Fully functional Komatsu track hoe for sale. Price: $3,000. Will help carry to your car. Regina’s Dick Moulding has developed a reputation for building accurate miniature models of both road construction and farm vehicles from scratch.
At age 75, he draws inspiration from recollections of Saskatchewan farms while he was growing up and from a decade of work as an equipment operator for a road construction company in the 1960s.
"It was just a small outfit," he recalls.
"We built municipal roads and did a little bit of work on the province’s grid roads. It was dirty work. We operated all summer and overhauled the equipment all winter."
Moulding reckons he’s the last guy you’ll ever meet who operated an elevating grader — a tractor-pulled unit that scoops up soil, channels it onto an elevated conveyer belt and spits it off to the side as it’s loaded onto a truck.
He grew up building model machines using toy Meccano construction sets — even crafting extra parts out of metal to expand his collection.
"My first miniature model built from scratch was a working model of a Case steam traction engine just about three inches across," he says.
"I started work on the steam engine in 1960, but it took me 15 years to finish it to my satisfaction. At that time, I would call it tinkering, but I really got into it more seriously over the past few years."
Moulding has since branched out into building the miniature equipment in a workshop in his garage, producing metal parts from salvage.
"My greatest skill is that I’m a good metal worker," he says.
"I often start with metal parts salvaged from refrigerators or dishwashers. I’ve got a good pair of tin snips, a milling machine to shape the parts, and a metal lathe. I’m not a painter by trade, but I do a good job on them."
Among the few parts Moulding outsources are rubber tires. He generally uses hobby-shop issued intended for use on airplane models. He also repurposes small electric motors designed for automobiles.
He’s built several miniature steam engines since his first — he’ll sell one to you for about $1,000, considering the intricacy of the project and the time invested in building it. One of them was used to power a model of a vintage Case steam tractor, a piece of equipment that was primarily used for plowing and threshing.
"I even painted the Case eagle trademark on it," says Moulding. "I was born too late to get in on one of those threshers in real life, but I remember seeing some of them still working."
He’s not sure how many models he’s built to date, but they represent a broad cross-section of agricultural and road building equipment. His road construction fleet includes scrapers, graders, excavators and rock crushers — most of them are Cats.
However, Moulding’s favourite miniature model to date is the fully functional Komatsu track hoe, which performs the functions of its full-sized counterpart through a series of controls accessible from the rear of the model. It’s powered by an electric motor that Moulding removed from a power drill. The Komatsu features fully functional hydraulics including pumps and valving that animate the bucket, lifting it up and down.
"All of the models have to function as advertised before I’m ready to show them," he says. "Like the big guys, they also require some maintenance."
Moulding has displayed his models at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina and local flea markets. He’s also appeared at the Ignite! Festival at the Saskatchewan Science Centre. He most recently displayed a large selection of both his construction and agricultural models at the Bell Barn Horse Fair in the Historic Bell Barn in Indian Head, Sask.
At shows, he says, his models receive about equal attention from adults and youngsters. However, he particularly enjoys some of the comments from roadbuilding veterans, which he takes as compliments.
"They can take a look at my models and identify not only the make and model, but the year it was built," he says.