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I was very young the first time I visited the Henry Ford Museum, perhaps around 10 years of age. I was taken there by my parents and at the same time also visited Greenfield Village. For some strange reason, I don't have many specific memories of that trip. Distinctly I remember the Edison chair, and the interior of Edison's laboratory. Beyond that though only vague impressions remained. So for years I had been talking about making my way down the Museum again as it only represented a two hour drive away.
At the tail end of summer 2014, on Friday afternoon of the first week off I had taken in well, ever, I made the snap decision and drove that evening to Dearborn MI. Ate at the Outback (naturally), stayed overnight and then hit the museum first thing Saturday morning.
I could go on for pages about what I saw and indeed even took copious voice notes, as I was there from opening to beyond closing. In the interest of not gassing on unendingly I'm just going to make a few comments.
I didn't realize how much time I spent wandering through the progressing display of farm machinery, the Dymaxian house, displays of consumer products through the ages and the incredible collection of antique stationary steam engines until I looked at my watch and found it was past lunch time. 2.5 hours?! I'm not sure whether to blame the Henry Ford Museum or a local antique tractor/locomotive show I visited at around the same time in my childhood for my fascination with steam. But I recall once hearing that a steam engine is an "external machine" and that's one reason I enjoy them so.
With technology becoming more and more hidden and integrated, few people these days have the pleasure of watching a well tuned steam engine run. Turns out I was in luck because after finishing lunch at the Michigan Cafe I returned to where I had left off in the museum just in time to catch a weekly running of the 1859 Corliss steam engine, although on low pressure compressed air.
I must admit that it's a rather odd feeling wandering through a display of consumer items, and seeing some of my childhood toys in a museum. Getting old perhaps?
Another item I found rather interesting is very little mention of Nikola Tesla. Quite literally, Tesla was contained in a small corner display. Perhaps due to Henry Ford's fondness for Thomas Edison?
The enormous Rouge Plant generators must be seen to be properly appreciated. Castings the size of small houses, 4 foot diameter pistons, beautiful copper control panels. Really too bad they haven't arranged to run those things every Sunday. Though I'd assume that wouldn't be entirely practical.
Among the automotive exhibits, along with a mint condition Dodge Omni, I was rather surprised to see a Mazda 13B turbo split apart for all to see, in front of none other than one of, I believe 9 remaining, Chrysler Turbines. And on the other side of the isle resided a GM EV1 beside a Sebring-Vanguard Citicar. In the display cabinets a small nod to the Insight, with it being correctly identified as the first hybrid sold in North America, was nice to see.
It was almost closing but there was still time to get a good look at the railroad exhibits including the massive Allegheny locomotive. One can go on about the sheer magnitude of one of the last great steamers built, however it really must be seen in person.
Of course, my single day visit didn't really leave any time to see the rest of Greenfield Village. I really must get back there at some point...
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