For those who remember riding to the grain elevator with their dad or grandpa, those memories came alive at this year’s Gateway Mid-America Farm Toy Show, when viewing Seth Eberhardt’s amazing replication of an elevator.
The elevator is based on the one in his hometown of Mediapolis, Iowa. Seth walked away with the People’s Choice award and first place in the adult display category on Feb. 2, during the model and layout competition at the St. Louis show. He created a 1/16-scale version of the buildings.
“The model of the elevator was built over a period of about two years, taking 780 hours,” Seth said. “Planning the project, I spent many hours in the real elevator. I took over 200 pictures and about 50 pages of drawings and measurements.”
Seth explained his all-wooden model was built using 250 board feet of red cedar deck. “This resulted in four garbage bags of sawdust, and I used massive amounts of wood glue and 19 (1.75-ounce) packages of half-inch nails.
“The most unusual thing I used was a couple of radiator bypass hoses! There were also a lot of Lego pieces and other odd stuff,” he enthused.
The model was created in three separate pieces for transport. Seth delivered it to the Gateway show in a 14-foot cargo trailer.
This was not Seth’s first venture into farm display. Back in 2010 he took the National Farm Toy Show by storm with his barn and farm building models. “I learned how it worked,” he said of his previous experience.
The reason he selected the grain elevator was, “I wanted to do something different. The grain elevator is in the town where I live. It was built in 1956 by Elta Archer, who owned and built other elevators. In its original use, the elevator was originally used for grain storage, and the warehouse was flat storage.
“Once the mill was added, in 1959, all the grain that went into the building was used to make feed. It was named the Mediapolis Feed and Grain Supply until it was sold to FS in 1965 and operated as H&S Farm Supply until 2004 when it closed. It is now being used by a wireless Internet company.”
A huge project like this has many challenges: “There are lots of little parts. The challenge was that it got monotonous. I would go to work on it and it would look like I had not gotten anywhere.”
That is okay, though, because he added, “It is something I enjoy doing – spending the evening in the garage, working.”
Sticking with it paid off with his big win. The 28-year-old plans to enter the display in the national competition at Dyersville, Iowa, in November.
While Seth does not work on a farm, he is a small engine and farm equipment mechanic, so all things farm-related interest him. To create this display he had to learn how the elevator operated and about the history of the building from people who worked there and from the building itself.
“I had never been in an elevator. I had no idea how complex. The architecture is incredible. It is amazing to imagine that someone knew how it worked. Outside it looks like a Dr. Seuss building, but once inside, I can see why everything is where it is at,” he explained.
The adjoining mill was used to either hammer or roller-mill the grain depending on feed, which was then ground or mixed.
“The grain could be stored or put in feed or loaded directly into a truck … There are a lot of cattle and hogs in the area,” Seth explained, of the local need for feed.
The feed sacks Seth used to replicate tiny bags were labor-intensive; he used flour sack towels he cut into squares. “I sewed three sides (with the help of fiancée Whitney Pullen), then turned it over and ironed on the Purina logo. Then I sewed the top after I filled it with rice.”
Seth and Whitney created 250 sacks of feed. “This took 40 hours of time and Whitney did some of the sewing; she did hers by machine, I did mine by hand.”
Whitney said the most creative use of the elevator was when he used it to propose to her, on Dec. 21. “He took two (miniature) people and put a guy on one knee and made a ring out of wire. One of the feed sacks said: ‘Will you marry me?’”
Whitney said yes, and the couple is to be married Nov. 30 – which is on the heels of the National Farm Toy Show!
After all the long hours, was it worth the effort? Seth thinks so. “My favorite part of building this and taking it to a show is talking to people. One guy told me it was worth the drive to see it, and someone else said they thought this was up with Ev Weber,” he said.
Seth was truly honored to be compared with the amazing late Ev Weber, who created a variety of exhibits over the years, some of which are in the National Farm Toy Museum.
Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication.