No. 101: Building the Carver, Minnesota Grain Elevator

My friend and St. Louis RPM co-host Lonnie Bathurst is on a trip through Europe this week and I met up with him and his wife at Rudesheim, which us about an hour drive from my home.  That’s Lon on the left.  We had a nice dinner and caught up on things. 


After dinner we went out to the main street–where our photo was taken–which faces the railroad and the Rhine River.  We set ourselves up at a nice German restaurant so we could have a couple more frosty brews and watch trains.  The weather was magnificent.  Deutsche Bahn did not disappoint either.  The big trains rolled by every 4-5 minutes.    

The Elevator at Carver

If you read my last post you may recall that I slapped together an elevator to serve a siding on my Ackley, Iowa layout.  An older map of Ackley shows a flax mill on that siding but I haven’t found any pictures of it and doubt I ever will.  To fill the gap, I built a model of the small mill at Carver, Minnesota.  Here’s a closeup of the prototype, below.

m&stl carver mn 4-7-65

And, below, here’s a photo of the model I built.


After posting the photos of the mill, I got a message from my friend Doug Harding, who told me I got it all wrong:

     John, re: your elevator model. It doesn’t look right because you have the roof pitch wrong. The elevator has a steeper pitch.  I think it is an 8/12, i.e. 8″ high for a 12″ run.  It looks like you cut your model with a 4/12 or 5/12 pitch.  A common mistake.  Today we have a lot of 4/12 roofs, but back then 6/12, 8/12, even 12/12 was more common.  A steeper pitch will put the lower roof ridge right between the twin windows on the head house.  Your roof ridge is too low because of the shallow pitch.  Doug

Doug was right, so I found a spare hour last week and rebuilt the model.  Doug was also kind enough to send a couple more photos, the most important of which was the photo below from May, 1965, below, showing the back of the building.

Carver 1965

I did not want to completely disassemble and rebuild the whole model because styrene isn’t easy to get here in Germany, so my approach was to remove the roofs and add styrene shapes to get the building “up to pitch”.

Below.  I made some measurements to create an “8-12 pitch” as suggested by Doug.  Using mathematics, I determined the peak needed to be two feet higher so I measured and cut a piece of styrene to fit and glued it behind the end.


I filled in the gaps with spare pieces of styrene and attached the roof.  I’m going to sheath the whole structure in simulated wood (Evergreen styrene strip) so at this stage it doesn’t matter if the external finish isn’t perfect. 


Below.  I used the same technique for the main structure.  The math here was a little more complicated than this P.E. major could handle, so I asked my wife for help.  Once I had the additional riser figured out, I cut a piece to match.  That’s it at the bottom, waiting to be attached.


I fixed the new roof piece and then realized I cut it wrong…


…and had to add yet another small piece to get the pitch perfect.  


When I test-fit the head-house, below, I realized that I had to adjust the angle on the bottom of it too.  I overlooked that procedure and wasn’t looking forward to another modeling challenge.  Nevertheless I was able to scribe it easily and break the unwanted parts off with needlenose pliers, and get it done quickly.


Below.  Here are the two components, rebuilt and ready for test-fitting.


Below.  That’s a little better.  Doug was right–the steeper pitch makes this look like an older building.  You many notice that the lower windows in the headhouse are all messed up.  I’ll just omit those from the finished model and I think it’ll be fine.


Below.  Test-fitting on the layout.


Finishing this building got me thinking about a mistake I made when constructing the layout.  The siding on the “bump-out” was supposed to ease down to 24-inch radius, but for some reason I laid the curve broader.  It has caused a lot of problems, and now that I am building structures for the bump-out those problems need to be addressed.


Below.  The new elevator works better on the bump-out with a tighter curve.

On the real railroad, there were four or five customers on this siding, but I’ve only got space for one.  To address the problem I’ve made a plan to remove this bump-out and make a new one, adjusting the width and depth.  The plan is to increase the depth by about eight inches which will give me room for this elevator plus a coal dealer.


So there we go…how to rumble, bumble and stumble your way through scratchbuilding a grain elevator.  You’ll never see this one in MR.  – John G

4 thoughts on “No. 101: Building the Carver, Minnesota Grain Elevator

  1. Just adding a few comments on the visit to John and Kristina and family in September. Mary and I also managed to visit with John, Kristina, and Kirsten with them at their home, at a lovely rural restaurant, and had a great tour of a C 130 at the NATO Command Center air base at Ramstein Air Base. It was a great part of our 17 day trip. You all need to see the Ackley layout… VERY well done! Many thanks for the tour and to run a train around the layout.

    Lonnie ( and Mary ) Bathurst
    Litchfield, Il.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s