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Woosley Airport


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#1 jdcrawler OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 11:56 AM

So far ( with the exception of the farm house ), all the buildings that I have built have been a freelance design and not copied from an existing building.

The small town of North Port, Michigan is about 40 miles from me and it has an airport called the " Woosley Memorial Airport ".
The airport has a grass landing strip and a small stone building that is very unique.
I have always wanted to build a model of it for my railroad but didn't want to try it until I had some experience at creating model buildings.
I now feel confident enough to try this building.  .............


This is the history of the Woosley Memorial Airport :

" Cute airport, tragic story: Woolsey a hero.
Clinton Woolsey was a heroic Army pilot.
Clinton Woolsey's airplane draws a crowd in a field near Northport, possibly in 1926.

ClintonWoolseysairplaneinafieldnearNorth

 
NORTHPORT — It's hard to miss Clinton F. Woolsey Memorial Airport the first time you lay eyes on it.
The tiny fieldstone "terminal" edges the pavement of County Road 629. Striped black-and-yellow roofs cap its viewing "turrets" and main building like giant bumble bees.

Woolsey "international airport," as some local residents call it, is a roadside surprise. It tugs imaginations, raises eyebrows and begs questions. Why here? Who uses its two grass runways? Who runs it? Who was Woolsey?

Tourists often stop to take pictures, look around and even use the charcoal grill and picnic tables, said Jim Neve, supervisor of Leelanau Township, which owns the airfield. Travel and magazine writers sometimes describe it as "quaint," or "cute," but the story behind Woolsey airport is neither.
Who is Woolsey?
Clinton F. Woolsey, a Northport native son born in 1894, was considered one of the nation's best pilots in the Army Air Corps in the 1920s. He died a hero when he and his co-pilot, John W. Benton, were killed in a 1927 mid-air collision near Buenos Aires during the first-ever U.S. international goodwill flight to 23 Central and South American countries. The 22,000-mile tour took two months. Buenos Aires was the halfway mark.

Woolsey probably could have parachuted to safety but apparently chose to ride his amphibian biplane down in an attempt to land because Benton was on the wing, without his chute, attempting to lower the landing gear by hand.

"I have never witnessed a more courageous sacrifice," said Capt. Ira Eaker, who witnessed the crash from his plane.

Aviation was still in its infancy, and some rugged young pilots dreamed of being the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. Woolsey was one of them. His future looked promising. Three of his fellow pilots would retire decades later as three- and four-star generals. He had already designed a plane and wanted to have it built when he returned from the tour, according to family stories. He called it the Woolsey Bomber and hoped to fly it solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Ironically, one of his 1925 flight students, a young fellow named Charles A. Lindbergh, would be the first to do that on May 20-21, 1927, in "The Spirit of St. Louis."
Early life
Clinton was born Aug. 29, 1894, in Northport, the youngest of Byron and Sarah Woolsey's eight children and the only boy. He attended school in Northport, studied engineering at Valparaiso University in Indiana for three years and enlisted in the Indiana National Guard in 1916 as a private. He served on the Mexican border and worked in steel mills at Gary, Ind., during the winter, returning to the National Guard the next summer and transferred to the Air Service in 1917

He took further training in the artillery, became a second lieutenant and then an instructor at Fort Taylor, Ky., where he became obsessed with flying. He was sent to Kelly Field at San Antonio, Texas, for flight training and then for overseas duty at the end of World War I, where he met his Belgian wife, Mariette DuJardin, a Red Cross volunteer.

In 1925, he became chief test pilot at Brooks Field near San Antonio and was assigned the following year to the Pan-American Goodwill Flight of 1926- 1927. He also oversaw the construction and testing of the five Loening OA-1 amphibian observation planes to be used on the tour. Each plane was to be named for an American city — Detroit, New York, San Antonio, San Francisco and St. Louis. Woolsey, now a captain, was assigned to pilot the Detroit with Benton.

The Pan-American flight, which started on Dec. 21, 1926, was conceived by the Calvin Coolidge Administration to improve U.S. relations with Latin America, but not all countries south of the border were enamored. Newspapers along the way often devoted more space to charges of imperialism and criticism of the U.S. foreign policy in Latin America than to the goodwill mission.

It was a grueling tour, especially in bad weather. The planes had two open cockpits, no radios, or gyroscopic flight instruments or flight maps for much of the uncharted territory. Maintenance was done between the many diplomatic receptions and state dinners.
Fatal flight
Heavy clouds hung over the Andes on Saturday, Feb. 26, 1927, when the planes left Chile and flew, sometimes blind, over their high peaks to Mar del Plata, an Argentinian city on the Atlantic Coast about 250 miles south of Buenos Aires. The Detroit broke a cable that raised and lowered the plane's left wheel during the water landing. To save time, Woolsey and Benton decided to fly on to Buenos Aires with the wheel retracted. The plan was that Benton would climb out of the cockpit onto the wing and lower the wheel by hand just before the landing at Palomar Field where a large crowd and dignitaries
were waiting.

According to affidavits and military reports, the planes were traveling about 100 mph in a diamond formation about 1,400 to 1,600 feet up as they approached the airfield. Benton climbed out on the wing as all the pilots had been trained to do.

Major Gen. Herbert Dargue, the pilot of the New York, signaled for the formation to break up for landing. He saw Woolsey veer away as planned, but then inexplicably turn back. The wings of the New York and Detroit touched and interlocked for a short time. The two planes hurtled downward before the horrified crowd until the New York spun away. Dargue and his flight engineer, Lt. Ennis Whitehead, were able to parachute out before the New York hit the ground. The Detroit smashed into the earth and burst into flames, killing both Woolsey in the cockpit and Benton, who flew off the wing before the crash.

"Woolsey was sitting on his chute and could have saved himself," Eaker wrote. "Instead, he elected to stay with the plane, since Benton was on the wing without his chute."
Final trip home
Thousands of Argentinians paid tribute to Woolsey and Benton as they lay in state in the capital city and funeral services were held Sunday. On Monday, the aviators' coffins were placed on board a steamer for a 20-day voyage to New York. There, an honor guard met them and mounted police escorted the bodies to the railroad station, where a train transported Woolsey's body to Detroit and Benton's to California.

Mrs. Woolsey met the train in Detroit on March 24 and accompanied it back home with the honor guard for the funeral at the high school gymnasium and the cemetery services three days later.

More than 2,000 people braved a snowstorm to attend the funeral, said to be the largest ever in Leelanau County. The storm forced two air service lieutenants flying from McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio to land in a field 15 miles south of Northport. They were picked up and quickly driven to the village.

At the cemetery, a bugle sounded. About 150 former soldiers and sailors in uniform formed the honor guard. They included the American Legion, Civil War and Spanish-American war veterans. The American flag used in the ceremony came from the Woolsey G.A.R. Post, named for the dead pilot's grandfather. Chauncey Woolsey, a retired Great Lakes captain, was an early Leelanau County pioneer killed in the Civil War.

In May 1927, the War Department awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals to all the eight surviving aviators of the Pan-American flight and posthumously to Woolsey's and Benton's families.

In 1934, during the Great Depression, 85-year-old Byron Woolsey wanted to ensure that Clinton would always be remembered. He donated 80 acres of his land to Leelanau Township on the condition it be used as an airport in honor of his son. The township added another 120 acres.

A Works Progress Administration crew converted the farm, as part of a "New Deal" public works project, into a long grassy runway and expanded Woolsey's creamery/milk transfer station into a terminal.

The new airport was dedicated on July 14, 1935. Woolsey's widow came from Belgium with daughters Rosalie, then 14 and Mary, 9. About 1,000 people — state and Army Corps officers among them — attended the ceremony.

It was a beautiful day "with airplanes in sight everywhere," according to newspapers reports. The Northport Woman's Club donated a bronze plaque honoring Capt. Woolsey, which was placed on a large boulder near the terminal. It is still there.

On summer weekends, you can often see a few private airplanes parked there. "


Here are a couple of photos of the building that were taken back in the 30's.

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This is a postcard that was made for the dedication of the airport in 1935.

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This is how the building looks now.

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Every year the town has a fly-in and it draws a lot of restored planes and a lot of people to the event.

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So I have started on the model of the building and this is what I've done so far.
The base is cut out and the "observation turret" is made out of a cardboard tube.

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Edited by jdcrawler, March 27, 2013 - 01:38 PM.

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#2 hamman ONLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 12:09 PM

We have beem by that airport and saw the building. Always thought it was unique. Looks like a fun project ray. Will be looking forward to the progress. Your build are always awsome. Thanks.


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#3 Texas Deere and Horse OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 12:25 PM

Ray, This is going to be a very inspirational build, and the story that's goes along with it was a GREAT read. Thanks for sharing, and if I ever get back up that way, I will make a point to go by that airport and see it for myself.


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#4 Ryan313 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 12:40 PM

Great story! That airport sure has some history behind it! This will be a great model!


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#5 daytime dave OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 12:41 PM

Ray, thanks for that story.  I think this will be a great build.


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#6 tinbender7 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 01:32 PM

nice report waiting to see pictures of your airport.What gauge RR do you have? Mine is S old American Flyer

Edited by tinbender7, March 27, 2013 - 01:45 PM.

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#7 jdcrawler OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 01:40 PM

nice report waiting to see pictures of your airport.What gauge RR do you have? Mine is S old American Flyer

I model in O-gauge, 2-rail, fine scale.


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#8 tinbender7 OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 01:47 PM

I am impressed.
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#9 John@Reliable OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 02:08 PM

I'm sure this build will be a great tribute to Lt Woolsey service. Thanks for the great background information.


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#10 KC9KAS OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 03:38 PM

That will be challanging building the stone facia on the airport building, but I have seen your other buildings, and I am positive that it will come out looking great!

Keep use posted on the building progress.


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#11 KennyP OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 05:43 PM

This looks like a fun build, Ray. I'll be lurking!


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#12 IamSherwood OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 06:01 PM

Thanks for the great history, behind your next project. I'm looking forward as usual, to

see how you pull off another masterpiece.


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#13 jdcrawler OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 06:26 PM

Well I almost screwed up right from the start !
It's been years since we had driven out to see this building and I was going off the photos that are on the internet for making the model.

I had cut the base so that both ends of the building were inline with the center part of the building.
While I'm waiting for glue to dry today, I'm looking over the photos on the computer again and I start to become aware of something just not looking right.
The more I look around the photos, the more it looks like the one end with the round turret is not inline but is setting at an angle to the rest of the building ?

I couldn't find any photos that actually showed this very well and there wasn't any good photos from the air so I looked the airport up on Google maps.
Sure enough, the end of the building is set at an angle.

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So I cut the base in two and trimmed the one side at an angle and glued it back on.
I'm sure glad I caught this now instead of after it was all built.

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#14 IamSherwood OFFLINE  

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Posted March 27, 2013 - 06:37 PM

Whew, that was a close call.

We might not have recognized it from the air, using our onboard google airport finder, and

missed visiting with you. :smilewink:


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#15 jdcrawler OFFLINE  

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Posted March 29, 2013 - 12:53 PM

A piece of the cardboard tube is glued to the inside of the observation turret to make the wall thicker.
This piece has a raised edge that is a little higher than the top of the wall.

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I cut out a piece of wood to form the cap for the top of the turret wall.
It has a step on the inside that will set down over the raised edge on the top of the wall.
This will keep the cap located in place.

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Here is a view of the cap on the top of the wall.

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Eight 1/8 inch diameter holes are drilled into the cap.
I also drilled holes in a strip ow wood.

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Counter bore holes are drilled halfway into the strip of wood.
The top half of this strip of wood is milled down to the same width as the diameter of the counter bored holes.

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The wood strip is cut into pieces and they are shaped to form the base supports for the roof support post.

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Both ends of the roof support post are turned down to 1/8 inch diameter.

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The base fit on the ends of the support post like this.

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The roof on the original building is supported by a system of poles.

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Because you won't be able see under the roof ( and to make the roof stronger on the model ), I'm going to make a solid support for the roof.
A piece of plywood is cut to size and eight holes are drilled into it to match the holes in the wall cap.

The bottom ends of the roof support post are glued into the wall cap and the top ends are glued into the roof support piece.

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Here's what it looks like from the underside.

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Starting to fit the pieces for the roof itself.

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The roof sections are all glued in place.

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The roof section is set on the turret to see how it looks.
I've also gotten some of the walls in place on the building.

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I need to keep the floor in the turret so it can be removed so I cut two pieces of wood that will slide together to make a cross support for the floor to set on.

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Here they are in the bottom of the turret.

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I cut out a piece of plywood for the floor and it sets on top of the cross support.

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The roof on this part of the building is part of the observation deck and it mounts up so it at the same level as the floor in the turret.

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Edited by jdcrawler, March 29, 2013 - 06:01 PM.

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