In Memory of TRADE-WIND Instruments


Wolf Read with additional comments by Matt Sloan, David Dombrowski, and Sid Pierce, some photos by Casey

My first two anemometers were made by a company in Enumclaw, WA, called Trade-Wind Instruments. The front page of one of their last catalogs is shown to the left. They were both good systems, and operated for years--decades, in fact. Recently, the company has stopped making anemometers in favor of flow meters. This is unfortunate, for I think they had a good product for a good price. Also, the last of my sensor/generators (e.g. the "cups") died while in use at Martinez, CA, back in 1996. The cups locked up during the height of the Diablo Valley summer heat and strong, steady winds. Apparently, the brushes on the electric motor failed. Now the gauges hang on my wall, sitting idle, as reminders of past times. I got a lot of enjoyment out of the systems, as the weather pages on this site probably show, and this page stands in memory of a decent line of meteorological instruments, and some fun times from my childhood.


In the images above, the anemometer gauge to the above left, and in the catalog description to the immediate left, was my first one. Mine was and early version of the Model A-2, which had a slightly different dial face than the catalog version. Price was around $87.50. My dad bought it for me in the spring of 1982, when I was 13. After watching the needle in a few storms and debating about actual windspeeds, I quickly made the decision to pencil in every 1-mph increment between the 20, 40, 60 (and 5, 10, 15) and so on that was printed on the original dial. This system had a dual scale, 0-30 mph and 0-120 mph. The 0-30 scale made for some interesting watching during a typical winter storm at my home (15-30 mph gusts), and the 0-120 served for the bigger windstorms, though the large range was a bit enthusiastic for the places I lived--the highest gust I ever witnessed on this anemometer was 55 mph, and that was during a springtime storm in 1988 at Pocatello, ID, a very windy place indeed.

The anemometer to the upper right was purchased in 1985. This model was the DGRED indicated in the catalog description to the immediate right. It had a feature that the analog system lacked: a peak gust register. All I had to do was flip the switch on the top (which was similar to the dual-scale switch on the analog), and the system would leave the highest wind recorded on the display. There was a slight risk with this approach: if there was a power outage (unlike the self-contained analog system, the digital required current from a wall plug), and the peak gust register was on, then the anemometer would display a random number between 0 and 99, potentially yielding a very large false reading. This was a small glitch, and never made any problems for me. The beauty with the digital was that it sampled at a rate far faster than most of the ones on the market today--even the $1,000+ weather stations. Indeed, it seemed to have near-instantaneous response to gusts, and then would hold the final peak number attained a brief moment. If the wind pushed higher during the "hold phase," the number would respond, insuring the higher gust was not missed. For the price, which was about $132.50, this ability was unprecedented for the time period.

Trade-Wind Instruments also made a dual-view digital that displayed the current windspeed along with the highest gust. This system is depicted in the catalog description to the left. With the single view on the digital I had, having the peak gust register on meant missing all lower windspeeds, so I had my eye on purchasing the $234.50 dual-scale at some point. Life intervened, and I never obtained one before Trade-Wind Instruments ended production of anemometers.

Before closing this page, I wish to add that if you have any old Trade-Wind anemometers, especially a working generator (or several), I'm willing to pay good money for them (as if it weren't obvious!).

Some Historical Information Sent to Me by Matt Sloan

"I grew up in the 1980s, and I had my first anemometer when I was 6 years old (1984). It was a Trade-Wind A-1. I had it for 4 years on the roof and then I got a Heathkit weather station. However, over the years I had several Trade-Winds: 3 A-2s, 1 double digital (RED), 4 A-1s, 1 DGREEN, 1 DGRED, and 3 of the oldest 110s. I have since tossed or given these away, not knowing my BIG mistake at the time.

"I still have one of the 110s in somewhat decent shape (yes it works OK), one of the oldest models with aluminum cups. I contacted Ron Tyler, who used to make Trade-Winds, just recently about it and he was surprised to hear that it still worked. It is aparently 30 some years old!

"For most owners sadly, Trade-Wind Instruments was a dissapointment. Some of the earliest anemometers in the early 1970s made by them were actually of fair quality, the first anemometers were the 110 and the 209sm. They used aluminum cups with a Mabuchi M-36 hobby toycar motor with finger brushes much better than the carbons in the future models, and plumbing fittings painted with Krylon, and they lasted for some time. The outside anemometer unit looks almost exactly like the plastic ones.

"By the mid/late 1970s they also were offering a four point wind direction gauge with an aluminum vane. It was discontinued in the early 1980s in the interest of their digital gauges. In 1977 the first digital unit was made, the DGRED. In addition, Trade-Wind switched to plastic cups and and a new carbon brush motor. This design was used until they went out of business completely in 1997.

"There were problems within the first few years with the anemometer heads. The motor would freeze up on some, then there were others where the cups would get blown off. Some of the units would hold together for years and years and years and have no problems, mostly to inland owners. For those at the coast, Trade-Winds were doomed. Some sensor heads would blow off of the motor and mast, due to poor plastic bonding.

"I occasionally see a few around on roofs in the area, but they are becoming the very few survivors, soon to be obsolete by nature. Most owners would rather go out and buy a new Davis and throw out the Trade-Wind.

"I use my 110 only to go out and measure the biggest storms at Ecola State Park. It is very fun! It's all I have left to remember my childhood memories of big winds and Trade-Wind.

"I wish I could help more on obtaining some cup units, I just have the 2 A-1 gauges and 1 old aluminum anemometer head that may quit soon. I will see if I can come across some cups, I'll ask to buy them if I see them on someone's roof sometimes. They sometimes work or sometimes not."

Below, Trade-Winds Model A-1, with mph and knots scales.

My own Experience With the Sensors

Matt Sloan's comments reminded me of some of the problems I encountered. The first anemometer sensor lasted a fairly long time, about six years. It was broken in that 55 mph Poctello windstorm mentioned above, when the wind shoved a poorly anchored mast into a tree. That sensor was an "inland" one, having been employed in the Renton area for most of that time. I had three replacement sensors after that time up to 1996, and none of them lasted longer than one to two years. The sensor in Martinez, CA, didn't make it through one summer with 20 to occasionally 40 mph sea breezes fairly typical each day, and I wonder if the persistent 100º+ heat didn't play a role in killing the motor. One important thing that I liked about the systems is that, with the exception of one single incident with the digital, the anemometers appeared to have a good calibration, with readings generally within a few mph of official stations, and usually "erring" on the below side when there was a significant difference.

Below, Trade-Winds Model A-2, with dual scales, 0-30 mph and 0-120 mph. The top image shows the old-style face, and the bottom image shows the new style. Other not-so-apparent changes include brass wall hangers for the old A-2 and plastic for the new, and a rounded wood box face for the old style with a squared-off wood box for the new.

David Dombrowski's Long-Lived Sensor: 13 Years of Nor'Easters

"I have a Trade-Winds A-300 unit that I have had mounted on the roof of my house since about 1990. Just recently (2003), the cup head stopped turning. I live about 35 miles from the coast, halfway between Boston & Cape Cod. Sixty-four miles per hour was the strongest gust I registered for many years, until I got one that registered 84 mph during one bad storm. The storm brought down one of my maple trees. We had "straight-line winds" come through the area that did a lot of damage. The Trade-Winds unit stayed put on top of my roof, though!"

Sid Pierce on Trade-Winds Being the Local Entertainment

"The DGRED was a source of amusement in our small neighborhood on Canoe Lake (Alaska) many years ago. On windy evenings, the neighbors would drop by and we would all sit around and place bets on how high the wind would register in a given time period. I guess you could say that it was not only educational but amusing. It has served us well."

Sid obtained his DGRED system in the mid-1980s, and from what I understand, it is still operational, even after registering a peak wind gust of 89 mph in a past storm. In fact, a gale in March of 2003 with winds of 100 mph clocked at the local airport failed to yank the cups from the roof (Sid was away at the time).

Additional Photos from Matt Sloan's Collection

Matt's friend Casey helped out with taking the photos, which depict the history of Trade-Wind sensors. It's hard to tell them apart, for they're all black (Matt recently repainted them), but pay close attention to the cup spars. On the aluminum sensor, they spars are much narrower.

Below left, Trade-Winds Model A-1, with instruction booklet, lead wire and aluminum cups. Below right, aluminum cups, which were sold from 1971-1980. Note the narrow spars connecting the cups to the central shaft.

Below left, Trade-Winds lexan cups, which were sold from 1977-1984. Note thicker spars. Below right, polycarbonate cups, which were sold from 1984-1997. Not very different looking than the lexan variety.

Page Last Modified: September 21, 2003
Page Created: January 10, 2002

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