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Sculpture may be preview to something very detailed
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Tom Nelson recently completed a steam locomotive complete with tender filled with uniform blocks of wood. He says the project became more detailed than he originally intended. He noted that even cutting the consistent size wood blocks was time consuming.

“I could have split an entire pickup load of firewood during the time it took to cut the blocks for the tender,” Nelson says.

Trains apparently run in Nelson blood. His dad, the late metal sculptor Ellis Nelson, created several locomotives, one of which has stood in front of the east-side studio for about 20 years. Tom says he has had requests to produce a couple of locomotives similar to the Ellis version and he has been collecting the necessary materials.

However, Tom has a much more detailed project running through his mind. He says he has been collecting information, specifications, plans, etc., to build a one-eighth scale “Shey” operating steam locomotive. He says he hopes to begin machining some of the parts during the coming winter.

However, it’s a long-range project as Nelson estimates it may take as many as 2,000 hours of precise machining throughout several years to reach the goal. He plans to build everything but the boiler and has someone who will do that for him.

Nelson says liquid fuel or gas could power his model, but plans to fire it with coal.

“I like the smoke!,” he says.

The Shey locomotives were narrow gauge locomotives with a number of them used in the logging woods in northern Wisconsin from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Nelson says the loggers would lay the tracks as they advanced into the woods, sometimes up very steep grades. One of the engines is on display at the North Freedom Mid-Continent Train Museum, he notes. And, he says, there is an operational engine displayed at Mount Pleasant, Iowa in the large collection of steam equipment there.