There are many things in railroading, both prototype and model, that are dripping with character and nostalgia. Right at the top of the list are the elevators and mills that to this day generate carloads and revenue for the railroads. Many towns had elevators and even more towns had mills, either to process grain for various forms of human consumption or to provide feed for the livestock that was present on seemingly every farm, regardless of size, either for production for consumption or just to have a few animals on hand for eggs, milk, and meat.
I like to have more than a cursory understanding of the things I am attempting to model. To educate myself about the grain industry, I purchased Jeff Wilson's The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain (2015, Kalmbach Books,) part of the excellent Guide to Industries Series from Kalmbach (all authored by Jeff Wilson, as far as I know.) In my online research, I also stumbled across Down by the Feed Mill by David Hanks. I had my local independent book shop order a copy, although it may be ordered directly from the link (and Amazon, as well, although I prefer to support the publishers and local book shops whenever possible.)
I knew as soon as I opened the book that it was money well spent. It is a gorgeous homage to the ubiquitous feed mill. Granted, Mr. Hanks focused on mills located in the southern half of Michigan's lower peninsula. However, that in no way diminishes this book's value. It includes beautifully reproduced art quality images of mills as well as many photos of the inner workings of these interesting structures, providing an education in the function of the mills.
The book is broken into a few sections. The first focuses on three old mills, the second profiles four repurposed mill structures, and there is a gallery section with an incredible number of images, followed by an informative section with a wealth of general information about mills.
I highly recommend this book not because it will help my (and your) prototype railroading pursuits, but because it is a beautiful dedication to one of the foundational elements of our communal history. It is simply a fantastic book to have present on a coffee table.
Down by the Feed Mill: The Past and Present of America’s Feed Mills and Grain Elevatorsby David Hanks
208 pages, hardcover with dust jacket
copyright 2017, David Hanks
published by Schiffer Publishing
240 images, color and black & white