Altamont windmill turns at the Farm Machinery Museum

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Standing silver: The windmill in the corner of the Altamont fairgrounds is now operating, restored after years of rotor problems. 

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Rotor restored: From left, Alton Mattice, Rick Miller, and Andrew Tinning, stand with a reconditioned rotor for the windmill they’ve been working to restore for the past year. A donation from John Van Wormer paid for the rotor. The windmill is now operating for the Altamont Fair, held this year from Aug. 13 to 18.

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

The linchpin: Alton Mattice operates the red brake installed on a windmill at the Altamont fairgrounds this year along with a new rotor. The previous rotor, he said, was badly damaged because it had no functioning brake to keep the rotor from spinning when violent winds came. “It ran wild,” Mattice said.

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Taut: A look from the inside of the windmill shows the tight cables that had to be aligned and tightened to make the structure stand straight in the wind, part of an effort by volunteers at the Farm Machinery Museum to restore the old windmill this year.

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Shingle shaver: The hand of Andrew Tinning rests on a Lane shingle mill that volunteers, like Tinning, at the Farm Machinery Museum are working to restore. They will demonstrate the machine with pine logs during the Altamont Fair. 

ALTAMONT— Slowly, intermittently, and a quart at a time, the silver windmill in the far corner of the Altamont fairgrounds now operates a pump after decades of disrepair.

When the wind picks up, Andrew Tinning says, the windmill can deliver two gallons of water per minute, used on farms in decades past for animals to drink or for people to wash and drink.

The firetruck-red Myers pump now spits groundwater into what Tinning, a retired heavy-duty truck alignment specialist and provisional tour guide for the Farm Machinery Museum, says is the windmill’s original wooden trough. He guesses it was built between 1916 and 1933 — the manufacturing dates of the rotor on top.

Tinning is one of a pack of men that has worked regularly at the museum for the last several years to restore equipment of the agricultural past displayed during the Altamont Fair.

During that time, the Farm Machinery Museum has won grand prize for its displays three times.

The reconditioned rotor, Aermoter Model 602, replaces its predecessor, which was inoperable for decades, according to Auto Museum Superintendent Rick Miller. Its insides were rusted and the oil missing.

Alton Mattice, who helps with museum restorations, pulls a red metal shaft down from the angle-iron side beam of the windmill and points up to the rotor where the tail has made a 90-degree angle.

“It locks a drum brake on the rotor assembly to be able to stop your windmill,” Mattice said, as a dark-gray ring of sweat formed on his Altamont Fair T-shirt.

Mattice rebuilt the pump with a coupling made by Joseph Merli, the superintendent of the Carraige Museum.

Miller, Tinning, and Mattice decided, after the fair last year, that the time had come to fix the windmill, which sat inoperable in other years as they attended to other machines.

When they discovered the worn state of the old rotor, the men presented their need for sponsorship at a November associates’ meeting, Tinning said. John Van Wormer offered to sponsor their project.

The Farm Machinery Museum houses a collection of equipment rarely found on modern farms. A corn chopper, as Tinning calls it, separates the kernels from the cob.

Along the inside of the museum, Tinning pointed out each piece of equipment, many of them threshing machines that would process the grain in to its component parts. To power these machines, the museum has wooden treadmills connected to pulleys once used to harness dog- or horse-power.

Tinning stopped next to a grinder and reached down to grab a handful of cornmeal on the dirt floor.

“The girls in the Farmhouse Museum come over and get this and they make us corn bread,” he said.

At one end of the museum, yet-to-be-fixed plows used in the past two centuries sit outside next to a sign that reads, “Restoration Lane.”

Next to them is a hay loader, used to gather loose-cut hay in the field, before the mechanized baler Tinning mentions several times altered or replaced the jobs of many machines housed at the museum.

When asked why he and the other volunteers at the museum toil on these outdated machines, Tinning said, “Just reliving the past.”

A picture hangs on the wall of their farm garage, with about a dozen adults and kids. Tinning points to his grandfather, Abram Eaton, who is a smiling face in the threshing crew whose members look sun-baked and lively as they pose in front of a full wagon of hay.