Saturday, May 19, 2012

75. Windmills and Railroads

    I took a bus tour yesterday with the Indiana Pioneers to northeast Indiana and Gene Stratton Porter's Limberlost 2. That was an OK site--a girl-type place with a house and gardens--but the most interesting stop for me was the Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville.
    It seems that the Noble County area was a major manufacturing center for those steel windmills mounted on derricks that were used for pumping water. Did your ancestral family farm have one of those to supply water to the humans, livestock, and crops? The Museum has over 50 models set up on the site.
    I was interested to find that there were special railroad models. A sign noted that the steam locomotives could only go about 50 miles before they had to stop and refill their water tanks, and the railroads could not build a rail line anywhere they could not find a reasonable supply of water.
    The railroads were a major employer of our ancestors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and many of them must have been assigned to the water-supply department. There had to have been thousands of Indiana-made windmills across America, especially in the arid West.
    It occurred to me that most of these must have operated unattended. They had to have shut off automatically when the elevated tanks were full. And what about the winters? How did they keep all these remote tanks and pumps from freezing and breaking? And what did the train crews do if a tank broke and emptied--and they couldn't find enough water to get to the next tank??
   An interesting slice of early Americana and one many of our ancestors had to take care of. Any of your folks work on the railroads or in factories making windmills or have one on their farm? The Windmill Museum is worth a visit if you're touring northeast Indiana--and it's close to the Fort Wayne Library!   [www.midamericawindmillmuseum.org]


1 comment:

  1. Many childhood memories from the windmill on the Oberlin farm 20 miles east of Kendallville. Spent my summers at Camp Big Island, adjacent to Limberlost 2. Thanks Ron.

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