The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Shigeo Ogawa

O.S. Engines

Shigeo Ogawa was the founder and driving force behind the first highly successful model engines to come from Japan. (Photo courtesy of O.S. Engines Mfg. Co., Ltd., Japan.)

Model engines and model steam trains make for a successful career

Shigeo Ogawa as an elementary school child with his parents. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Born in 1917 in the Gifu Prefecture of Tajimi City, Japan, Shigeo Ogawa was fond of tinkering with machines from early childhood. When he became old enough, he attended an industrial school where he learned the fundamentals of engineering. As a student project he built a model engine that won a special award at a student science fair. This started him on a career in model engine building, eventually forming the OS Engine Company. Starting production of model steam engines in 1936 using a lathe purchased for 100 yen, the company also began producing the “Type 1” model engine that same year at the suggestion of an American buyer, Paul Houghton. The line of model engines is still being produced today. In 1984 Mr. Ogawa won the prestigious FAI Paul Tissandier Diploma, one of the highest honors in the world of aviation. Mr. Ogawa died at the age of 75 in 1992*.

*Source: O.S. Engines web site. Another source lists Mr. Ogawa passing away from a heart attack on November 4, 1991. Clarification is being sought.

Model airplane contests and innovation

Shigeo Ogawa was a big promoter of contests as being good for the industry. In his book he says:

"The model airplane boom was at its peak around the 1950's, and while a number of very large-scaled contests were held during that period, I personally did not particularly care for highly official and formalized competitions. I always believed that the true purpose of contests should reside in the practical improvement of the technical skills of the participants and not in the politics of contests themselves.

I also believe that the contests should not be encouraged merely for the purpose of publicizing one's company products. Regardless of whether the airplane is equipped with an O.S. engine or not, if the model flies well and attracts attention, potential model airplane enthusiasts can be recruited. An increase in the number of enthusiasts, in turn, should contribute to the expansion of the whole model hobby industry. Therefore, I never have hesitated to support any type of contest and cooperate positively toward its success, throughout my career."

Mr. Ogawa’s engines were noted for being very innovative, introducing many new milestones in model engine production. Among these were the first model Wankel rotary engine (1970). He also was the first to offer a production supercharged model engine in 1990. Always a driving force behind the company, Mr. Ogawa built up a team of “experts” to manage the company after his passing. In 1993 the company joined the Futaba Corporation.

A special interest in live steam trains

Mr. Ogawa’s other abiding interest besides model airplane engines was a love of live steam model railroading. As a student, he built a model live steam locomotive which received the top award at an exhibition. Within the model engineering fraternity, his self assembly kits for steam locomotives satisfied a demand from those who could afford but could not make their own engine, thereby giving enthusiasts the opportunity to own and operate a live steam engine locomotive. O.S. steam engines are of the highest quality and retail for several thousand dollars. The steam engine business was Mr. Ogawa’s personal whim, made possible by the financial success of the model airplane engine business. In 1977 he established a showroom called the Osaka Live Steam Center and three years later opened a similar showroom in Tokyo. Starting in 1978, with the engine business well in hand by his expert staff, he decided to travel around the world and see in person some of the original locomotives that inspired his models. He also joined a live steam club in Los Angeles and participated in a live steam locomotive gathering of over 100 engines in 1985 in Griffith Park.

Mr. Ogawa built a 1/2 mile (800 m) multi-gauge track at Nara, Japan, which has every facility including the biggest turntable in the model world. This track was open to all enthusiasts. His pride and joy was the geared turbine locomotive, a 1/12 scale (5 inch gauge) model of the Pennsylvania RR 6-8-6. The turbines ran at 40,000 and 60,000 RPM respectively to drive this 297 pound monster. It measured 9 feet over the engine and tender.

Mr. Ogawa is seen with a model of the O.S.-made Porter Mogul. Steam trains were one of his special passions. (Photo from Mr. Ogawa's book used with permission.)

Mr. Ogawa is the author of a book that details his life and career. It is entitled My Life and the Model Industry, written in 1986. The Joe Martin Foundation was given a copy of this book for our library, and much of the information and many of the photos shown here came from its pages.

Engine design and production highlights

In 1936, Mr. Ogawa started production with the “Type 1” engine. About 200 1.6 cc engines were exported under the “Pixie” brand name. The Type 1 followed standard American model i.c. engine design of the time. In 1937 it was succeeded by the much larger (6.92 cc) Type-2 and, in 1938, by the 7.45 cc Type-3. This was an original O.S. design which set the groundwork for future O.S. engine development.

In 1941 the O.S. Engine Mfg. Co. was established. In 1954 the first of a long line of O.S. ‘MAX’ engines, the MAX-1 29 and MAX-1 35 appeared, followed by the MAX-1 15 in 1955. In 1956, the MAX-1 15 powered model flown by Ronald Draper won the official FAI World Free-Flight Championship held in England.  This drew worldwide attention to O.S. engines and became the turning point that led, eventually, to O.S. prominence in the world market.

Production of a pulse jet model was begun in 1952. In 1954, the company started producing radio control equipment for models.

In either 1968 or 1970 (both dates are listed on different O.S. Engines web pages), O.S. introduced the first production miniature Wankel rotary combustion engine to international acclaim. Refined over the years, it remains the only regular production model engine of this type.

In 1973, new O.S. designed production machinery was used to produce the MAX-40SR. This was a 6.5 cc Schnuerle-scavanged engine, the first made in Japan. The 10 cc overhead-valve engine introduced in 1976 was the first volume-produced four-stroke model aircraft engine. Much quieter than current two-strokes, it was accepted for its “environmentally friendly” nature and spurred many other manufacturers to introduce four-stroke engines, although many were not as quiet as the O.S.

1979 saw the introduction of the first O.S. twin-cylinder engine, the FT-120. This became the starting point for the current range of multi-cylinder scale-type power units, including horizontally-opposed four-cylinder and radial type five-cylinder models often used on large flying scale models.

In 1983, a new, fully automated factory was built in Nara, Japan. The following year, a 1.8 km model railroad track was built next to the factory for running of live steam model trains. In 1997 a model car circuit was added to the facility.

A special high-performance version of the 20 cc single-cylinder FS-120S four stroke was introduced in 1990 as the FS-120-SP. This engine included an O.S. designed Roots type supercharger…the first offered on a production model engine. In 1995, Mr. Giichi Naruke won the FAI F3A (aerobatics) World Championship using this engine.

Although Mr. Ogawa passed away in 1992, in 1999, Mr. Ogawa’s expert staff in conjunction with Futaba Corporation developed an electronic fuel injection system for model engines, insuring that his vision of continued prominence of the company he founded is being carried on into the future.

Special thanks to Terry Burnett of England for his research on Mr. Ogawa’s model steam locomotives.

O.S. Links:

O.S. Engines US Distributor (Great Planes/USA)—

O.S. Engines Mfg. Co., Ltd. (Japan)—www. (English and Japanese versions)

Photos from the O.S. Factory and Product Line:

(Click photos for larger images.)

The first lathe that Mr. Ogawa purchased in 1936 for 100 yen stands proudly in the entrance to the modern plant in Nara, Japan.

(Photo from Mr. Ogawa's book, My Life and the Model Industry.)

Shigeo Ogawa's first engine, the OS MAX-1 from 1936. For a complete history in photos of every O.S. Engine produced, see and click on the "Manufacturing Timeline".

(Photo Copyright 2002 Hobbico Inc.  Used here with permission.)

(Following 14 photos are from Mr. Ogawa's book, "My Life and the Model Industry" and are reproduced with permission of O.S. Engines Co. Ltd.  and Hobbico Inc.)

Early and late engines from O.S. On the right is a tiny "Pixie" Type 1 from 1936, and on the left is a large multi-cylinder O.S. FF-240 Pegasus from 1986.

More significant engines from O.S. history: (Left) an O.S.-Graupner Wankel RE-I-49 from 1968 and (Right) a 1950 O.S. 29.

On loan courtesy of Joshua Vest

OS Wankle

OS partnered with Graupner to produce the first  Wankle model airplane engine in 1970. Learn more about this unusual engine via an on-line review by David R. Janson at

Photos: Joe Martin Foundation

The Ogawa Model Mfg. Co., Ltd building in 1967.
The Office building and main factory

The new factory building at Nara

Production line at the Nara plant.
Mr. Ogawa's factory workshop in 1936.
The first run of pulse jets on the production line in 1952.
Approximately one week's production run of O.S. Type-8 engines in 1942.
Mr. Ogawa started building this very large model of the Queen Mary during WW II. He finally finished it after the war. This shot was taken at its maiden voyage fitted with radio control gear in 1956.
A live steam locomotive meet at the O.S. factory yard in January, 1983.
Mr. Ogawa running the first test on his British Railways Britannia express locomotive.
Mr. Ogawa takes his guests for a ride behind one of his locomotives. Mr. Hans Graupner and Mr. R. Robitschko of West Germany are passengers in this photo.
Mr. Ogawa received the prestigious Paul Tissandier Diploma at this presentation ceremony in 1984. The diploma is presented by the FAI (International Aeronautical Federation) to persons who have made a significant international contribution to aviation progress. The award is being presented by former winner Dr. H. Kimura.

Donated by Art Pesch/Hobbico

OS MAX-46AX 2-cycle engine

This engine from 2003 is more typical of modern OS production engines. It displaces 0.455 cubic inches or 7.45 cc. The bore is 0.866" and stroke is 0.772". It runs in an RPM range of from 2000 to 17,000 RPM and weighs 13.2 oz (375 g). The silencer assembly adds 4.02 oz. Photos: Joe Martin Foundation

Donated by Jerry Nelson

O.S. FS-120S SP Supercharged single cylinder

1990 (No longer in production)


   • 4-cycle, single cylinder

   • Supercharger: Roots type

   • Displacement 1.200 cu. in.

   • Bore: 1.197 in

   • Stroke: 1.083 in

   • RPM range: 2000-11,000

   • Power: 2.50 bhp

   • Weight (w/o muffler): 36.30 oz

Applications: Model aircraft-pattern/aerobatics

This example was donated to the museum new in the original box with all original paperwork and tools.

Photos: Joe Martin Foundation

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