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Two volunteers working to restore Newfane water pumping windmill

NEWFANE – Two dedicated volunteers are trying to restore a 1927 Aeromotor Water Pumping Windmill for the Town of Newfane Historical Society and they need the public’s help.

They are looking for the original blades, or “sails” as they are called in engineering circles, for an 8-foot-diameter wind-catching wheel and the “ribs” that hold them in place.

Bill Neidlinger and Sam Clogston have been working on this project off and on for almost a year. They’ve taken down the windmill’s gearbox and tail and started cleaning them up, painting them silver and will fill them with oil when all of the parts have been found and assembled.

The 33-foot tower is in good working order, Neidlinger said. It stands over a well near the blue barn on the historical society’s property, called the Country Village, at 2674 West Creek Road.

“We believe Dick Shaw erected the tower and windmill in 1984 and I think it was operational for a few years, but we don’t really know the story after that,” Neidlinger said. “We know he was looking for parts. He was an older gentleman and we don’t know what happened, but he isn’t in the area any longer.

“This is what happens,” Neidlinger added. “We lose people and they know the stories that we don’t.”

Neidlinger figured, “When we get the tail, gearbox and wind-catching wheel all put back together, it will weigh over 300 pounds.”

Neidlinger said the windmill was built in April 1927 in Chicago and they have found the initials of the creator, “W.S.,” etched inside.

He said someone recently told him he believed windmills are what “won the West, not guns.”

“People needed windmills to farm and to raise cattle,” he said. “I thought it was an interesting statement.”

And, a teachable moment, something this retired industrial arts teacher appreciated.

Neidlinger taught at Lewiston-Porter High School before moving to the Board of Cooperative Educational service programs at Newfane and Niagara Wheatfield. He said Clogston, a mechanical engineer, was the last plant manager at the Lockport Felt Mill Co. in Newfane, which closed in the 1980s.

The two worked together on restoring a weaving loom from that felt mill for the historical society and Neidlinger said Clogston told him he also was interested in restoring the windmill.

“I was interested in it, too,” Neidlinger said. “It’s a lot of fun and I get a big kick out of it. What else is a retired shop teacher to do?”

Anyone with information about these blades or ribs – which could be lying around in an old barn or fields, Neidlinger pointed out – may contact him at billneids@yahoo.com or 697-2688.

Neidlinger said that just a couple months ago, a man from Buffalo contacted him to donate letterpress printing equipment to the society, having saved a Buffalo News article from 2011 about the society’s project to refurbish a rare 1926 letterpress. Neidlinger, Steve Goodman and Ken Hannah restored that nearly century-old letterpress to working order and it’s been a hit at society events ever since.

“Maybe we’ll get a call from someone wanting to donate our missing blades,” Neidlinger said.