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January 7, 2014 The Mabry Mill Project

Awhile back my model railroading friend Dan sent me a picture of the Mabry Mill and suggested it would be a nice scratch build project.  My first thought was I didn't have any room or a setting for a mill on my layout.  It did look like a very interesting project as I really like building from scratch.  The more I looked at the mill and doing Google Image Searches the more I liked the idea.  There are hundreds of pictures of the mill online,  The picture below is one of my favorites.

I decided it might be a good project but there was still a problem, it won't fit in anywhere on my layout.  I have a couple of creeks on my layout but no room for another structure near one of the creeks.  Although I was getting a little wound up with the water wheel and thinking about how neat it would look if it was animated.

Dan also told me about a water wheel kit from Branch Line Trains that he found on E-Bay.  I had been playing around on my CAD to see if scratch building a water wheel was doable.  It looked like it was doable but it would require a lot of time consuming detail work.  After looking at the Laser-Art Water Wheel Kit several times on E-Bay did it for me, I did a Buy It Now so I was committed to the project.  I had decided to build the mill as a standalone to display in my hobby room.

 Well things change!  After My beautiful wife took one look at my almost finished mill she ask where it was going.  When I told her on a display shelf she said "you have to find a spot on your layout for it".  She absolutely loved it as soon as she saw it.  After some reverse planing I decided I could put the mill where my Silver Spur Mine is.  I could remove the mine and replace it with the mill expanding one of my creeks past the mill.  When I excitedly told my wife about my plan she informed me that she also loves the mine so that can't go away either.

The area where the mine was will handle a creek easy enough but I still need to come up with enough believable water to turn the water wheel on the mill.  A large water source wasn't in my original layout design, only a couple of trickling creeks.

When kit arrived I opened it and did a through inspection then started assembling it.  I quickly noticed from my research that the water wheel in the kit was too narrow.  The Mabry Mill Water Wheel is 4 feet wide and the wheel in the kit is HO scale 2 feet wide, the scale 14' 6" diameter was correct.

The fix was rather simple, I made some additional spacer rings to widen the drum.  To complete this simple fix it will require some wider paddle material too.  The paddle material in the kit is 1/64" thick plywood, that I'll have to order.  At this point I have to say the accuracy and detail of the Laser-Art Kit is superb.  All the Laser cuts are perfect and the wheel almost goes together by it's self. 

I cut the additional rings using a Xacto Compass Knife from 1/16" sheet basswood, they came out perfect.  The rings would be much better if they were made from plywood but the basswood worked out OK.

I used a 2½" long 8-32 bolt through the wheel as a temporary shaft to turn the wheel in my drill press to sand the center hub smooth and true the wheel sides.  The wheel turned out prefect, absolutely no wobble.
While I was waiting on the 1/64" Midwest Plywood to arrive I went to work drawing up the building on my CAD.  I found some very good Government restoration drawings of the Mabry Mill online at the Library of Congress.


I used the dimensions from the Government drawings to draw up HO scale templates for each wall section.

I cut out the walls from HO scale Midwest Board & Batten Siding.  Dan was also interested in building an HO scale Mabry Mill so I cutout a set of walls and wheel expander rings for him too.  According to the Government site drawing of the building it was composed of both clapboard and Board & Batten Siding.  I chose to build mine with all walls using Board & Batten, Dan wanted the mix per the prototype.

The picture above is of the walls that I made for Dan using both types of siding per the prototype.

I actually ended up making a second mill for myself, the first attempt didn't work out as good as I wanted.  I made several mistakes in construction and decided to start over.  The picture below was my first attempt at building the mill.

The first mill below is what my wife fell in love with, I have to admit at this point I had decided that it would make an impressive model if done right.

I had made an individual floor for each section of the building on my first attempt and that was a major error, the second error was using Campbell shingles for the roof, they didn't look right for that type of building.  The larger sheet type shingles used on the replica look much better.

I changed the design slightly on my second attempt and assembled each section as an individual building then attached them together.

When I built my first Campbell Kit many years ago I fell in love with corner post construction so now every one of my scratch built buildings have corner posts.  I make the corner posts on my Dremel Router from 3/16" square basswood strips. 

Each section of the building now has it's own floor attached to the main floor to keep the structure inline and level.  I added the other two floor sections on top of the extended first level floor.  That really made a big difference from my first attempt.  Now it's a more solid structure with a single level floor that will easily attach to it's base plate on the module.

I cut out a hole below the motor in each of the floor sections to allow room for the motor gearbox and the wiring to exit the structure.

This time I used ⅛" center wall sections on the end buildings for increased stability between buildings.  That also leaves more surface area to directly attach the larger 1/32" thick basswood shingles instead of using poster board under the shingles.

The picture below shows all three sections in place.  The two end building are glued in place, the center building with the motor isn't glued yet.  You can see the tiered floor buildup.

The section with the large lift up door contains the log cutting saw, same as the prototype.

I glued the motor/gearbox to a spacer made from ¼" thick basswood to allow for the motor shaft to be flush with the outside wall.  I used Goop glue for motor as it absorbs vibration and motor noise.

The picture above is a close up of the motor that will turn the water wheel.  The RPM of shaft on the motor gearbox can be changed from about 2 to 10 RPM by reducing the motor voltage.  The Mabry Mill Water Wheel turned at 8 RPM developing an estimated 85 HP for the mill operation.  The motor turns the wheel at 8 RPM with the motor running on 6.6 volts.

I found several quiet running 12 volt gear motors on E-Bay anywhere from 3 to 60 Rpm.  The 10 RPM motor I purchased was just under $6.

Ed Mabry moved to Floyd County from working in the coal mines, he started construction on the original structure in 1903 and it became a sawmill.  By 1905 it was in operation as a gristmill. By 1910 the front part of the mill was completed and included a lathe for turning out wheel hubs, a tongue and groove lathe, a planer, and a jigsaw.  A few years later the building was expanded as Ed added the "Smithy Shop" where an anvil was used for working metal.  Some time later a gasoline motor was added in the Smithy portion of the building to operate the machinery in dryer times.

Ed Mabry was a true Pioneer Craftsman, he ground grain on the grist wheels, cut logs into lumber, made shingles from the lumber and all kinds of furniture, wagon wheels with metal tires as well as crop mowing blades from metal.

In 1945 the Park Service Restored or rather built a replica of the original mill that still stands today just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Willis Virgina.  The Mabry property was needed for a four lane highway that later became the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Here are two pictures before "The Park Service Restoration" in 1945 that I found also on the Library of Congress Site.

The following pictures show my mill in different stages during construction and layout preparation for the mill module.

I made a base plate from ⅛" sheet Balsa for the mill to rest on.  It's much easier to level a fixed base rather than try to level a building.

I used 2" thick foam board glued to the ½" OSB then after carving the foam to what I thought would fit a mill I covered it with a ⅛" layer of Paper Mache.  The ¼" plastic drip tubing works great as conduit for wiring.

Here I've added some ⅛" basswood roof supports for the basswood shingles.  The prototype roofing material on the Mabry Mill is large shingle sheeting.

The pictures below show how I made the shingles from 1/32" basswood sheeting.

I made the 1/16" wide 1/64" deep overlap in the 1/32" basswood with my Dremel Router using a 3/16" Dremel Router Bit.

The next few pictures show the mill after staining the walls and shingles with Dr. Ben's Mossy Driftwood Stain then an India Ink wash for weathering.

I made the door frames from Midwest HO Scale Lumber 2" x 8" around the cutouts and a piece of recessed 1/16" thick basswood for the doors.


With the building finished the next step was the water raceway, I made the walls from 1/32" thick Midwest HO Scale flooring doubled up so that boards show inside an outside of the raceway.  The bottom is 1/16" thick Midwest flooring.


So far so good, everything fits as designed.

The following pictures show where the mill will be located on the module.

It was necessary to make a pond as a source for the water to power the mill water wheel.  The picture above shows the pond molded from Paper Mache.

I'm going to use a clear epoxy for the pond and Dave at Unreal Details (Magic Water) says to seal the area before adding the epoxy.  

All the railroad forums say to paint the bottom dark and feather out the color towards the outside edge.  Well I tried that without any success until I felt like a fish out of water myself.  My painting water leaves a lot to be desired.  I am pretty good with Woodland Scenics flocking so the picture below is my pond using WS flocking.

I plan to seal the pond with a Rust-Oleum Clear Matt spray to accept the epoxy.

The raceway support is constructed from Midwest Scale Lumber, 8" x 8", 4" x 4" & 2" x 8".  Using Midwest Scale Lumber is the only way to scratch build structures.  They have all sizes of lumber with a scale conversion chart printed on the back of each package.

Checking things out for fit.  The white goo in the water wheel is Woodland Scenics Water Effects that will dry clear.

Adding water in the raceway is next.  This is a combination of Magic Water and Woodland Scenics Water Effects.

Now what I did to make room for it on my layout . . . . . 

The mine wasn't locked into it's location so I opted to move the mine across the road and put the mill where the mine was.

The picture above is an early picture of my mine in it's original place before the scenery was added.

As you can see in the pictures below the De-Construction Crew has arrived and work is well under way.

That left a really big hole!

As you can see in the picture above it was time for some major changes.  When I originally built my layout framing 25 years ago I didn't plan on using removable modules.  As time passed age caught up with me and I'm not as flexible as I was so working on modules in my hobby room is a must.  Now days bending over and standing for long periods of time is a no no.

It was necessary to beef up the framing to support the new module, I used 2" x 2"s, Elmer's wood glue and wood screws for ease and strength.

With the added framing I was ready to proceed with my 24" x 24" removable module that will be used to locate my new Mabry Mill and my Silver Spur Mine.  I used ½" OSB for the mounting surface as well as the bottom base of the module.

Here the mine has been moved to it's new location without too much trouble.  I was able to save much of the base without disturbing the mine.  The text in the picture above shows where things will be going.

The next few pictures are of my pond as water (Clear Epoxy) is added.

This is the first pour, four ounces or about a half inch deep in the center.

This is the second pour of three ounces, I have added WS Foliage Clusters as bushes along the edges of the pond and creek.  It's ready for the final pour.  The final pour will be a bit more than what is needed to fill the pond so that the Epoxy will trickle over the edge of the pond and flow down the creek.  That will also bring the pond level to the edge of the water raceway to the mill.

The picture above is the final pour, the pond is level with the water raceway to the mill and the creek spillway.

At this point the mill portion of the module is complete, tweaking the mine will be the next portion of this module.

This is my longest post yet. It has taken me about three months to complete the work above on my Mabry Mill Project and this post to my blog.

I will do a final post on this module after it's totally finished and it will include the Mine portion.

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