True to scale: Agronomy specialist to show off models at farm toy show

Friday, January 9, 2004
Wayne Crook shows a Steiger Panther ST325 4x4 Tractor, one of 25 model tractors and combines he makes in the basement of his Marshall home. Several of the detailed miniatures will be on display Sunday at the Saline County Toy Farm Show in Marshall.

In addition to working as an agronomy specialist for University Outreach and Extension and being a farmer, Wayne Crook spends a few hours each night building model farm equipment.

He has designed and built 25 model tractors, combines and a pulling sled. Beer flats full of tiny parts used in the models overrun a large family room and his son's old bedroom. Crook said his wife, Jene, no longer ventures into the rooms in the basement of their Marshall home.

"It just keeps accumulating," Crook said. "I used to have an office down here. I can't get to it now."

To design each model, Crook locates the actual equipment and measures each of its parts, then draws his own blueprints. He cuts the parts -- scaled down to 1/16th of their original size -- out of aluminum sheets and finishes each part by hand with one of his four tin snips. He then bolts the parts together and sees how they fit.

"I think, in the last year, I've used probably 15,000 bolts," he said.

Known for his attention to detail, Crook said the hardest part of building models is making the template. The only pre-manufactured parts which he buys for the models are tires, steering wheels, seats and decals, if available.

Once satisfied with his prototype, he cuts parts for 40 models, which are stored with directions that he, if no one else, can follow.

Crook said he tries to build the models 20 at a time. "Making the first one's fun. Every one (after that) is work," he said.

To vary it somewhat, Crook designs one or two farm equipment models each year. His goal is to build a model of every tractor and combine he has owned. So far he's designed farm equipment built by John Deere, International, Case, Steiger, Ford, Allis-Chalmers and Avery. And, just as with the actual equipment, the combines cost more than the tractors.

One of his John Deere 7720 combines, the largest and most time-consuming model he builds, recently sold at an auction for $2,000. The combine took him about 100 hours to build and paint, which he does on a table once used for Ping-Pong.

Crook began collecting farm toys in the early 1980s. When he couldn't find a model combine he wanted, he made his own. Crook said he really started devoting time to his hobby during the floods of 1993.

"We lost our farm that year, we lost our crop," he said. "So I had some spare time."

Now, Crook said he can hardly keep up with demand for the models. Last year, a customer ordered 11 combines, which Crook promised to have delivered within seven years. He will deliver the first combine from the order at a toy show in St. Louis in February.

Crook attends two auctions and eight or nine toy collector shows each year. His next toy show will be the Saline County Toy Farm Show, which he organizes with county fair association member Glenn Eilers. The show takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 11, in the multipurpose building on the Saline County Fairground in Marshall.

"It's the first show of the year in this area, biggest in this part of the state," Crook said. "Anybody that collects can find something out there."

He said the toys range in price from $1 to $2,000 and include farm toys from each toy brand. This year, Crook said, the show will have 27 vendors, 60 display tables and around 700 participants. Tickets cost $2 for adults and admission for children 12 and under is free. Along with the farm toys will be NASCAR and coin displays. The farm models range in size from 1/64 to 1/16 of actual size and will include customized items such as the models Crook makes.

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