Prairie Profiles, Aldin Grahn: Little foundry on the prairie

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

By Ed Shannon, staff writer

GLENVILLE &8212; For several years Aldin Grahn and members of his family have been traveling just over 300 miles from Glenville to an obscure Minnesota community named Rollag to operate and display a very special foundry.

Rollag is in Clay County midway between Detroit Lakes and Moorhead. Grahn said this particular

locality has just seven houses.

&8220;I know there are seven houses because I counted them,&8221; he explained.

Yet not far from those seven houses is a place known as the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion. This extensive combination of nostalgic reminders of past life on the prairie and what could be called living history exhibits based on an earlier era is situated on 285 acres.

Since 1954 this yearly reunion has expanded to include many aspects of farming and small-town life. There&8217;s even a small railroad line, 1.2 miles in length, which circles the many buildings with over 80 displays and exhibits based on various themes. And one is the new WMSTR foundry created by Grahn and located in a building near the sawmill.

He said the events at Rollag, based on &8220;memories of bygone years,&8221; take place during the four days just prior to Labor Day.

Grahn&8217;s connection with WMSTR is based on two factors. First, he grew up on a farm near Pelican Rapids and not far from Rollag. Second, he&8217;s an employee of Progress Casting Group in Albert Lea and thus very familiar with the process of creating and operating an aluminum foundry.

Aldin and Ruth met in Pelican Rapids and were married just 44 years ago. In fact, they celebrated this anniversary Friday.

Ruth&8217;s sister lived in Freeborn County and they decided to move to this area 40 years ago. For the past 31 years they have lived in their present Glenville home.

Grahn said his 40 years at the Progress foundry on East Hawthorne Street near the railroad crossing has been based on the following: 10 months operating a grinder, 15 years as molder, nine years in the pattern shop, four years as foreman, and 11 years in quality control.

He started to create the foundry for WMSTR in 2002. Much of the work on the furnace, patterns and other equipment was done in his garage shop at Glenville. By last year his foundry was ready for production and the result he said was &8220;good.&8221; This year the entire operation went &8220;really good,&8217; he added.

This foundry, incidentally, is now a part of the WMSTR area at Rollag.

Grahn said recycled aluminum, &8220;but not beverage cans,&8221; is melted in the small furnace and poured into the molds. Then some grinding, polishing and assembly results in the end products.

In 2005 he made trivets based on the WMSTR theme of the Otto engine &8212; a British-made product of years ago used by American farmers. This year he made 140 trivets based on the Case tractor theme, which were all sold; then he made 85 more. Also, he has made and assembled 80 of the small steam shovel replicas each year.

Grahn said he enjoys making these souvenir items for WMSTR visitors and the opportunity to enjoy his &8220;different hobby.&8221;

&8220;Going up to Rollag each year is a family affair,&8221; he commented. Thus, his wife and three sons and

their families help out in the now very productive WMSTR Foundry near Rollag.