The Bay Area Engine Modelers Club (BAEM)

Added to museum: 3/26/04

Active, innovative and enthusiastic modelers gather to build, run and discuss small internal combustion engines

 BAEM clube members display their engines at a recent model engineering show in Oregon. These supercharged V-8's attracted a lot of attention, as did other engines on display. Their large, active club can always be counted on to have a good display of engines at West coast events. (Click photo to view a larger image.)

Shared interests make for rapid progress

The Bay Area Engine Modelers (BAEM) is a club for those interested in building, running and discussing internal combustion engines. They have a large membership in the San Francisco, CA bay area, but also have associate members all over the USA and in other countries as well. Gathering people of varied skills and interests in a club like this to share their knowledge is not only fun for all, it also has the effect of improving the level of craftsmanship of all members much more rapidly than each member could achieve working alone. BAEM is an excellent example of how well this type of organization can be run. Several years ago, Robert Washburn, publisher of the magazine Strictly I.C.* asked the BAEM group to describe how their club was formed for a magazine article to help others thinking of forming clubs in their area. The following information about how the club began and is run was gathered from the article submitted by the club secretary, Dr. Bob Kradjian and has been updated and edited by Craig Libuse.

*Strictly I.C. magazine has ceased publication, but back issues are available. Those interested can write to former publisher Robert Washburn at 24920 43red Avenue South, Kent, WA 98032. (“I.C.” stands for Internal Combustion.)

Getting the club going

In 1993, Gordon French wrote an article on camshaft grinding that was printed in Stricly I.C. magazine, Issue No. 32, April/May 1993. Several San Francisco Bay Area enthusiasts who were already members of the local steam power organizations and subscribers to SIC read Gordon’s article. As a result, several asked Gordon to start a club devoted to the building of miniature internal combustion engines. He thought the idea “would never succeed,” but in order to stop the nagging Gordon asked Robert and Frances Washburn for help, and a set of mailing labels of SIC subscribers in the local area was promptly recieved. With this information, Gordon mailed meeting notices to eighty addresses, made some phone calls, fielded a raft of return phone calls and waited.

The first meeting was held on December 17, 1993. It was a success with over 30 attendees. The response was so positive the group decided to meet again the next month—and the next month—and the next. In short, the group has never stopped meeting from that time to the present. At the outset, a common question of the attendees was, “What does the group plan to do?” Published in an early newsletter, the answer was: “Build, run and tune miniature internal combustion engines.” And, by the third meeting the list of mailings had grown to about a hundred names.

At the outset, the fledgling club had no formal organization. Gordon simply passed a hat among the interested parties to collect the costs of sending out the newsletter, which at the time came to about fifty cents per letter. Before the group was a year old it became apparent that at least a modicum of organization was needed. Three officers were designated: President, Treasurer and Secretary/Newsletter Editor. Dues were established at US$25.00 per year chiefly to cover the cost of the newsletter and to gain insurance coverage by joining the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractor Association (EDGE&TA).

Where to meet

The first three meetings were held; two at a machine shop and the other at a restaurant with a meeting room. The fourth meeting found the club at an aeronautical museum in Oakland, CA. Soon the problem of a meeting place was solved when member Paul Bennet offered his race car fabrication shop for use by the club in November, 1994. Except for field trips and swap meets, they have met there for over five years (as of the writing in 2000).

Meetings that keep people coming back

Meeting notices stress that visitors are welcome at all meetings. The meeting structure is very informal. The president asks for calm! He then starts by asking if there are any visitors. They are asked if they would like to join the club. Essential club business is then dealt with as quickly as possible in order to get to the truly important matters, which, of course, involve all aspects of miniature I.C. engines. Nothing will kill a club more quickly than to have meetings dominated by endless discussion and bickering about trivial matters. The meetings must be enjoyable. If they are not, the club will not last long.

A call is made to describe any “first pops” since the previous meeting. “First pop” refers to the completion and running of a new engine. Such an auspicious event is given the respect due the birth of any eagerly anticipated child. At every meeting members are encouraged to bring with them work in progress, new projects, finished engines, tooling or anything else they believe will be of interest (and to which they have bragging rights). There is a table set up at the front of the room for the purpose. Fetched things are placed on the table as they arrive. They are referred to as “bits and pieces.” If a member has a specific area of expertise, such as silver soldering or tube bending, he might give a short talk on the subject to pass on some of his knowledge to others.

The newsletter—the heartbeat of a club

The club newsletter is what ties everything together. It reviews what has gone on, previews what will go on and showcases work that has been done by members. Not everyone can make every meeting, so the newsletter keeps everyone up to date and feeling a part of the club. BAEM’s is called The Crank Calls. They consider the newsletter editor more important to the success of the club than the president, and putting out a first class newsletter is a priority. They use a lot of color photos, and digital photography and desktop publishing has brought this ability to anyone with a camera, home computer and color printer. The newsletter comes out about one week before the coming meeting and serves as both a reminder to attend and an inspiration for those unable to attend the meetings. Many collect the past issues in a binder. In 2000, the total cost of each newsletter was about $1.00 which includes postage and envelope. A hard working editor will invest about 6-8 hours of work in each issue in design, writing, printing and mailing.

Attending special events

The club appears not only at model engineering shows, but also at major automobile shows and Concours d’Elegance. They bring displays and also demonstrate the running of some of the engines. Grown men come running when a tiny V8 is fired up. They have been asked back to every event where they have exhibited due to the popularity of their displays. They also average about two field trips a year. They visit places like machine shops, restoration facilities, air museums, tool shows and members’ shops. They also host an annual swap meet where members can clean out the junk in their garage and replace it with someone else’s junk…at bargain prices, of course. At Christmas they have a social evening called a “snack and yack” with pot-luck food and deserts brought by the members and wives. Naturally the festivities are highlighted by the running of engines.

In summary, the members appreciate the club as a gathering of good friends with a common passion—the building and running of miniature internal combustion engines. They enjoy displaying their own work, seeing that of others, learning new techniques from others and, most of all, talking with others who share their love of small IC engines.

The Bay Area Engine Modeler’s club can be found on the Internet at There you can find a schedule of meetings and upcoming events as well as newsletters going back to November, 2000. You can also see many photos of the fine work of the members, some of which are reproduced below.

For a sample issue (March, 2004) of their newsletter, Crank Calls, CLICK HERE. Current and past issues can be found on their web site.

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For a list of model engineering clubs, see

Some models by members of BAEM...

(click on any photo for a larger image.)

Morton 5-cylinder radial aircraft engine

Tractor with Sterling engine
Wall "Wizard" horizontally opposed engine
Wall 4-cylinder in-line engine. Note dual copper coil radiator with fans beneath for cooling.
Components of a 4-cylinder in-line engine
Single-cylinder engine
Panther Pup 4-cylinder in-line engine. Note wooden display base with drawer that contains all the components of a second engine.
Challenger V-8. The V-8 engines always attract a big crowd when they are fired up and reved.
Schillings V-8 with double overhead camshafts on each bank and dual carburetors. Note red cam cover is removed on one bank for visibility.
Silver Bullet 2-cylinder engine. This Bob Shores design can be purchased as a kit with castings plus plans.
50 cc Wall 4-cylinder built by Ken Hurst
Right side view of the Wall 4

Left side of the Wall 4 showing the ignition switch, starter button and temperature gage on the display base.

Clen Tomlinson is featured individually in the model engineering section, but he is an associate member of the BAEM club hailing from England. Learn more about his amazing 18-cylinder, 36-piston Deltic engine on his own page.

Let us know about your club

If you are a member of an active group of craftsmen, send us information on your club. We will be glad to help you show others what you do as a group. Include a statement about the goals and accomplishments of your club and photos of some of the projects produced by the members or by the club as a group. Include contact information for people who are interested in joining. If you have a web address, we will provide a link.

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New Submissions Welcomed

If you have additional information on a project or builder shown on this site that your would like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome new contributions. Please see our page at for a submission form and guidelines for submitting descriptive copy and photos for a new project.

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