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Published: Monday, 4/24/2006

Letting off steam expected

Young engineering hobbyists Robert Taylor, 7, left, and his brother, Nicholas, 9, sport a variety of identifier badges on their caps as they intently watch a model steam engine. Young engineering hobbyists Robert Taylor, 7, left, and his brother, Nicholas, 9, sport a variety of identifier badges on their caps as they intently watch a model steam engine.
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Perrysburg resident Clarence Myers smiled yesterday as he briefly turned up the power on the model of a rare radial steam aviation engine he built with the help of his son.

"There are two undocumented reports that the original engine actually flew," Mr. Myers, a retired mechanical engineer, said.

The 1/2-scale model, copied from pictures taken of the original at a museum in Georgia, was just one of hundreds that attracted more than 3,500 people to the 17th annual North American Model Engineering Exposition this weekend at the SeaGate Centre. Dozens of hobbyists such as Mr. Myers showed off models that in some cases take years to build.

Dan Killenberger, a toolmaker from Howell, Mich., and his son took a close look at nearly every exhibit yesterday afternoon.

"Oh, I love them all," Mr. Killenberger said of the exhibits.

"I have plans to build my own in-line four-cylinder gas engine model."

Peter Villarreal, show director for the exposition, walked around the convention hall yes-terday pointing out interesting exhibits. Most exhibitors are mechanical engineers and toolmakers, but Mr. Villarreal was quick to point out that one is even a dentist.

The show included mostly model engines from different machines and equipment.

Clif Roemmich of Piedmont, S.D., showed a working model of the engine used on the Delta Queen paddlewheel boat, built around 1920. Mr. Roemmich, like many of the hobbyists, has been building models for years.

"There comes a point in time where you just get good at it," he said. "That's not to say you don't have crashes once in while."

There were also model guns, aircraft, tractors, boats, and, of course, locomotives.

Tom Artzberger of Hartford, Wis., said the Rio Grande Southern No. 20, which ran from about 1916 to about 1952, is one of the most copied locomotives.

"It's a popular engine, and it's been built in every scale except this one," he said of his 2 1/2-inch-to-1-foot scale model that stretched more than 10 feet long.



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