Mill-inery and Switching Positions

This post has nothing to do with hats. It’s a disingenuous bait and switch. It’s really about model train scenery. Now that you know, on to the fun stuff. (I’m sure I’ll talk about actual hats at some point in the future… Just not in this entry.)

I mentioned in a previous post all my research on water wheels and mills so I could improve the believably of the mill on my model train layout. Ironically, I’m doing all of this with the intention of installing a plausible structure, and then labeling it “The Old Mill Restaurant and Lounge, or “The Old Mill Bar & Grill”, which is more fun to say. I don’t really intend to make it a working industry. Any industry that used a water mill would have been completely transformed by oil and electricity by modern times, anyway. I would like to have an “historic landmark” mill wheel there simply because I think they’re cool. And I needed a water feature that would fit nicely in the space available.  A mill pond and stream fit the bill.

The thing is, I’m still not really sure what kind of wheel to build. There really isn’t enough ‘head’ for an overshot wheel, and there definitely wouldn’t be enough current in that stream for an undershot. A breastshot or combination backwards overshot and breastshot wheel would make good use of the space, I think, as well as having the option of closing the ‘overshot’ flume in low water volume times, and opening it for higher ones. Mind you, all of this is going to have to be very seriously kitbashed, or stick-built… Or a combination of the two. The ‘cup’ (or whatever it’s called) for the breastshot water wheel and the retaining wall for the race will certainly have to be built in to the scenery. If I decide to use a configuration that includes a flume, I’ll certainly have to stick build that.

All of this, of course, is coming from the “expertise” that a couple of hours on Google and Wikipedia provided me. And for that reason, I’m opening the conversation up to you who may have an opinion – members, family, and any other interested parties. Do you have a mill wheel on your railroad? Did you analyze it, or just stick it there? Do you know anything about the physics or implementation of miniature, imaginary industry?

This is the space I am working with, with a ‘sample’ mill building and water wheel. I took the wheel off and stuck it where it would actually go in the water and landscape…. I’m not all that interested in the building, as I will explain later.

milltest1Here’s another option that I have. This water wheel is slightly smaller, but has a more realistic construction. I didn’t remove the wheel yet because it rotates freely, and I have distant dreams of putting a tiny motor in the building to make it turn.

milltest2Without the buildings, the base construction looks like this:

emptyspotriverbed (Yes, I know I have a bad case of John Allen syndrome. I’ve done my best to make the bridges fit the space, not vice verse, but… I like bridges. :P)

So, what do you think about the water wheel situation? Looking at it in photographs, I see that the ‘combination’ isn’t going to work with the larger wheel and may barely work with the smaller one, but writing about it is helpful in deciding.

On to the next question: I’d really like the mill building to look and have a footprint similar to the Motor Mill in rural Elkader, IA. It’s a beautiful building and has great character. While that one doesn’t have a vertical water wheel, it is very demonstrative of a building from the right time frame that has been preserved. Also, it’s from “right ’round here”, so it’s special.


My building-structures-on-model-train-layout life would be made a whole lot simpler (First World Problems…) if I could find a reasonably-priced “kit” that has this general look. The things I’m interested in are the roof style and position, the random stone exterior, and at least 3 stories. 4 or 5 would be great, so I can contour it to the terrain. If the window and door openings were similar, it would also be helpful. That is why I am appealing specifically to the model railroading community with this question, because I know you’ve seen something somewhere! I would prefer not to completely stickbuild the thing, although I may end up doing that if I insist on going with my vision. Would also not like to pay over $30 for the kit. With what I’ve already invested, I should have just bought one of the expensive kits in the first place, but I digress…

The third question I have is one of reality and aesthetics. I have a certain amount of space, and I have a tiny (but very, very important to this area of the nation) industry to fit there. Namely, a Walther’s Cornerstone Series grain elevator that does not fit perfectly along the streambank due to elevation changes. I have found a way to kind of creatively kitbash the elevator in to the available space, but it involves putting the truck loading dock at a completely different elevation than the train loading dock. I don’t know of an existing example of this, but it makes sense to me as something that may very well happen. Snuggle those grain silos right up against the cliff, squeeze a tiny switching yard on the ‘flat’ side, and put a retaining wall up to keep the extra earth where it belongs…. My question here is really: which direction looks better and makes more sense? Silos to the outside, or elevator to the outside…




Here is the model with the silos out. It’s not level because I have a gradual plaster of Paris slope there because I was imagining traffic. I can fix that later! The styrene sheet will be leveled, and then some sloping driveways added to reach the main street and what will most likely be a co-op gas station next door. The street is painted a little off from where it would be in this configuration. (I added one before we had any buildings because my son was dying to have a ‘crossing’. ) I also rounded up every building I could find, regardless of their state of construction or final home, to take up space and better envision the final configuration for the street..

In these photos, the grain elevator is reversed – “bins in”, as it were. This may make better use of space, but I think the drive may look too steep for truckers to back in to the loading shed. They have to back in – there isn’t enough space for a turnaround.


If I install the elevator this way, I’ll definitely build a lean-to “office addition” on to the bottom story with the extra stuff I have from that “Pikestuff Kitbash” engine house in the background. Also will build a small retaining wall for the slope where the level loading area meets the hilly town, and put a small parking space in the tiny triangle of extra space.

So, what do you think? I would love ideas and feedback! Thank you.

And a bonus click-through gallery:


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.