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Inside the Ford museum: some HUGE machines

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  • Inside the Ford museum: some HUGE machines

    Well it looks like I forgot to post the pix of our visit inside the Ford museum in Dearborn, so here they are.

    Many of you suggested we visit the museum on our cross country voyage, which now approaches conclusion. As the temperature drops to freezing and the campgrounds close for the season behind us, we spent a day in the wonderfully warm 14-acre Ford museum building immersed in the entire history of the industrial revolution from the oldest Newcomen pumping engine (the oldest extant steam engine in the world) through trains, planes and automobiles.

    It’s all there, including a DC3, Rosa Parks’ bus, the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot, lots of Ford automobiles including his first, and more.

    We were advised to plan an entire day for the museum but we found ourselves rushing from one item to the next in order to get through in the seven and a half hours the building is open. To fully absorb what you are looking at as well as take time to read the interpretive signs, it would better to break it up into two shorter days.

    Seeing full-size Corliss engines with flywheels taller than a two-story house, a Maudslay precision lathe from 1804, and of course, the Allegheny 2-6-6-6, is something that could cause an otherwise healthy mortal to require defibrillation. If you wear a pacemaker, get a new battery before you go.

    The most spectacular in size are the Corliss, a Gothic walking beam engine, and a complete reciprocating engine gen. set from the Ford factory. The latter was saved by Henry himself and the museum building built around it. (The building is floored with the original tongue-and-groove teak, all 14 acres worth.) The generating set is about three stories tall and about 50 yards long, too big to get into one photo. The steam piston connecting rods are the diameter of telephone poles and about as long, the flywheel looks to be 20 feet in diameter. “Big” is not an adequate word to describe it.

    I’ve posted photos at Some are blurry because I was shooting hand-held to avoid that horrible on-camera flash, but I put them up anyway as they might contain some info someone is looking for. Cutline info is in the box to the left of each photo. There was too much to photograph it all; I just tried to get a sampling.

    If you have a list of Things To Do Before You Die, a visit here has to be in the top ten.

    My reports of Steamtown and the L. S. Starrett factory tour are here:

    Happy trails.

  • #2
    Wow, thanks for the pic's, looks like a great trip.


    • #3
      Awesome pics Greg, thanks!

      I visited the Ford museum at his home (Fair Lane) in Dearborn during a dealer training trip 10 yrs ago but it was nothing like that. It had a ton of interesting stuff as well. The steam heated bird bath and the powerhouse stuck in my mind!

      "Accuracy is the sum total of your compensating mistakes."

      "The thing I hate about an argument is that it always interrupts a discussion." G. K. Chesterton


      • #4
        love that place. been there 3 times. Was going to go this summer but broke my leg so missed out.

        They had a bunch off machines displayed years ago but the last time they were gone I guess they change some displays.


        • #5
          Your postings of Starrett, &Henry Ford museums + the Scranton Railroad museum was an excellent trilogy of the mechanical arts, It is really refreshing to see the pride with which The L S Starrett Co have in their past history, and also how they welcome visitors to their plant, By looking at your excellent photographs, one could almost breath the efficiency &cleanliness of that fine manufacturing concern I would imagine that a great number of the home Shop Machinists will still be using Starrett products I have a micrometer made by them myself.
          It was most refreshing also to see the high standard in which the Scranton folk keep the machine tools used in the maintenance of their locomotives, In many railroad museums, the workshop plant is worked to death, &kept in a filthy condition
          How most fortuitous for the history of the mechanical arts, that old Henry Ford was excercised sufficiently, to preserve all the lovely mechanical things we have seen in your postings Gregyl, It was most intriguing to note that the machinist operating the Becker milling machine in the Greenfield workshop was fairly elderly, I wonder if he had been an ex Ford apprentice?
          Again many thanks for letting us all share in your holiday, We are all looking forward to your next vacation, Maybe next week?


          • #6
            If you had seen the Henry Ford Museum 20 years ago and compared it to today it would make you cry, over half of the displays are no longer there, most of the aircraft, heavy/farm equipment and machine tool displays are gone (sold off is what I heard) and they now have a big "history of chocolate" display which is mostly a store where they sell chocolate, go figger'.

            Instead of being a museum where you can go to see things, it is now a "learning experience" which is a new age way of saying that people don't know enough about history to tell if we are lying to them anyway because we don't know much about history either and we got rid of everything that we could learn from.

            I can't stand to go there anymore.

            Henry must be rolling over in his grave, that was one of his pet projects and it has been decimated.
            The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

            Bluewater Model Engineering Society at

            Southwestern Ontario. Canada


            • #7
              By and large (with a few exceptions) Our modern museum curators, managers consultants etc must be reading from the same song sheet, Some of the stunts they have pulled over here in Scotland, would make one weep, decimation is the correct title to use, Another is dumbing down big time, by that i mean like what you say of the Ford, Over here it means taking absolutely no care of any of the technological collections, Scrapping, leaving out in the rain, leaving in a damp storage facility comes to mind readily
              Two weeks ago, i decided to visit a display of a large sailing vessel moored in the Clyde a sailing ship called Glenlee I duly paid my entrance fee, (rather high i thought) and proceeded into the exhibition area prior to going aboard the ship I was informed by the guide that there was two exhibitions running (to my sorrow!) One was the story of ships cats, i can live with that, lots of sailors had a pet moggie
              The second exhibition really saddened me it was all about Gay Sailors! No i dont mean happy go lucky guys singing a sea chanty as they worked, but the sexual orientation of a %centage of sea farers, I found a lot of it was rather offensive, Sexual matters were not a part of sea faring life i wanted to learn about, and i think it was uncalled for
              Another more saddening aspect of the ship, was the very fine forward deck capstan, and her big integral double anchor windlass (a big Clarke Chapman, circa 1920) When the ship was being restored some geniuses of consultants, Burned off the extension bedplate & D.C. driving motor and scrapped them, Future generations will not thank us for such vandalism, They are bound to ask, "What made it work-- White mans magic? More and more, there is a greater reluctance to ever have a nice item of machine ever operate again, I think it would have been nice to once or twice a day power up this machine to let youngsters see it operate I understand that a ships electrician was one of the committee on this decision
              Pass me over a bar of chocolate from the Ford exhibition to cheer me up


              • #8
                Greg, thank you for posting these excellent photos from Starrett, Steamtown, Greenfield and Dearborn. I especially enjoyed your essays about these places. Excellent!

                Best regards,

                Last edited by Orrin; 10-18-2009, 01:44 PM.
                So many projects. So little time.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the great pics!

                  I visited the Ford Museum must be 20 years ago and had the same take on it as you. To do it right, you would need 2 days. I can still recall some of the things that show up in the background of your pictures.

                  I can still remember standing next to the big locomotive. You could just feel the power! Awesome!



                  • #10
                    Again thanks for sharing the pictures. I really like those old steam engines. It was interesting to see all the "new" stuff they added since I was last there many years ago.