isaacs of California and other exhibitors. Two rare Thomas
& Smith engines, in 4-inch and 5-inch sizes, were displayed by
the Yoder family from Ohio.

As a bonus, we enjoyed the vintage tractors, gas engines, steam
engines, horse-drawn equipment and a vintage blacksmith shop. After
the reunion, we still found time to find the headwaters and walk
across the Mississippi. All of the hot air engine exhibitors
whole-heartedly thank Ole and Wally Berge – and also the Lake
Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers – for their gracious hospitality.

Contact Lowell Wagner at: 8 Arroyo Bonito, Sandia Park, NM
87047-9397; (505) 281-1624;

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines