No. 41: Industry Series – Roosevelt Brothers Flour Mill at Ackley, Iowa

The Roosevelt Brothers Flour Mill was a longtime shipper in Ackley, Iowa and it’s one of those places you just can’t model using something off the shelf.

There are very few photos of the mill.  In fact I only know of three.  That’s the mill on the left in the distance.  It consisted of one large mill building and a couple of other smaller buildings, and a coal bin.

200. Ackley IA Interlocking Tower Looking North 2

Below is an excerpt from a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1930.  The mill structure, the coal bin and the grain bin are the significant structures.


The photo below is a screeen shot from a Minneapolis & St. Louis film made in the late 1940s.  The train is just crossing the IC, heading north–and there’s the mill on the left.  The coal bin stands out in the sunlight.  Also clearly visible is the depot and the train order signal, with a bright green light indicating no orders.

Ackley Photo

In the later years, after 1940, the building was sheathed in corrugated iron.  When it came time to build my model, I had not had much success using the thin metal strips such as that sold by CC Crow and BTS.  Campbell used to make corrugated steel strips too.

Instead of using those products I decided to try styrene corrugated sheet sold by Evergreen.  I used .040 thick sheet and cut it into 10-foot long strips.  See below.  I cut the long strips into pieces with the plan of using this to sheath the structure.

One of the reasons I wanted to use individual pieces of something was that I could weather each strip individually, creating a nice patchwork-looking structure.

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After I cut a bunch of pieces of styrene strip, I taped them to a piece of cardboard and painted them a medium gray color.

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Next went over them with silver paint.  To my eye, corrugated metal looks gray but sometimes brighter silver streaks through.  So I went over everything with silver paint, not trying for full coverage.

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Below, you can see how the gray panels looked with the silver overlay.  Then I went over some of the panels with a little dark brown for rust or oxidation.  Again I did not want full coverage–just a little bit on the tops and bottoms.

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I changed up some of the colors too, applying lighter colors of rust here and there…and this is how it all looked when I was done.  I hit the pieces with Dullcote and then it was time to start assembling the building.

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Between the maps and the space available on the layout, I used a footprint of 60 feet on the trackside of the building and 40 feet on the sides, and 50-feet tall with a sloping roof.  I then cut pieces of .060 styrene in those dimension and, from the bottom up, started applying the corrugated strips randomly.

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I glued the strips to the styrene core and then cut out spaces for the windows.  Cutting out the window spaces was next to impossible because I was cutting through like .100-thich styrene.  The windows are below,  I used a Tichy product so I could have some open windows.  The freight doors are from an ancient Walthers kit.  I painted all these castings a slightly darker gray from the original paint used on the corrugated panels to provide some contrast.

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Below.  Here is one of the sides, all ready for windows.  I had no real idea where the windows should go so I just did what looked right.

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Here’s a closer view of the sides with the individual strips.  It looks different the other scale model buildings.  I’m not sure that this kind of different is good, but it is different.

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Here’s the building put together, the roof installed (another piece of .060 styrene with black posterboard on top) and the windows cut out.  The bin on the side of the building was also scratch built of styrene.  It was for catching shelled corn cobs.

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Here is a closeup of the freight door.  I lined it with styrene and put one of the freight doors in an open position.

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Below is the picture that was in the Model Railroad Planning 2015 article.  The whole facility includes, from right to left, the mill, the powerhouse (the small brick lean-to), the cob bin, and a coal bin.


A few years back Gene Green sent me a drawing that had dimensions for a coal bin on the M&StL.  They are reproduced below.  I used these dimensions and built a shell for a coal bin, and then sheathed it it styrene strips.  I don’t have any original dimensions but I measured the building and it comes to 65 feet long by 14 feet tall.


Here’s a photo of the building after it was completed.  You can see I used individual strips of styrene length-wise and built up the ends per the photo on top.I built doors out of styrene strip and used Grandt Line hinges.  The metal sheathing is BEST metal roofing material.  Again I painted the metal sheathing dark gray and then went over it with silver paint and a little weathering.  Everything else is styrene painted brown.  I used Testers Rubber color for the brown paint.


Below is another view on the old layout.  The storage bin is a Walthers bin pretty much straight out of the box.  This is as far as everything got before I had to dismantle the layout for the move to Germany.  Oh yeah, in this view you can see that I added a water tower (another leftover from that old Walthers building kit), some random roof vents, and drive-through for trucks and wagons delivering grains, a tube for shells coming out of the mill to the cob bin, and a couple other things here and there.


During the construction process I contacted the Ackley Historical Society and they e-mailed me this picture.  This is picture #3 and was the only picture they had.  This one shows the building as it was being dismantled in the 1960s.  This is not a trackside view.  You can see the entrance for trucks and wagons on the far right.


A difference between my model and the prototype is that the prototype windows are inset, and more frequent, and there appear to be cellar windows. Aw let’s face it–my model looks completely different. My model looks pretty close to the trackside view but that’s about it.  I’m keeping it though…

– John G

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