Photos and illustrations by the author
A recent move forced me to start afresh on my O scale branchline layout. On the new layout I wanted a feed mill to generate grain traffic and to convey the feel and architecture of a Midwestern road in 1953 my railroads time period. I looked at the Walthers O scale feed mill and liked it a lot. A friend had one on his layout. In fact, I almost bought the kit. However, in the final analysis the Walthers mill was deemed too small for the scene block in which the mill would set. Since I enjoy both kit and scratchbuilding, I decided to go ahead and build a feed mill from scratch. I began to go through my files and back issues of magazines.
One of the things Ive done over the years is to copy or cut out articles on structures and rolling stock for future times. I now have a couple of file drawers stuffed with projects. Ill never get to all of them, but thats okay. They never fail to provide me with ideas and stimulation to get cracking on the railroad. While going through my structures folder, I found an old favorite that Id looked at many times before the Peachey Bros. Feed Mill. The project had begun life as a construction article written by John Wollin for the May 1959 issue of Model Railroader. The mill still stands in Burnett, Wisconsin, on the Soo Line and except for minor changes it looks much like it did in 1959. At least it did a couple of years ago when unbeknownst to me, my friend Dean Segal photographed it.
I decided at the outset that this project would be pure old-fashioned scratchbuilding. The only commercial items used were Grandt Line windows, doors, nut and bolt castings, and Microscale decals. I used Northeastern Scale Lumber board-and-batten basswood siding and roofing over my own table-sawn pine framing.
John Wollin built his model in HO, but fortunately for me he included all of the prototypes original dimensions on his drawings. I enlarged the Model Railroader drawings to one-half O scale (1/8" to the foot). This enabled me to easily convert the prototype dimensions to O scale. Once this was done, I drew up working full-size O scale framing drawings. I didnt draw mill elevations in O scale as it really wasnt necessary. The half-size O scale drawings covered any dimensional questions I had.
I had finished the drawings and framed up the three buildings that comprise the overall mill structure when I talked with my friend Dean Segal. When I told him I was adding a feed mill to my layout and that it followed the outlines of the Peachey Bros. Mill in Burnett, WI, Dean floored me. He said hed been through Burnett a couple of years ago and taken pictures of the Peachey Bros. Mill while railfanning the area. Talk about sheer serendipity!
The original mill walls and roofing are mostly corrugated steel siding. The exceptions are the office and the back wall of the main structure. The office was sided in stamped brick and the back of the main structure is sided in board-and-batten with a divider separating the row of lower planking from the upper row. Skinning the walls and roofs in corrugated steel panels per the prototype represented more work and expense than I cared to devote to a project of this size.
Considering that I still had to finish a railroad, I elected to speed things up and cover all four sides of the main building and the warehouse with Northeastern Scale Lumber 3/16" board-andbatten siding. On the roofs, I used Northeasterns 3/8" board-andbatten sheets to simulate a ribbed steel roof. For the office, 1/8" clapboard siding and corner trim were used. I also went with a brighter paint scheme than the originals galvanized steel, which had weathered to a dull rusty blue-gray.
With the exception of the largest front office wall window, I did not make any of my own windows as John Wollin did on his HO model. In the 50s, he might have done so out of sheer necessity, but with the array of windows available today from Grandt Line, it was really a no-brainer to place an order for windows and doors with them.
Note that this is a big model in O scale. My mill is 22" long Nearly finished front wall of the main structure. It is much easier to detail at this stage than it is when the structure is complete. and 9" deep. The overall height is 14" . I enjoy constructing these larger structures, but you'll need to make sure you allow for the footprint if you decide to build. If the model is built in HO or N scale, corrugated steel siding may be the way to go.
Study the drawings before you begin cutting wood. Youll see that the feed mill is made up of three distinct structures: the office with its distinctive false front, the main building with its long loading dock and Cyclone grain handler, and a tiny warehouse that flanks the end opposite the office. I recommend framing and siding all three structures and adding their respective foundations before joining them into a single unit because handling a structure this large when adding details and paint can be a real challenge.
I began construction by ripping clear pine (I used scrap cutoffs from my daughters home construction project) into 3/8" square strips. Youll need 32' of this framing stock in O scale. Alternately, you could use balsa, spruce, redwood, bass, cedar or other seasoned woods, depending on what you have on hand. If you use balsa in O scale, stick with 3/8" squares; for harder woods, 1/4" square strips might be heavy enough. The point is, this is a big structure in O scale, and you dont want your walls warping a year after you finish your mill.
I ripped all of my framing lumber on a Dremel table saw with a combination rip/crosscut blade. Its the perfect saw for this size lumber. I used an X-Acto aluminum miter box and saw to make the many required 90 cutoffs. While you have your table saw going, cut a bunch of 1" square reinforcing gussets. These will be used to strengthen the buildings corners and doorframes.
I built all of my wall frames on a 2' x 4' ceiling tile building board. This stuff readily holds straight pins and reminded me of when I used to build stick-and-tissue model airplanes. The sawn framing is pinned securely over the full-size framing drawing. I use clear refrigerator wrap over the drawing to prevent glue from sticking to the drawing. I used a new packet of straight pins and Elmers Glue-all to assemble the frames. You can buy straight pins at the fabric store. The ones with the round heads are easiest on your fingers when pushing the pins into the pine. Alternately, use a small pair of long-nose pliers to push in those pesky pins. A small bottle of Elmers glue purchased at the drug store will do the entire job and leave you enough glue for your next basswood project. Allow several hours for the white glue to completely cure before you take up the walls from your building board.
I assembled the flat wall frames of the office into a structure before I added siding. This was done to facilitate the installation of the corner trim boards. You may or may not wish to go this route with the office. Its much easier to completely finish each wall with details, paint and decals before you assemble the walls into a structure. The overall structure in O scale is too large and cumbersome to afford easy access to the detail and decaling work.
Since my mill was more freelanced than an accurate copy of the Burnett mill, I chose to cover the main structure and warehouse with Northeastern Scale Lumber board-and-batten siding. This siding is 1/16" thick and has 3/16" batten spacing. I covered the office walls with Northeasterns 1/8" clapboard siding. I used 1/16" x 1/8" trim boards at the corners. (The actual mills main structure was covered in corrugated steel paneling on three sides. Its backside was clad in board-and-batten siding. The warehouse was skinned with the same corrugated siding as on the main structure. The office was completely clad in brick embossed steel sheet.) The office false front is trimmed out with 1/16" x 1/4" bass trim applied to both sides and the top of the false front. The trim should extend 1/16" to frame out the sign that will eventually be mounted there. On the back wall of the main structure, note the 1/16" x 1/4" board that runs the length of the back wall. It acts as a horizontal trim board for the board-and-batten siding.
Do not cover the walls where the office and warehouse join the main structure. Leave these walls open as they will be hidden at final assembly of the complex.
I installed the loading and entry doors, cut all the openings for the Grandt windows, and finished the front of the main structure while the walls were still in the flat. At that time, I also installed the 1/4" square vertical braces that appear on the eave ends and back faces of the main building. Held in place with interior tie rods and exterior nuts and washers, the tie rods must have been used to offset the pressure of feed and grain in the bins inside the mill. I used Grandt Line nut and bolt castings to replicate the hardware on the braces.
Youll need to cut away the basswood siding on the front of the main structure to open up the loading doors. The siding is trimmed to follow the 3/8" square interior framing door outlines. I built up the loading-door jambs with 1/32" x 1/8" bass strip. The loading doors themselves are 1/16 " scribed bass sheet cut to fit just behind the jambs. I used the same 1/32" x 1/8" strip to do the loading doors exterior trim. Youll have to trim away battens to allow the door trim to fit snugly against the siding. I modeled one of the loading doors partially open and installed a bit of false floor where the floor would be visible. The loading dock roof overhang is cut from 1 /32" birch ply. The ply roof is then framed with 1/ 32" x 1/ 8" fascia and angular supports. Again, youll have to cut away the battens where the roof meets the front wall. Its an easy job with a steel straight edge and a X-Acto #11 blade.
The last item on the main structures front wall is the grain chute. I constructed mine as shown in the drawings. It is suspended and kept clear of truck traffic by a chain that runs from a iron strap on the chute though a pulley in the roof overhang into the 3 ' square wall opening where it must have been secured. I assume this chute is used to load trucks. As its shown in the photos and drawings, its too low to fill hoppers, gons or boxcars.
The unassembled walls can be painted now. After the paint is dry, install the prepainted and glazed Grandt line windows. Decaling can also be done at this time. I brush painted my walls with Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint available in 2 oz. bottles from craft stores. This paint is inexpensive, water-soluble, and works great on raw pine and bass when brushed on. It tends to soak into the wood, affording a soft patina that I like. I can rub off what I dont like and even completely remove a still-wet application with a damp cloth. Its available in hundreds of useful model railroad colors. I havent tried spraying it, and I probably wouldnt use it on styrene, but I really like the way it works when brushed or wiped onto bare basswood.
When all of the walls were completely finished, I erected each of the structures into a four-sided structure. I ensured that that all four corners of each building were at 90 and each wall was vertically plumb. I did this on a glass plate I keep for this purpose. Dry fit each set of walls and note how the walls overlap and fit into each other at the eave ends. I didnt bother with a floor in any of the structures. You can install floors if you like. I added a foundation and underpinnings to each of three buildings.
The office foundation is a strip of 3/8" deep x 1/2" tall pine that replicates a poured 24" concrete foundation. The main structure foundation is a bit more interesting with its individual underpinnings of cinderblock piers and poured stretches of 24" tall concrete. The warehouse sits 6" lower than the rest of the complex. It rests on a set of 18" piers that could be cinderblock in construction. I used pieces of leftover 3/8" square framing pine to support my warehouse. This small offset in height adds interest and charm to the overall structure.
The cupola perched on the roof of the main structure is a simple box made up of four pieces of Northeastern board-and-batten siding with the same 3/16" spacing as the rest of the siding. I braced the interior with 1 /4" square corners and a cross brace to keep the walls straight.
The Cyclone, which sits on the cupola roof, is another simple box, which I made from the ubiquitous Northeastern boardand-batten siding. I really had no idea how the Cyclone and its associated piping worked until I studied the photos of the actual mill. And then after more head scratching and thanks to a career in selling both large AC and very small vacuum cleaner motors, the answer came. (At least I think its the right answer.) The vertical round cylinder on the Cyclone roof had to be a motor and a darn big one probably in the 50-hp range. The dome above the motor had to be a rain cap, common in such outdoor applications. That solved, what was the motor turning in the drum enclosure just beneath the motor? It had to be a very large squirrel cage or vaned cylinder. Note in the drawing of the Cyclone there are tangential inlet and outlet pipes. The spinning vanes create a vacuum at the inlet pipe and blower pressure at the outlet pipe. I assume that the Cyclone lifts/sucks grain or feed up to the Cyclone and then sends it down to the loading chute and into a truck, or it may be used to transfer grain from one storage bin to another within the main structure.
I built my Cyclone from three different diameters (5/8", 7/8" and 1 1/8" ) of birch doweling. These were epoxied together, and then the inlet and exhaust tubes were added and shaped to fit into the ends of 1/4" -diameter brass tubing. The grain tubes are shaped using slots in the tubes and solder to achieve the required bends. Do not install the two grain tubes until the roof is in place. The tubes simply drop through the main roof and are reinforced inside the main structure.
The roofing comes next. I used Northeastern board-and-batten with 3/8" spacing for all three roofs. Take your time. It may take a couple of sittings to completely finish this much roof. Since the sheet I used was 1 /16" thick, I decided not to use the usual exposed or boxed rafters and 1/32" x 1/8" fascia boards. I painted the edges of all of my roofing in the same color as the walls and then applied two brushed coats of Floquil Old Silver to the roof itself, keeping the paint on the roof and not the edges. Its a faux fascia look, I know, but from a couple of feet you really don't notice.
Well, at least I dont notice it. With the roofing done, its time for final assembly of the three structures into the Peachey Bros. feed mill complex. If your walls are square and plumb, this will be a relatively simple task. Quite honestly, I had to do a tiny bit of shimming on the office to get everything right. But, hey, two out of three in plumb aint bad! I weathered the roofing with a few light passes of an airbrush loaded with Floquil Rust. Just enough to suggest this galvanized roof had been up there for awhile. I weathered the lower sections of the complex with Polly S Concrete, a lighter hue than Floquils Concrete. I dusted the building to suggest it had seen a lot of grain movements over the years.
My decals came from two different sets of Microscale O scale feed mill decals. I applied Testors Glosscote to the Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint and followed the decal installation with a light covering of Dullcote and more weathering to finish off the project. Im satisfied with the model, and its certainly an eye-catcher by virtue of its size...and with it being weathered, its color doesnt jump out at the viewer.
In O scale, this is a big project. If you decide to build it, take your time along with lots of coffee breaks. Now I gotta get Dean Segal into my basement to see if I really did capture the essence of the Peachey Bros. Mill.