Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 7, 2015, Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class at 19th Century Willowbrook Village

Gantry crane in place with chain fall made working on this 7 HP Economy engine possible; in fact, we picked it up in order to access the gas tank. The tank was deteriorated, and we ill be making a new one. Here we see instructor Doug Kimball who co-taught the class with Russ Welch. The two taught our previous three consecutive Saturdays class; this class was a one day eight hour class. We did not succeed in starting the engine. A number of problems were revealed. In re-inserting the cylinder the top ring broke; on this particular cylinder there were pins on rings two and three but not on number one. Nevertheless we re-inserted the cylinder and thought we would give it a go. There were other issues with the new gaskets that we created. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bruce D. Fleming

Bruce D. Fleming
Recently, the museum received the donation of a collection of homemade crystal radios created by the late Bruce Fleming.
Born at Booth Memorial Hospital in Boston in 1943, he was son of Hartwell and Irene Fleming, Lieutenant Colonels in the Salvation Army in Portland, ME. Shortly thereafter the Fleings were transferred to Rochester and Concord, NH where Bruce attended elementary school. Eventually, they transferred to Philadelphia where Bruce graduated from Northeast High School.

Shortly thereafter he sought out a career in electronics finding employment at Technitrol Engineering in Philadelphia where he worked with the Air Force on the Gemini Space Project. In 1966 he entered The Salvation Army College for Officer Training located in the Bronx, NY. After serving fourteen years with The Salvation Army, Bruce worked for General Dynamics Electric Boat Division in Groton, CT for eighteen years. He was a sonar electrician working on construction of the country’s nuclear submarines. After retirement from Electric Boat, Bruce and his wife, Lorraine, served as officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He previously served as Administrator of The Salvation Army Day Care Center in Dorchester, MA and Assistant Administrator of The Salvation Army Booth Hospital in Cleveland, OH.

A skilled photographer and model builder, Bruce also spent time building crystal radios. His interest in crystal radios began with his reading of Boys’ Life as an eight year old. He eventually shared his passion for radio building with workshops for kids until his death in 2013.

As Fleming has said, “it’s a hobby of childhood simplicity and flavor at first glance, but it possesses technical complexity that creates a never-ending quest for resolution and design variation.” “I build crystal radios,” said Fleming, “you’ve heard of them…maybe you made one or listened to one sixty years ago. It’s an awkward collection of homely parts that seem to have no relationship to one another, yet they draw a radio station to your ear. Interestingly, all radios today use the same design as the crystal sets of 1920.

What sets these beauties apart is that you don’t plug them into the wall socket…they use no batteries…no solar batteries, yet they are always “ON”. It’s the ultimate “green” radio. They draw their required energy from the electro-magnetic field created by the radio station. That “field” is the pull you feel when you bring a magnet near metal. I’d like to have a car that does that!

One of my radios has a base made from an old oak stair riser. I wound a tuning coil with Litzendraht wire from Germany; we call it Uberlitz because we like it. Then added a variable capacitor from Montana…a few switches removed from WWII military gear…Galena “crystal” from South America…and so on.  That radio won the 2004 International Crystal Radio Contest by receiving 141 stations.

Donation of Lorraine Fleming, Willowbrook Collection, 2015
The hobby offers an opportunity to design and create radios with a direct connection to the days of early inventors such as Nicholas Tesla. It affords the ability to follow the progression of electronic development and see the positive and negative effects brought on by a century of change. This world looks today like it has experienced drastic change when; in fact, there has been little change.  




Radio Buff Tunes in Yesteryear

The following is an article that appeared about the late Bruce Fleming of Old Orchard Beach, ME. Mrs. Lorraine Fleming has donated examples of her late husband's homemade radios.

Radio Buff Tunes in Yesteryear ( Valley News Dispatch, February 25, 2007)

He builds crystal radios with antique components.

By Tamara Sampson, for the Valley News Dispatch

People often question what it would be like to travel back in time to an era where things were much different. In a small way, that’s what Lower Burrell resident Bruce Fleming does when he works with his crystal radios, which were used in the early 1900s.

A wooden tea box becomes the armature for one of Bruce Fleming's radios.

C.R. Gold tea box crystal radio.

Observe the cat's whisker to the right.

Fleming’s hobby of building crystal radios has led him to scavenge antique shops and eBay packages that advertise a box of “old wires and stuff” someone found in his late father’s attic. He’s hoping to find components such as coils, wire and old capacitors to build the radios.

A cigar box crystal radio.


Although he can buy newer wires for his hobby, the old fashioned components lend to the authenticity of the radios.

“I have one authentic radio, and all the components of that particular radio were built with antique parts,” he said. “It’s as close to what they experienced in 1920 as you can get. It took me over a year to find the parts over the Internet and at antique shops.”

This vintage tuning capacitor is one of many that the Late Bruce Fleming sought and found
for his crystal radio constructions. Donated by Lorraine Fleming, Willowbrook Collection
The tool that pulls the components together, making them successfully tune in a radio station, is an LC meter. An LC meter measures inductance and capacitance, according to Fleming. He described inductance as the value of a coil, and capacitance is what makes the radio sound the station that the coil’s tuned to.

“For example, if you’re listening to AMK radio,” Fleming said. “Say you want to listen to KDKA, You’d want a coil with the number of windings tuned to the frequency 1020, but the capacitor would resonate that coil and make it tune in KDKA.

The radio’s ability to harvest radio waves in the air, using no electricity or battery power, is the reason it continues to be used---especially in military settings.

Fleming said crystal radios were popular in the early 1900s, but around 1922, the tube was invented. That changed the future of radio.

However, during World War II, the crystal radio was crucial. Fleming said GIs built crystal, or foxhole, radios---they are simply wire wrapped around a toilet paper roll with other attachments they would have had readily available.

This foxhole radio is one of Fleming's making, although it mixes elements of the original type including a single edge razor blade, pencil lead, and a safety pin to recreate the "cat's whisker". It also includes more durable materials like the PVC pipe for a coil rather than a toilet paper roll. These sets were ubiquitous during WWII as Fleming points out as they were easily constructed and could be hidden. Donated by Lorraine Fleming, Willowbrook Collections.
“The crystal is made up of a rusty razor blade and pencil lead out of a regular pencil and hooked to a safety pin,” he said.

 Crystal radios were the lifeline for Germans who wanted to get news on the war. Tube radios could be detected by the Gestapo and were therefore dangerous to use.

“tube radios emit an oscillation that can be heard by another receiver,” Fleming said. “When the German army would come through town, they looked for people who had radios. They went by houses with receivers and could hear oscillation in the house.

“The foxhole radio did not oscillate, so you could have it running, and no one could detect it. It’s a way during that period of history that people could listen to the BBC or Radio Europe and hear the news without worrying about detection.”

Fleming’s affinity for the inner workings of electronics led him to jobs with the Gemini and Apollo space programs in the 1960s and contract work as an electrical technician on Navy nuclear submarines from 1980 to 1998.

Now a major with the New Kensington Salvation Army, he uses crystal radios to illustrate the radio waves in the air in his sermons.


Monday, October 12, 2015

New Crystal Radio Set Collection Exhibit, Donation from the late Bruce Fleming, Old Orchard Beach, October 5, 2015

Recently, Willowbrook received the donation of homemade crystal radio sets created by the late Bruce Fleming. His wife, Mrs. Lorraine Fleming of Old Orchard Beach has seen that the museum was offering crystal radio set building workshops, as part of our summer history camp each camper created their own wood based radio set. As we go forward with this seem, we have received much assistance from Rex Harper of Limerick who actually markets a Ham Radio Set on the Internet and has had much experience with radio kit building. In conjunction with this summer's program, he built a AM transmitter for the purpose of generating radio to pick up on our crystal radio sets at the museum. The geography, or rather topography, is not right for picking up the very weak AM radio signals available in this area. With Mr. Fleming's collection of his own handmade radios that include a razor blade trench radio, cat whisker type crystal sets as week as more sophisticated vacuum tube set ups, we will be inspired to make more crystal radios. We will be scheduling a building class soon, and this will be announced on our website:

Summer History Camp, August, 2015: We made crystal radios from purchased components. We set up a AM transmitter for the purpose of making the strongest AM radio station available to our radio builders at the museum campus that is unfortunately place for picking up AM radio and cell service.

Here we see a loopstick tuner; we will improve upon this for our next radio build.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ash Sunday at Willowbrook, September 27, 10-5

Ash Sunday Showcases the Wood's Beauty and the Tree's Enemy

Craftspeople, woodworkers and scientists are gathering at Willowbrook Museum in Newfield Sept. 27 to demonstrate traditional skills using ash wood. They will also talk about the impending infestation of a ash-killing beetle that has decimated forests west of Maine.

The series of hands-on activities, demonstrations, and workshop talks are sponsored by Willowbrook, Francis Small Heritage Trust and Forest Works!

"It's a way to connect people with the Maine environment," says Bob Schmick, director of Willowbrook Museum. "We live with the woods all around us, but we all get into our groove, and how often do we get to connect with the woods and trees?"

The day features a "great" lineup of activities, says Alison Truesdale, executive director of Francis Small Heritage Trust. “Part of the trust’s mission is helping people appreciate the natural world – not just the science behind it, but cultural aspects. Working with Willowbrook is an example of the collaborative effort the trust is hoping to do more of now and in the future.”

Ash Sunday
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday Sept. 27
WIllowbrook Museum, Newfield

Mark Young of Wells, owner of Black Ash Pack Basket, will demonstrate basektmaking and other rustic creations.
Bob Schmick of Eddington will demonstrate making of a simple shaving horse
Frank Vivier of West Newfield will demonstrate bow-making
Daniel Eaton of Denmark will demonstrate a work-in-progress canoe or small boat restoration

Penobscot storytelling:
Ron Prevoir of Shapleigh will bring regalia and museum artifacts in a story-telling of the ash tree and the Penobscot creation story.

Adrian Knox of Shapleigh and his team of oxen will twitch out ash logs from the museum's woodlot for use in firewood cutting.

Emerald ash borer and girdling trap trees
Colleen Teerling, forest entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, will talk about the impending infestation of the emerald ash borer, a beetle that has been decimating forests from the Midwest to New York and has been found in a county in New Hampshire 30 miles west of Newfield. Teerling will demonstrate the proper technique for girdling a trap tree in the spring to help track and manage an infestation.
Oliver Markewicz, Maine District forester will talk about telltale signs of the emerald ash border.

Children's hands-on activities
Ash firewood cutting with buck saw and two-person crosscut.
Archery with ash bows and handmade arrows - supervised by Frank Vivier
Augering peg holes with brace and bit - supervised by Bob Schmick

Apple cider pressing with old fashioned mills
Cooking in Victorian kitchen
Firewood splitting with 19th century splitter

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Progress On The Cider Mill at Willowbrook and our ASH SUNDAY event, September 27, 2015

In recent weeks the cider mill has taken on some new developments. Ashley Gerry has resumed work on the platform that holds the restored apple grinder. The pan is to construct more heavy duty sawhorses to rest the grinder on. This will keep the grinder level with the pomace basket. A removable sluice way will link the grinder and basket. We have always talked about powered the grinder with a horse treadmill that is situated next to this equipment. We may choose an early gas engine. A 5HP Nelson Brothers engine will be hooked up to the rig; we will see how effective that is in turning the crushing drum with a full load of apples.

We hope to have this functioning in time for our September 27 event ASH SUNDAY, in partnership with the Francis Small Heritage Trust and Forest Works. The Nelson Brothers engine, which will be delivered next week, after I work on a set of oak skids for it today. this may be used to also power a wonderful late 19th century wood splitter in the museum's collection. The ASH SUNDAY event will focus on the many uses of ash; this is a proactive presentation given the damage that the ash borer has inflicted on trees as close as the State of New Hampshire. The day will include a presentation from the State entomologist and District forester as well as area crafts people who utilize this wood for their work: a bow maker, pack basket maker, Native American artist/sculptor and more. Several ash trees will be felled on the museum property and twitched out of the woods by a team of oxen owned by Adrian Knox of Shapleigh, ME.

Adrian Knox of Shapleigh with his team of oxen that will be used to twitch some logs out of the woods at Willowbrook for our September 27 even ASH SUNDAY event in partnership with the Francis Small Heritage Trust and the nonprofit Forest Works.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Maine Sunday Telegram, July 5, 1970, 19th Century Reborn In Newfield

Newfield---The prosperous Victorian era and its gracious way of living, known to today's children only through history books or "funny" old family portraits, has been recreated for them in a unique museum here.

Willowbrook at Newfield, scheduled to open to the public on July 1, was established for the young people of New England, according to its owner, Donald F. King, Sr., a Topsfield, Mass., industrial executive [ the museum became a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1980].

ITS PRIMARY PURPOSE is to show them how their ancestors lived and worked in the 19th century. Other museums and artifact collections in New England area are mainly concerned with the colonial period.

King, who has been interested in antiques and especially in the Victorian period for many years, purchased the property five years ago to use as a vacation lodge.

He decided on the restoration project on learning the historical value of the property. the tract includes the William Durgin jr. homestead built in 1813, the Dr. Isaac Trafton homestead built in 1856, and the former Durgin barns, purchased by Amos Straw in 1932 [1832] and used as a general store, livery stable and town social hall.

The area was one of the few in the town spared by the 1947 forest fire.

THE FIRST PURCHASE for the museum was made on March 22, 1967. Construction work on the museum began 18 months ago. local cooperation and effort resulted in completion of the project a year ahead of time.

Two local ladies, Mrs. Georgia Perry and Mrs. Cecile LePage have spent two years scraping, refinishing, painting, upholstering, and plastering to restore the antiques and the interior of the buildings.

Neither one had done this type of work before, but the results prove that they have become experts.

Emphasis during restoration was on authenticity. Every item is a genuine period piece. There are no reproductions. Most were obtained from within a 100 mile radius of the museum.

THE RESULT IS the most complete Victorian museum in this part of the country and possibly in the entire United States, according to Mrs. Perry, now serving as museum director.

The homes are reconstructed as they were last lived in. Every aspect of life included, from the farming implements and tradesman's shops to the nursery complete with toys and the unmarried maiden's private bed and sitting room.

The Durgin homestead, where Straw once operated a tavern, reflects the higher social life of the era. It was noted for its red velvet parlor, faithfully re-created with furniture purchased in Alfred.

The most modest Dr. Trafton homestead is the typical country home of a man of high professional standing whose fees were often paid in produce rather than in cash. One room of the house has been set aside as a marine museum to honor the memory of Maine seafarers. Its walls are papered with nautical maps of the state's coastline.

STRAW'S STORE has been reopened, featuring penny candies, with a display of antique guns, swords and scales in the former post office.

The livery stable area displays the varied crafts and trades which once flourished here. tools on display were collected locally and are relics of the time when local craftsmen included 42 shoemakers, 21 blacksmiths and 11 carriage builders.

Included is a large wrought iron sign, "Black Smithing" in script, discovered lying in tall grass on the site. Featured in the harness shop is a saddle which reportedly once carried a local resident 100 miles to get a doctor.

The dance hall and meeting place, located over the store, was a focal point of social life. It was also, according to local rumor, the meeting place of a mysterious secret society. A blackball box and a ballot box found on the premises lend some credence to the rumor.

The collection also features, in gleaning black and silver, the last horse-drawn hearse in Newfield, a fire chief's sleigh from Berwick, a Thomaston State Prison sleigh, a children's goat wagon, a Park Buggy with the first rumble seat to be used in a vehicle, and a huckster's wagon used by travelling peddlers.

A NEW ADDITION is an inch-by-inch replica of the Little Red Schoolhouse, modeled after the Fenderson School House, built in South Parsonsfield in 1810, and still standing on its original site.

THE CLOTHING COLLECTION indicates that our Victorian ancestors, although smaller and slimmer than modern ladies, were not necessarily as prim and straight laced as depicted, but actually quite style conscious.

The extensive vehicle collection proves the existence of hot rodders and dragsters in those days. The buggies and sleighs designed for speed and racing contests were often driven by ladies.

The school has proven to be a big hit with visiting youngsters who first try out its seats, three to a desk, and then hastily "autograph" its blackboard before leaving.

MODERN INNOVATIONS include a restaurant, a craft house for the sale of Victorian items and varied modern handcrafts, and an antique salesroom. The restaurant is being directed by Mrs. Le Page.

Area residents responded enthusiastically to a preview opening earlier this month. The museum is open to the public weekends during June, with weekdays reserved for school tours to allow the youngsters full rein to take in the exhibits. A nominal admission fee is charged.

It will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. from July 1 through Labor Day this summer.

PROPOSED FUTURE ADDITIONS include five or six antique shops and an entire crafts village, staffed by artists, within five to ten years. More immediate plans include a picnic area for the school children who bring their lunches. local enthusiasm for the project is high. A direct economic and cultural effect on this part of the state is predicted and for this quiet village of 400, perhaps a return to the prosperity of 1880 when there were some 1,480 residents.