Article From the Summer 2001 Issue of


The Journal of the New York Museum of Transportation


For several years we’ve been holding a model steam and gas engine show, featuring an amazing variety of miniature replicas of the machines that once powered sawmills and oil derricks, farms and factories. This year, in addition to seventeen of Karl and Nick Stilson’s models, regular exhibitor Ed Balling brought in his enormous working model of the USS Gambier Bay, an escort carrier that was sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II. An accurate replica of the original ship, complete with a deck full of Navy planes with their props spinning and ready for take-off, the ¼"-scale (O-gauge) model weighs 145 pounds and is over ten feet long. Ed’s work on this model amounted to over 9,000 hours, and a lot of that time was spent taking up space in Ed and Sharon’s dining room.

Ed has exhibited his model, and won national Best in Show awards for it, around the country, but the NYMT appearance was the first in the Rochester area. He has arranged to donate the model to the USS Midway museum in California, and the whole human interest story caught the attention of the Messenger-Post newspapers, leading to a nice cover article about Ed and his work. The publicity gave us another busy Sunday at the museum, and among the visitors were several WWII veterans who had served on other such Casablanca class carriers.

Bruce Aikman came over from his home in Grand Island to exhibit his equally remarkable models, also in ¼"-scale, of a
    Ed Balling’s faithful reproduction of the USS Gambier Bay
    includes the camouflage used to confuse enemy subs.

Gridley class destroyer and a Buckley class destroyer escort, and he tells us there were several veterans of these ship classes who came by to reminisce as well. Ed rounded out the exhibit with eight tug boat models, a cabin cruiser, and an Australian Navy attack boat. Out on the front lawn, Doug Metz—also from Grand Island—exhibited his full-size Eclipse hot tube natural gas engine. Doug was assisted by his friend, Jim Depew of Williamsville, and the two of them kept the hit-and-miss engine popping away throughout the day, to the delight of visitors who had never experienced such a machine.

Karl and Nick had scale replicas, toy steam engines, patent models, a Ferris wheel and an oil derrick clattering and hissing away, all functioning off the museum’s compressed air supply. We’ve discussed the possibility of opening up future shows to craftsmen who build model autos, locomotives, and even structures. Stay tuned!