DIXFIELD — An ambitious wood-turning project to create a small-scale replica of the historic Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Narrow Gauge Railroad Engine No. 24 and its tender is turning heads as it steams toward completion.

The model is being crafted and assembled by members of the Western Maine Woodturners Association. It will be finished in May for entry into the 2010 American Association of Woodturners International Symposium in Hartford, Conn., in June.

The wood-turned engine and tender model will be 7 inches tall, 7 inches wide and 32 inches long when completed.

The project involves an estimated 250 hours of work by 10 members from Bethel, Peru, Wilton, Jay, Livermore Falls, Farmington, Kingfield and New Sharon, project Chairman Michael Chase of Farmington said Wednesday night. The club met in the Dirigo High School wood shop.

“We’re making it out of different kinds of wood, so it will be different colors, but it will be a pretty darn close representation of Engine No. 24,” Chase said.

The art of wood-turning involves putting a piece of wood in a lathe and using chisels on the wood as it’s spinning to create different shapes.

“The reason we went with a black walnut (engine) tank is so that we have contrast,” Chase said. “Originally, we wanted to make it all black, but then someone said, ‘We’re wood-turners. Why are we going to paint this?’ and, Bang! It was right there! We’re not. We’re going to use a variety of colors.”

Parts will be made from black walnut, maple, cherry and exotic wood from South America such as cocobolo, an orange or reddish brown tropical hardwood from Central America.

Although they may start with 20 board feet of mostly donated lumber, Chase said they’ll probably only use 12 board feet.

“The smallest piece will probably be the air whistle on top of the air tank,” he said. “I think it will be 3/32nds of an inch in diameter and 5/8ths of an inch long.”

He said other wood-turned pieces would probably be from an eighth of an inch in diameter to 2 and 5/8ths of an inch in diameter.

The group has decided to use brass measuring 1/8 of an inch in diameter for the piping on the engine, because Chase said it would be difficult to turn the wood into the various piping bends.

Chase, a former Western Maine Woodturners president, dreamed up the project last summer. He said he spent countless hours researching it, with help from Franklin County Sheriff Dennis Pike, Saddleback Ski Resort owner Archie Berry, Phillips Historical Society President Dennis Atkinson and Farmington historian Don DeRoche, among others.

Then he presented it to club members, who approved it in September and made him the project chairman.

While talking about the blueprint he made by making several photocopies of an old photograph of the engine and tender, member Peter Walen of Kingfield walked in with an assembly of wheel trucks and wheels that he made for the tender.

“Man, that is awesome!” Chase said, examining it. “The trucks are absolutely beautiful.”

Walen said he worked at least 10 hours on the truck assembly, trying cherry at first for the wheels before switching to maple.

Business owners have already started asking Chase when they can display the completed model after the competition.

“People have been amazed that we’re actually going to do this,” Chase said.

“This is one of those things you could spend 10 years on,” Walen said.

“And we’re going to have it done in May,” Chase said.

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Former Western Maine Woodturners Association President Michael Chase, left, of Farmington, and member Peter Walen of Kingfield display some parts that members crafted for the group’s scale replica of the historical Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Narrow Gauge Railroad Engine No. 24 and its tender. Members met Wednesday night in Dixfield. They plan to complete the project in May and enter it in an international wood-turning competition in Connecticut in June.

The Western Maine Woodturners Association’s international wood-turning
competition entry is a scale replica of the early 20th-century Sandy
River and Rangeley Lakes Narrow Gauge Railroad Engine No. 24 and tender
car. Wood-turning artist Peter Walen of Kingfield holds the wood at right that he turned on a lathe to create the tender car wheels’ truck. The wood-turners worked on the project Wednesday night in Dixfield. 

At a Western Maine Woodturners Association meeting in Dixfield on Wednesday, Michael Chase of Farmington examines a truck and wheels made by member Peter Walen for the group’s Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Narrow Gauge Railroad tender car and engine project. The group will enter their project in an international woodturning competition in June in Connecticut.

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