Windmill restoration true to original

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A 10-member committee determined to complete the restoration of the Willowbank railway windmill and water tank.

The committee, which has been in existence for a year, met at the Croydon Aircraft Company earlier this week to view the making of the windmill fan, blades and vane.

Gore district curator Jim Geddes is also on the committee as the council liaison officer and an adviser.

Committee chairman Phil Morrison said the windmill and water tank were listed with Heritage New Zealand as category 1 and were therefore considered to be of special or outstanding historical or cultural significance or value.

He said the committee was waiting for a restoration report for the structures from conservation architects Cochran and Murray, of Wellington.

The report, funded by a grant from the Southland Regional Heritage Fund, would determine the restoration planning process, he said.

The total cost of the project would not be determined until the report had been received.

It was expected that iconic structures in the area would attract more attention from railway enthusiasts when the windmill was restored, Mr Morrison said.

The committee was also focused on community engagement and wanted residents to be fully informed about the project, he said.

“The aim is to bring the community along on the journey.”

A grant from the Community Trust of Southland and a donation from Waikaka Valley Rural Women has enabled reconstruction work on the windmill fan, blades and vane by Croydon Aircraft Company owner Colin Smith.

The committee’s recent community fundraising activities have included a barbecue meal for a tractor trek, a movie evening, a quiz night, raffles, auctions and harvesting firewood for sale.

Mr Smith was keen to make the wooden structure as strong as possible, as a new fan and blades had been made in the past but had broken under pressure from strong winds.

“I’d gone back to try and find what kind of timber was used originally,” Mr Smith said.

“We found out in America, where they were made, and the cedar was quarter sawn. It is the way it is cut in relation to the grain, so that it is as strong as possible,” Mr Smith said.

The cedar was imported from Canada and Mr Smith was following the original plans, he said.

Originally there was a mechanism where the tail could swing around and put the windmill in and out of gear.

That mechanism was important, as it prevented damage from the strong wind.

“There’s got to be that mechanism and a load on the mill from a pump or a block of concrete to represent the load of a pump,” he said.

Mr Smith is keen to outline the processes used to the committee whenever they desire.