Scale Model Horse Drawn Vehicles

THE GENIUS OF IVAN COLLINS

 

Historic Vehicles in Miniature - The Genius of Ivan Collins, by Ron Brentano. - is the colorful 104 page book book shown to the left, and is printed by the Oregon Historical Society Press, in Portland, Oregon. Originally produced as a catalog to accompany a large exhibit of miniature horse-drawn vehicles, this newly formatted and expanded edition features photos of 62 different vehicles, pictured in full color, many with added close-up details. These stage coaches, farm wagons, hearses, milk delivery wagons, open-air carriages, and a wide range of other vehicles were built to exacting one-eighth scale by Ivan Collins, whose meticulous and important work is housed at the Oregon Historical Society. The photos shown and described below are only 12 of the 62 included in this book.

Ivan Linus Collins (1906-1971) spent more than thirty years meticulously researching and constructing scale models of animal-drawn vehicles common to the west, and to Oregon in particular, during the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century. He crafted coaches, sleighs, carriages and work vehicles. He asked that we "see it not as a miniature, but see through it into the past and into the lives of those who sweated and toiled and worked with the original."

Throughout the years, museum visitors, historians, model builders and collectors have traveled to OHS to admire Collins' remarkably detailed work in related exhibits, original plans and working drawings. Reproductions of selected wagon plans and selected drawings are available in sets ranging in price from $6.50 to $35.00. Some of the originals are in the collections of the OHS regional research library.

The following is an excerpt taken from the book

"How Ivan Collins Worked"
by Mrs. Laura Block Collins

Ivan's consuming passion was to preserve the history of horse-drawn transportation, to show how our people lived in that era. That his miniatures were also works of art was entirely beside the point -- he could not work any other way.

He realized that these vehicles being of perishable material, were fast disappearing, and he never went for a drive without keeping an eye out for the rotting remains of a wagon. When he found one (which became rarer in later years) he would ask the owner for permission to "draft" it. He would take his drawing equipment (later, his wife and then his daughters) and spend a day capturing every detail. Accuracy was his watchword. Nothing annoyed him more than the word "carve." These miniatures were not carved. They were built meticulously, exactly as the originals had been built. Even the placement of nails was noted on the drawings. Later, at home, he would convert these field drawings to shop drawings from which he made blueprints, and these he used to build the wagons.

All parts were completely operational -- even the door latches worked. I remember that he spent one whole Sunday experimenting with the weighting of the doors for the dump wagon so that they would come up precisely when operated by the winch, the left one coming up first and the right one just behind it so that it would overlap.

This construction was not a hobby -- it was an obsession. Earning a living was secondary, and had to leave room for wagon building. When people would say, "I'd like to do something like that, but I don't have the time," he would say scornfully, "You don't have time, you make time." He would work evening and weekends, and sometimes all night. When we were married he was working on the thirty-second model -- the barouche. Before that, he would land in the hospital with exhaustion about once a year. After that, this never happened again, but I sometimes wondered when it would.

When things needed doing, he simply did them. For instance, he learned to tool leather in order to make the boot of the Concord coach authentic. And when he built the Umatilla House hotel omnibus and needed paintings above the windows (where today's buses have advertisements), he found that pictures in the right scale were simply not available, so he painted them..............................

LUMBER WAGON

This is the first wagon Ivan Collins built from scratch. It is a copy, reconstructed from memory, of one of the wagons on the Collins ranch in eastern Oregon. It was completed in January 1937.

ICE WAGON

In horse-drawn days, ice to be sold commercially was either frozen in one hundred - to three hundred - pound cakes or sawed from frozen rivers and lakes. Notes for the model, which was completed in 1947, were taken from a wagon located in Los Angeles, California.

YELLOWSTONE COACH

Another Abbot-Downing product was this sightseeing coach used in national parks. Like the famous Concords, the Yellowstone coach was slung on leather thoroughbraces. The model was completed on December 27, 1946.

Ivan Collins plans can be bought from HERE and HERE

ADAMS EXPRESS WAGON

The express business in America had its beginning just ten years before the California Gold Rush, when as a convenience to his neighbors, a conductor on a Boston railroad began carrying parcels between towns and cities on his run. Adams Express was one of the first of these companies to be formed ans Collins drafted this wagon in Los Angeles, California, and finished the model in 1947.

FUEL WAGON

The sight of wagons hauling wood for stoves and furnaces was common in the Northwest. Not being equipped with a braking mechanisim, these wagons were controlled by means of special harness (often called a "britchen harness") and the unusual double-neck yoke. Collins drafted the plans for the model from the last Holman wagon, which he found in Shaniko, Oregon. He completed the model in 1969.

DELIVERY WAGON

Before the days of television commercials and neon signs, and before the development of colour printing, one of the principal advertising mediums was the business wagon. Delivery wagons often served the dual purpose of utility and traveling advertisement, but many firms whose services did not require the use of a wagon operated attractive and colourfully decorated vehicles solely to bring their service or product to the attention of the public.

 

MILK WAGON

The internal combustion engine will never compete with horses when it comes to remembering established routes - from door-to-door and back-and-forth across the street the animal would weave, hesitating to let the delivery man catch up, or refusing to move if a customer was forgotten. The model was completed in 1944 and is based on a wagon owned by 20th Century Fox.

OIL TANK WAGON

Union Oil, Standard Oil and many other petroleum firms once hauled their products in horse-drawn tank wagons, carrying coal oil for lamps and stoves and machine oil to the livery stables for the conditioning of wagons and carriages. Collins made notes for the model, which was finished in 1944, from an oil tank wagon owned by 20th Century Fox.

WAGONETTE

The ten-passenger carriage was popular with owners of large estates, serving as a station wagon. Variations were used for public transportation, or could be hired at livery stables for use at picnics, funerals or group functions. This wagon was used to transport women to the orchards to pack pears during the harvest season. The model was completed in 1967.

 

CONESTOGA WAGON

These earliest of American wagons were named for Pennsylvania's Conestoga Valley, where they were built. The valley's craftsmen adapted the graceful and boat-like lines that had first appeared in European vehicles of the 16th and 17th centuries. The design was practical as well as aesthetic; the curved body tended to keep the load at the center of the wagon rather than shifting to the ends, and many feel the shaped body made them easier to move when fording rivers and streams.

FARM WAGON

This ubiquitous wagon handled almost every kind of hauling job on the farm. Its standard wagon box (shown here) could be lifted off and other kinds of boxes or racks put on instead. At threashing time bundle racks were attached to haul the bundles of ripe grain to the threshing machine. After the grain was threshed the original box was put back and loaded with sacks of grain to be hauled to the warehouses and flour mills in nearby towns. The model was completed in 1945, and is based on a 1910 wagon by Birdsell Co. of South Bend, Indiana.

SHEEPHERDER'S WAGON

This style of sheepherder's wagon was constructed around 1910 by the Sidney Stevens Implement Co. of Ogden, Utah. The sturdy hardwood and iron-reinforced bodies could be ordered either in kit form or factory assembled; depending on accessories, it cost between $550 and $650. Collins drew the plans for this model in 1968 from a wagon once owned by Mrs. Clara Howard of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The wagon is now preserved in the Klamath County Museum in Klamath Falls.

Ivan Collins spent many days in the field (literally) measuring actual wagons. Because of his tireless work, Collins rescued some important information, apparently in the nick of time. The dump wagon, (shown left) was built in miniature form by Collins in 1945.

Ivan Collins was justifiably proud of the craftsmanship, (many would say artistry) he brought to his work. He eventually completed 62 miniature vehicles. In the photograph, (shown right) taken in the 1940s, he poses with his work up to that point.

FOOTNOTE
Due to space restriction and the decision of the Historical Society in Portland, Oregon to display other works of art, all the models of Ivan Collins have been packed away and put in storage indefinitely. This is a tragic shame, as there are no plans in the future to put them on display again.

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