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Rural Windmills:
N Scale, and HO
By Ken Breher
Reprinted with permission of
"Railroad Model Craftsman"

      Long before Americans were spoiled by abundant electrical energy, rural farmers were faced with the need to "automate" some of their chores. Beasts of burden became important in moving their products and for pulling their implements of production. Simple tasks such as watering the herd or filling a cistern became the chore of the windmill. Even electricity generation became a small-scale possibility with the rural windmill.

      These windmills dotted the landscape throughout the Midwestern states and Great Plains. Many exist today, albeit in a continuing downward spiral condition. They can still be seen regularly in East Central Iowa on the many "family" farms.

      Yesteryear Creations has introduced a nicely-etched brass kit for a 50-foot N scale windmill. It could also double as a 25-foot mill in HO if you replace the ladder with a piece of HO scale ladder stock. The mill represents a steel structure, common to much of the rural countryside.

      I built the RMC sample as the N scale variation and later modified the blade assembly following a suggestion from the manufacturer. The kit contains a fret with the etched pieces and two brass pins which are used for the blade shaft and the long rod that translates the motion from the top of the mill to the machine being driven at the bottom of the mill’s tower. The fret is made of .010" brass sheet onto which the various parts of the windmill are etched. The etching is finely done, with fold lines etched partway through. Each part is held in place by small tabs which are also etched part way through.

      I used five tools to assemble the kit; a hobby knife with a No. 11 blade; a small, flat needle file; a pair of "negative tweezers"; a pair of flush cutting rail nippers and a small piece of Plastruct angle to use as a glue applicator. All gluing was done with cyanoacrylate.

      I took a few minutes to read through the instructions before I started. The instructions are through, yet simply stated, and are supplemented with several drawings to show the assembly process. I followed the instructions exactly as printed (a feat of near impossible magnitude for me!) and finished the model in 42 minutes (excluding painting). Everything went together as designed, and the result was a beautiful N scale windmill. At this point you have the opportunity to clear-coat the brass model or to paint it and/or weather it.

      While talking with the manufacturer at a model railroad convention, their representative told me of an alternate approach on the blade assembly which will enhance the appearance. The standard construction, according to the instructions, results in a model with a ring around the extreme circumference of the blades. I was told that one of their customers attached a wire ring about two thirds of the way between center and the outsides radius, and then removed the outside ring.

      Since the manufacturer provides two complete blade assemblies, I used the second assembly to try this alternative technique. After removing the blade assembly from the fret, I used the alignment tool provided in the kit to set the blades at the recommended angle. I then rolled a piece of 0.016" brass wire around the handle of a marking pen (sized to the same diameter as the proposed location of its mounting on the blade assembly). I used cyanoacrylate to attach the ring to the back of the blade assembly, making sure that it contacted each blade. Lastly, I laid the assembly on its back and carefully cut through the attachment points between each blade and the outer ring. By carefully prying at the large washer (Part No. 11) at the back of the power head, I was able to remove the washer and push the brass pin free. This allowed me to replace the stock blade assembly with the modified one.

      The Rural Windmill kit has a lot going for it. I would strongly recommend this to the modeler who has never attempted to work in etched brass, as it has all the right stuff for success. The etching is very well executed, the parts all fit without modification (only a little filing to remove the burrs at the attachment points to the fret), the instructions are accurate and easy to read and follow and it assembles into a beauty of a model. It can be assembled, painted and weathered in a single evening, and is in general, a joy to build. Although the parts are very delicate appearing, I managed to assemble the windmill without destroying any of them. Whether you model in N scale or in HO scale, the windmill should find a place in the farm scene on anyone’s model railroad. See your dealer for prices.

P.O. Box 2504, Florence, Oregon, 97439
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(c) Copyright 1999    Stephanie and Lee Oman     All rights reserved