Itasca Hot Air Meet

Hot Air Engines Come Together in Minnesota

| January/February 2003

  • Hot Air Engine
    Ole Berge explains his experimental pressurized hot air engine to model maker Neal James. Note the small Lowe model in Neal's hand.
  • Atmospheric Engine

  • Steam toys and hot air fan
    Young hot air enthusiast Ben Sahlstrom exhibited and ran his steam toys and hot air fan at the show.

  • Hot Air Engine
  • Atmospheric Engine
  • Steam toys and hot air fan

It was another gathering of hot air engine enthusiasts at Lake Itasca, Minn., Aug. 16-18, 2002, and Ole and Wally Berge were once again gracious hosts to attendees who came in from as far away as Oregon, California and Canada.

Delbert Berge helps Jerry Swedberg assemble Jerry's Otto-Langen atmospheric engine. The Otto-Langen, while quite inefficient, was the first successful internal combustion engine.

The Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers Association provides the location and sponsors the show, so along with the hot air engines, attendees could also enjoy fine displays of vintage equipment including steam engines, gas engines, steam trains, tractors, a blacksmith shop and many other exhibits and activities - not to mention the fine food and entertainment. All of the hot air engine enthusiasts give a special thanks for the great hospitality provided by the Lake Itasca Region Pioneer Farmers, together with the timeless hours spent by Ole and Wally in hosting this annual show.

The hot air hobby is centered on vintage technology, and as such there's concern about the hobby's future. Will there be new interest from a younger crowd? At Lake Itasca, we were pleased to see Ole and Wally's great-grandson, Ben Sahlstrom, operating his steam toys and his hot air fan, and it's comforting to see the tradition continuing in young people like Ben. And a chance conversation on a recent plane trip with a young man from Winnipeg, Canada, sparked an old interest of his in vintage technology and in Stirling cycle engines. After our conversation, that young man decided to attend the Lake Itasca meet, and he was so enthused by what he saw that he wants to build a hot air engine and bring it to the Aug. 15-17, 2003, Lake Itasca International Hot Air Rally.

Yes, I did say International Rally. 2003 will be the 'big one.' Participants are expected from all over the U.S., England, Germany and perhaps other countries. Most hot air enthusiasts will make a special effort to attend the 2003 rally, and if you're interested in hot air engines you should plan to attend. It promises to be the largest gathering of vintage, model and experimental hot air engines and hot air fans ever seen in one place. You will not be disappointed.

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


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