You may have heard the saying, “The Real McCoy.” Popular belief often links the phrase to the high quality of a device patented by Black engineer Elijah McCoy.
Elijah McCoy was born on a farm in Canada to formerly enslaved parents. His father, George McCoy, had rolled cigars to earn the $1,000 required to buy his freedom. But money could not buy freedom for George’s love, Mildred “Millie” Goins, so George and Millie escaped her Kentucky master and became fugitives, settling in Colchester, Canada. They became farmers and had twelve children, including Elijah, born around 1844.
Elijah McCoy’s interest in machines led him to pursue formal study and an apprenticeship in engineering in Scotland. When he returned, he joined his family in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
But employers, blinded by racism, could not see his talent. Instead, in 1865, the Michigan Central Railroad offered McCoy the dangerous job of oilman and fireman. The need to constantly oil the moving parts of a locomotive AND shovel coal into the engine’s firebox soon sent him to the drawing board. In 1872, McCoy patented his own “improvement in lubricators for steam-engines,” the first of at least 52 patents and design registrations he secured during his lifetime.
For the next 40 years, McCoy patented many improvements for his automated oil-drip mechanism, updating his device as steam-engine design and operation changed. The steam engine lubricator cup pictured above (and on exhibit in Made in America in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation) resulted from improvements patented in 1882. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office branch in Detroit bears his name, a fitting tribute to an innovator who moved locomotives—if not mountains.
This post was adapted from a stop on our forthcoming “Stories of Black Empowerment” tour of Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in the THF Connect app, written by Debra A. Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment at The Henry Ford. To learn more about or download the THF Connect app, click here.
The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse in Greenfield Village. (THF2001)
Symbolic Structure Apart from the ubiquitous small-town depot, there may be no building more symbolic of railroading than the roundhouse. At one time, thousands of these peculiar structures were spread across the country. Inside them, highly-skilled workers used specialized tools, equipment, and techniques to care for the steam locomotives that powered American railroads for more than a century.
Today, only a handful of American roundhouses are still in regular use maintaining steam locomotives. Visitors to The Henry Ford have the rare opportunity to see one of these buildings in action. The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse is the heart of our Weiser Railroad, the steam-powered excursion line that transports guests around Greenfield Village. Our dedicated railroad operations team maintains our operating locomotives using many of the same methods and tools as their predecessors of earlier generations.
Workers pose outside the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse on its original site in Marshall, Michigan, circa 1890-1900. (THF129728)
Roundhouses were built wherever railroads needed them, whether in the heart of a large city or out on the open plains. In 1884, the Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad constructed its roundhouse in Marshall, Michigan – the approximate midpoint on DT&M’s 94-mile line between the Michigan cities of Dundee and Allegan. Larger railroads operated multiple roundhouses, generally located at 100-mile intervals – roughly the distance one train crew could travel in a single shift. The roundhouses on these large railroads served as relay points where a new locomotive (and crew) took over the train while the previous locomotive went in for maintenance.
Roundhouses gave crews space to work, but also kept locomotives and equipment within easy reach, as seen in this 1924 view inside a Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad roundhouse. (THF116641)
Circular Reasoning Railroads embraced the circular roundhouse design for a variety of reasons. It allowed for a compact layout, keeping the locomotives and equipment inside closely spaced and within accessible reach. The building pattern was flexible, permitting a railroad to add stalls to an existing roundhouse (or remove them) as conditions warranted. The turntable – used to access each roundhouse stall – simplified trackwork and didn’t require multiple switches to move locomotives from place to place.
Not all “roundhouses” were round. See this example from Massachusetts, photographed in 1881. But round structures offered decided advantages over rectangular buildings. (THF201503)
Likewise, the single-space stalls and turntable allowed for convenient access to any one locomotive. Long, rectangular service buildings required moving several locomotives to extract one located at the end of a track. (If you’ve ever had to ask people to move their cars from a driveway so that you could get yours out, then you’ll recognize this problem.) The turntable had the added benefit of being able to reverse the direction of a locomotive without the need for a space-consuming “wye” track.
People made the roundhouse work, like this man at the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton’s Flat Rock, Michigan, roundhouse photographed in 1943. (THF116647)
A Variety of Trades Of course, roundhouses were more than locomotives, turntables, and tracks. Their most important feature was the variety of skilled tradespeople and unskilled workers who made them function. Boilermakers, blacksmiths, machinists, pipefitters, and more all labored within a roundhouse’s stalls. Large roundhouses might employee hundreds of people. The environment was noisy and smoky, and much of the work was dangerous and dirty – emptying ash pans, cleaning scale from boilers, greasing rods and fittings – but it had its advantages. Unlike train crews who worked all hours and spent long periods away from home, roundhouse workers enjoyed more regular schedules and returned to their own beds at the end of the day.
Roundhouses faded after the transition from steam to diesel, illustrated by this 1950 photo taken at Ford’s Rouge plant. (THF285460)
Roundhouses Retired With the widespread adoption of diesel-electric locomotives following World War II, the roundhouse gradually disappeared from the American railroad. Diesels needed far less maintenance than steam engines, and required fewer specialized skills from the crews that serviced them. Following dieselization, a few roundhouses were modified to maintain the new locomotives, while others were put to other railroad uses. Some were preserved as museums, and a few were even converted into shopping centers or restaurants. But most were simply torn down or abandoned.
The Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Roundhouse followed a similar pattern of slipping into disuse – though in its case, it was more a victim of the DT&M Railroad’s failing fortunes than the transition to steam. After a series of acquisitions and mergers, the little DT&M became a part of the Michigan Central. The much larger MC had no need for DT&M’s Marshall roundhouse, and the new owner repurposed the structure into a storage building. In 1932, the roundhouse was abandoned altogether. It was in a dilapidated condition by the late 1980s, when The Henry Ford began the process of salvaging what components we could. After many years of planning and fundraising, the reconstructed DT&M Roundhouse opened to Greenfield Village guests in 2000. Clearly, the building itself is rare enough, but it’s the work that goes on inside that makes it truly special. Today, the DT&M Roundhouse is one of the few places in the world where visitors can still observe the crafts and skills that kept America’s steam railroads rolling so many years ago.
Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.
Refrigerated rail transport revolutionized meatpacking and other agricultural industries by broadening the markets for fresh produce. Refrigerator cars enabled farmers in regions with extended growing seasons, such as Florida and California, to market perishable foods across the country--greatly expanding agricultural production and allowing people in cold climates to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.
Serious experimentation with ice-cooled refrigerated railroad car design began in the 1860s. At first, refrigerator cars primarily shipped meat from Chicago to cities in the eastern United States. But by the late 1890s, refrigerated shipping of all kinds of perishable foods by railroad had become big business. When this refrigerator car was built in 1924, there were 150,000 such cars in use.
Fruit Growers Express Company, a pioneer in refrigerator car service, operated this car from 1924 until 1971. THF68309
This car was built and operated by Fruit Growers Express Company of Alexandria, Virginia, a pioneer in refrigerator car service. To cool the car, laborers loaded blocks of ice through roof hatches at each end into two large bunkers. Fans driven by the car’s axles helped to circulate the cool air. Mats of felted flax or cattle hair lined the floor and walls of the car to insulate delicate cargo against both hot and cold temperature extremes.
Ice melted quickly in refrigerator cars, despite their clever design. Fruit Growers Express and other refrigerator car companies maintained a nationwide network of ice-making and ice-loading facilities to support their business. They carefully coordinated transportation schedules and labor, because to prevent spoiled cargo, trains had to reach icing stations on time and workers had to be available to move food to market quickly once it reached its destination. Special trains made up entirely of refrigerator cars were sometimes given right-of-way priority over other traffic.
Refrigerator car companies carefully coordinated transportation schedules and labor to prevent cargo from spoiling before delivery to market. THF145082
Mechanically cooled refrigerator trucks began to replace rail transport for perishable goods after World War II, but The Henry Ford’s refrigerator car had a lengthy career. Following a rebuild in 1948, it remained in service until 1971. Today, in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, it serves as an example of a railway innovation that revolutionized American agriculture.
Florida oranges on grocery store shelves in Minnesota. Fresh blueberries from Chile at fruit markets in New England -- in the middle of winter. Beef processed and packaged in Texas purchased and consumed by families in the Carolinas. Whether we realize it or not, our relationship with food is directly dependent on the transportation industry. And it has been for nearly 200 years.
“As the U.S. became more urbanized, the demand for fresh food shipped over long distances increased,” said Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford. Before widespread adoption of refrigerated railcars after the Civil War, such variety of eats was unfathomable. People ate what was grown in their immediate area. Farming was a local endeavor. “Refrigerated cars revolutionized the agriculture industry,” said Anderson. A growing desire to move processed and packaged beef hundreds of miles, rather than a whole herd of living cattle, sparked the larger movement to cool things down inside the railcars.
At first, refrigerator cars primarily shipped meat from Chicago to cities in the eastern United States. THF110235
The Henry Ford has a refrigerator car, built in 1924 for Fruit Growers Express, in its collection. Cooling was provided by ice, loaded through roof hatches into large compartments at each end of the car. Fans, driven by the car’s axles, helped to circulate the cool air. “I consider our Fruit Growers Express car to be the cornerstone of our food transportation collection,” said Anderson. “Refrigerator cars like this changed the American diet, permitting fresh produce and meat to be shipped anywhere in the U.S.” Discover how West Coast fruit growers marketed their produce to the new markets opened up by refrigerated rail transport in this blog post.
Refrigerator cars enabled farmers in regions with extended growing seasons to market fresh produce, like California grapefruit, year-round across the country. THF295680
And while we’re talking about moving fruit and keeping it fresh, ponder this: When McDonald’s introduced sliced apples to its menu in 2011, it quickly became the largest purchaser of apple slices at 60 billion pounds per year. Give some thought to who grows all those apples and how they get where they need to go.
One of the key issues for the decision to begin the work on Number 7 was the availability of the skill sets and facilities required to accomplish a high quality restoration. This was a major undertaking and as one of the most respected transportation museums in the world it is necessary to only do things that you can do very well. Fortunately, The Henry Ford had a group in place (Railroad Operations) that was responsible to maintain two operating steam locomotives, rolling stock, tracks and signal system to provide historic railroad transportation on a daily basis.
The facility where the Railroad Operations personnel performed this maintenance was the Greenfield Village’s Detroit, Toledo and Milwaukee Roundhouse. Built in 2000 to closely replicate the 1880s DT&M facility in Marshall, Michigan; it was well equipped and had the necessary tools and machines to maintain the Village’s railroad operations.
The expertise to maintain this railroad goes well beyond the service and replacement aspects of a shop. Since there is no steam locomotive “AutoZone”; if something has to be replaced you make it. This requires extensive machining and fabrication capability. Additionally, since replacement of castings or other items sometimes requires detailed relationships with outside suppliers, extensive design and drafting skills were often required.
The physical aspects of Number 7’s restoration began in 2007 with the disassembly process. Disassembly of a locomotive is a time consuming and physically demanding process. Before the major assemblies could be removed many tubes, valves and ancillary systems had to be removed. The fact that these parts had not been touched for over 80 years made this especially challenging.
In September of 2007 the removal of the major components began with the separation of the cab (pictured below) from the chassis. In early December the boiler was removed so it could be worked on with unobstructed access to the areas that would need to be replaced (pictured below).
Early in 2008 the process of removing the sections of the boiler and firebox was started along with the removal of hardened scale from the boiler walls. Work on the boiler proceeding through the year removing the sections that would be replaced and preparing the surfaces for installation of the new ones.
After the preparation phase, fabrication of the new sections of the boiler began. One of the most complicated and demanding sections was the rear tube sheet. This is the part that faces the firebox and holds the heat tubes in place so that the heat generated in the firebox can be drawn through the boiler to heat the water and develop steam.
The first phase of the tube sheet forming began with the use of McCabe flanging tool. This pneumatically powered machine, built in 1921, was a common tool in roundhouses of that period. This machine has the capability of forming flanges on sheet steel up to ¾ of an inch thick. The flanging tool would save a significant amount of work but was limited as it could not flange the tight radius needed for the top corners. Forming those portions of the tube sheet would require hand forming.
To facilitate the hand forming an approximately 1.5 inch thick metal die had to be fabricated. This was done by an outside company to Train Operations developed drawings. The partially formed steel sheet was then rigidly attached to the die and the remaining forming was done after the immediate area being formed was heated to red hot by acetylene torches. The heated portion could then be formed by the use of special hammers. These hammers were made of reinforced hard wood that would not put dent marks in the metal when it struck the red hot steel. Dent marks would structurally weaken the metal. The upper corners of the sheet had be cut at the centerline of the curve so that, when formed, there would be a smooth joint that could be welded with integrity.
After the forming process was completed the sheet would have to be drilled to accept the heat tubes and stay bolts. Since the heat tubes were almost 12 ft. long and required a very close fit at each end to assure sealing; locating and drilling the holes had to be accomplished with complete accuracy.
Work on the boiler continued through the end of 2008 and into 2009 with fabrication of the firebox floor and door sheet. Throughout all of this fabrication the parts had to be very precise to provide accurate fitment. Repairs like these are critical to the safety of a trains operation. Boilers are very closely regulated by the government and all welding has to be done by a boiler certified welder. These welders will not compromise on flushness and alignment of the components to assure high quality welds.
The welded elements of the boiler are only part of the story. The non-cylindrical parts like the firebox and crown sheet have to be held in position inside the boiler by a device called a stay bolt. Stay bolts are threaded rods that hold the firebox and crown sheet into position while still allowing the water to circulate around it. New stay bolts would have to be sized and machined for each individual location by the roundhouse crew.
Once the stay bolts are installed (above) the exposed ends are “upset” like a rivet so they are sealed and fixed into position. When the stay bolt is fabricated it is drilled down its center (above)so that if it cracks or breaks during service, a small trail of water or rust will appear on the head indicating an internal failure of the stay bolt.
A locomotive boiler like the one in Number 7 has hundreds of these bolts that have to be individually machined to assure proper fit and sealing. Many of these would have to be replaced due to the new sections of the boiler.
Once the components of the boiler were installed it was painted with high temperature epoxy paint and the insulation blocks began to be installed. The “calcium silicate” insulator blocks (above) replaced the asbestos removed in 1997 and was necessary to help keep heat in the boiler and provide an insulated barrier to protect the “jacketing.” The “jacketing” was decorative but primarily served to keep the insulation blocks in place, heat inside the boiler and protect train personnel.
Parallel to the work on the boiler was the restoration of the tender. To ensure that Number 7 would have a tender that would hold up to daily use it was decided that a new frame would be required. Additionally, the original frames wooden construction would be replaced by a stronger all steel frame assembly, an option on the original factory builds.
The upper part of the tender was sand blasted to bare metal and the 3,350 gallon water tank was tested to assure integrity. After the sandblasting was complete, it was painted the “as delivered” green with the name Detroit & Lima Northern hand painted on the side along with the painted trim indicated by the Baldwin photos.
Although the Baldwin “as built” information identified a specific color name there were no color chips to tell exactly what that name actually looked like. The color established was the result of significant research and the color mix selected came from Chris Dewitt of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. A 1913 Baldwin in their collection had a small section that provided the only known “color chip” of the original paint. This sample was analyzed and they provided a chip from that analysis for our restoration. For the railroad purists it is important to note that each Baldwin painter mixed his own paint; it is unlikely that anyone could point to a replicated color and say “this was an exact match.”
The tender restoration was completed later in the year and the work on Number 7 locomotive started to show real progress.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of the Transportation and Crafts Program at The Henry Ford.
Although they are seldom seen in action, snowplows are an important part of the railroad scene.
This snowplow, operated in rural New England and Canada, is one of 36 built by Canadian Pacific's Angus shops in Montreal between 1920 and 1929. It is a 20-ton, wedge-type plow made for use on a single track - it throws snow on both sides of the unit. Built without a self-contained power source, the snowplow was pushed by one or two locomotives. Its ten-foot overall width can be increased to 16 feet by the extension of the large hinged wings on its sides. Moveable blades at the front, designed to clear the area between the rails, can be raised at crossings to avoid damage to equipment.
The snowplow's cab contains compressed air tanks that control the wings and blades, as well as providing air for a whistle used by the plow operator to signal the locomotive engineer. The cab also contains a heating stove. This plow was in service from 1923 until 1990.
On June 12, 2013, the fully restored 1897 Baldwin Locomotive; affectionately known by The Henry Ford employees, volunteers and frequent roundhouse guests as “Number 7,” went onto the Greenfield Village railroad tracks under its own power. The last time this engine had run under its own steam was 83 years earlier at the Ford Rouge Plant.
Despite its almost regal dark green cab, Russian Iron jacketing and extensive gold and red hand painted trim, Number 7 did not initially live a pampered existence. Besides the 1910 “combination” accident that saw our locomotive buried under a caboose body from another train; its history is typical of many locomotives of that time when railroads were owned by investors that were only interested in squeezing out as much profit as possible. Bankruptcies of these railroads were common and diligent maintenance of equipment was not.
Unlike Number 7's counterparts it had a much brighter ending. This ending was created by Henry Ford and his acquisition of the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railway in 1920.
According to The Henry Ford's registrars file the construction of this 4-4-0 American class locomotive (Baldwin Order No. 15317) and tender was completed sometime in May of 1897. Delivery to its original owner, the Detroit and Lima Northern Railway, was most likely in early July of that year.
The company that manufactured the locomotive and tender was Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. This massive facility that eventually covered 7 square blocks of the “Bush Hill” industrial district produced 501 locomotives that year. Baldwin was the world’s preeminent manufacturer of steam locomotives with 40 percent of what they manufactured being exported. Their customer base included railroads in France and Japan. In 1897 they employed 3,200 men with the vast assortment of special skills required to manufacture the giant locomotives with the precision required.
Baldwin had developed a manufacturing process that would allow them to build a locomotive from “order to delivery” in an astoundingly short eight weeks. They did not build a “standard” locomotive but instead treated each order as a new design with components designed and manufactured by combining common templates and processes to match the customer’s unique specifications.
The first three of the eight-week manufacturing process were used to create the drawings required for the ordered locomotive. During the following two weeks all the materials and outside sourced components or subassemblies were ordered. These purchased items represented about 50 percent of the total cost for the project. In the following two weeks the boiler shop would fabricate the boiler as the other Baldwin shops completed the castings, forgings, and required machining. The eighth week was used in the erection facility where all the components and subassemblies would be assembled into a complete and functioning locomotive. It would then go through a brief prove-out prior to delivery to the customer.
Baldwin 15317 went through this process and when assembled; the cab and tender were painted dark green with gold trim and the tender had Detroit & Lima Northern Railway in gold letters on both sides. When build number 15317 left the Baldwin factory it carried the D&LNR designation #7 on its number plate. Number 7 was a steam powered coal burner that was designed and built to pull passenger cars. Besides the passenger cars its tender would carry up to seven tons of coal and the 3,350 gallons of water necessary for its operation.
The Detroit and Lima Northern Railway started its short lived existence in Ohio sometime during 1896. Chase M. Haskell, Ohio attorney and prominent Democrat, along with other promoters began selling bonds to create a new railway called the Lima Northern. It would haul freight and passengers from Lima, through Ohio and into southern Michigan. Shortly after, plans were made to extend the railway to Detroit and Columbus with the name being changed to the Detroit & Lima Northern Railroad. Within a few months the contractors for the extended rail lines took legal action because they had not received any money. In 1898 the railroad was placed in receivership. Haskell moved on to Oklahoma and in 1907 become its first governor.
The D & LNR operated under receivership until 1901 when it was purchased by New York banker Frederick J. Lisman and the name was changed to the Detroit Southern Railway Company. The banker was an authority on railroad finances and had been prominent in that field for years. As was typical at the time of Lisman’s ownership, he was involved in numerous acquisitions and mergers to extend the systems routes and profits. All went well until a bad economy in 1904 once again forced the railroad into receivership. Following a sale in 1905 the company became the Detroit Toledo & Ironton Railroad. The new DT & I name would continue to exist under various owners until December 1983 when the railroad was assimilated into the Grand Trunk Western Railroad and the DT & I identity disappeared.
The DT& I went into receivership in 1908: elements of the business were sold off but the company continued to operate. In 1914 the company was reorganized and some of the elements that had been sold off were reacquired. The next few years would see a number of significant improvements as heavier railing were installed, buildings were improved and many trestles rebuilt.
As a part of these improvements; the locomotives and other rolling stock (freight cars, tank cars & etc) that had been very poorly maintained during all the financial trauma, were given some much needed attention. This effort did not last; in 1918, in order to better support the war effort (WW I), the federal government took over control of the nations railroads. This control was in place until March of 1920. During those years, rail traffic significantly increased with war production goods and much needed maintenance of the rolling stock was absolutely minimized. DT & I equipment seemed to suffer more than others and according to Scott D. Trostel in his book; Henry Ford: When I Ran the Railroads “the fleet was described in such poor state of repair with drive rods and cross heads that pounded so badly they could be heard for miles.” One of the results of this was that our Number 7 was barely operable in 1920.
In June of 1920 the ownership of the DT&I Railroad was transferred to the Ford Motor Company where Henry would transform it into one of the best managed and financially successful railroads in the country.
Ford’s reason for the purchase of the DT&I was to extend its terminating point of Flat Rock to Dearborn and use it to help supply his new sprawling complex, the Rouge Plant. This ultimately supported Henry’s vision to have a manufacturing facility where coal, iron ore, rubber and all raw materials required to construct an automobile, would come in one end of the Rouge and a completed vehicle would roll out the other end. To accomplish this, the rolling stock (80 locomotives, 2,800 freight and 24 passenger cars) would have to be completely rebuilt to Fords impressive standards. A new building was constructed (the Fordson Shop) at the Rouge to facilitate the rebuild and maintenance of the new acquisition. The facility was opened in 1921 with a staff that eventually reached 475 men with the first locomotive to undergo a Ford transformation being DT&I engine Number 7. It was completely stripped down and inspected. Anything that needed it was replaced. Aesthetics were also a part of the transformation; drive rods were draw filed and polished, exposed iron pipes were replaced with bright copper, new boiler jackets were finished in a lacquered Russian Iron and the outside of the metal tires were painted white.
When the rebuild was completed “Number 7” was put into service at the disposal of Henry Ford who had assumed the roll of DT&I president. It was frequently used to take Henry to various points along the line to attend meetings or visit with friends such as Thomas Edison or Harvey Firestone. Some of these trips would include his private rail car the “Fairlane” as part of the “consist” (listing of locomotive and attached cars). According to staff and others along the route, Henry could be seen in the cab during some of these trips. Some who witnessed these trips said Henry could occasionally be seen setting in the engineer’s seat with his engineer Harry Cochran a step away.
Ford owned the railroad until June of 1929 when he became irritated with the intervention of the Interstate Commerce Commissions over shipping rates and other issues. The DT&I was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad for $36 million. Besides the profits and rate advantage enjoyed during the Ford ownership he turned his initial $5 million purchase price and approximately $8 million of improvements into an impressive $23 million profit.
Number 7 was not a part of this sale. Sometime in 1930 it underwent a restoration at the Ford Rouge’s Fordson Shops and was donated to the Edison Institute (now The Henry Ford) and put on display in the Henry Ford Museum. It remained in the museum until 1985 when it was moved to our train shed (now the Antique Vehicles Garage).
Number 7 remained untouched in the train shed until 1997 when the train staff began a preliminary investigation to see if it was practical to attempt to make the locomotive operational. The jacketing was taken off, the asbestos insulation was removed and metallurgical tests were done to asses the boilers condition.
The 1930 restoration at the Fordson shops was originally thought to have been a complete mechanical and cosmetic upgrading. A later examination revealed that the 1930 restoration was primarily cosmetic but some other elements of that restoration would lead to some real surprises during the recent one.
If Number 7 was ever to run again many parts of its now 80-plus-year-old boiler would have to be replaced and this would require complete disassembly of the locomotive. The new sections of the boiler that would have to be fabricated and installed were the boiler floor, rear tube sheet (boiler end), firebox door sheet, and all of the boilers heat tubes. These are all large parts that must be formed from heavy gauge steel sheet or tubing. The only parts that could be purchased from an outside supplier were the 167 heavy walled heat tubes. All other parts would be fabricated here and an attempt would be made to produce them with the same processes that would have been used in roundhouses of that period. To fabricate these parts and install them would require hundreds of man hours. Even the hammers that would be used for forming the heavy metal would have to be fabricated here.
There were some additional issues that needed to be dealt with before the locomotive could be placed in service. The most labor intensive was that the frame of Number 7s tender was made of wood and had deteriorated to the point where it would not be able to handle day to day service at the Village. The only viable solution was to fabricate an all new metal frame. The second issue was that: in order for the much longer Baldwin to navigate the tight turns of the Village’s 2.5 mile railroad, modifications to the front truck and drive wheels would have to be made. These changes included making swing links for the front truck and additional thrust clearance was provided by machining the drive axles.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of the Transportation and Crafts Program at The Henry Ford.
References Henry Ford: When I Ran the Railroads (Scott D. Trostel) The Baldwin Locomotive Works 1831 – 1915 (John K. Brown) DT&I The Railroad That Went No Place (William C. Pletz - The Inside Track 1979) The Sad Romance of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railway Age, July 1920 THF Object Report # 30.235.2 Registrars File Acc. 30.235.2 Curators File Acc. 30.235.2
Over the years, the number of locomotives began to grow. In 1979 the Edison Institute obtained a 1927 Plymouth Gasoline-Mechanical locomotive. The locomotive, built by the Fate-Root-Heath Company of Plymouth, Ohio, had been used to shuttle coal cars at the Mistersky Power Station in Detroit (The Mistersky plant was run by the City of Detroit Power and Light Department until 2010 when it was sold to DTE). It was to be used at Greenfield Village shuttling locomotives and rolling stock.
In 1993 the Edison Institute added a fourth engine to the Perimeter Railroad program. This 1942, 50-ton diesel electric locomotive was manufactured by General Electric in Erie, Penn. It was first used at the United States Naval Ammunition Depot in Charleston, S.C., to shuttle ammunition to the Navy ships during World War II.
The Edison Institute obtained the G.E. locomotive from the Luria Brothers & Co in Ecorse, Mich., where it was being used to switch scrap cars. It was to be used in Greenfield Village to shuttle cars and fill in for the steam locomotives when necessary.
The Detroit & Mackinac Railway Caboose
This Detroit & Mackinac caboose, originally built circa 1912, was probably in service until 1964 when caboose service was ended by that railroad. After its railway service ended, this caboose was displayed in Tawas City Park for five years. The caboose was then taken back to the D & M shops were it was restored and made a prominent display in their own museum.
In 1979 D & M donated the caboose, three other cars and a 1914 Baldwin locomotive to The Henry Ford.
This Greenfield Village Water Tower is a 39,000-gallon replacement for the original 14,000-gallon water tower. The original water tower was a gift from the New York Central System and was installed in the mid 1950s.
When the D & M caboose (currently undergoing restoration in the Roundhouse) first arrived at Greenfield Village, it was used as an operational member of the Perimeter Railroad program. When in use it was attached behind the regular passenger cars and for a special price guests could ride in the enclosed car and purchase snacks to eat along the way.
The Greenfield Village Water Tower
Between the Smiths Creek Depot and the Roundhouse stands an impressive red structure (Figure 9). That structure is the Greenfield Village Water Tower.
The original water tower for Greenfield Village's railroads was a 1943 gift (Accession 43.36.1) to Henry Ford from the New York Central System. The water tower had been used inside Michigan Central Railroad’s Bay City Junction repair facility in Detroit. The 14,000-gallon water tower was installed in the same location as our current tower sometime in the mid 1950s. Since there was no operational railroad until 1971, it was not functional but part of the Smiths Creek exhibit.
An Oct. 12, 1971, memo indicates the water tower was to be inspected, caulked and repaired as needed for “Perimeter Railroad” operation.
The Michigan Central tower was used for train operations until 1993 when it had become deteriorated to the point it was no longer practical to maintain it. In 1993 a new 39,000 gallon water tower was purchased. The new tower was supplied in kit form from the Rosenwach Tank Company of Long Island City, N.Y.
This water column, across from Firestone Station, is one of two supplied water by the Greenfield Village Water Tower.
The old tower was disassembled and the new one was constructed on the same foundation. This tower is still used today to supply water directly to our steam locomotives or through two water columns. The water tower is supplied by city water that is conditioned by two large softener units in the basement of the Smiths Creek Station.
The Firestone Water Column
Water Columns were used to supply water to steam locomotives in areas where space is too limited to have a water tower. This unit (Accession: 2002.171.1) was made by The American Valve and Meter Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Firestone water column and one outside the DT&M roundhouse (accession: 93.204.1) are connected to the water tower by pipe. The one pictured is representative of columns produced by American Valve and Meter between 1925 and 1955.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of the Transportation and Crafts Program at The Henry Ford
In 1974 construction of the Main Street and Suwanee Stations was completed and operational for the season. Main Street was a covered platform intended to provide train access for guests near Greenfield Village’s entrance (Main Street, which was the road leading from the Greenfield Village entrance in that period is what we now call State Street). The third stop near Riverfront Street was a covered platform that facilitated guest access to the new Suwanee Park. Probably because of its close proximity to the new stations, the Smiths Creek Station was no longer used as a train stop.
A fourth train platform near “Gate 14” (or Windmill Gate) was removed from the plan just as overall Greenfield Village construction started.
As a part of the original planning for the perimeter railroad, a facility for maintaining and storing the locomotives was included. This building had been strongly recommended in a report generated by the consulting firm that was contracted to provide a risk assessment and analysis for the new railroad. Interestingly, the main issue in the report was preventing guest access to the locomotive during the off-season as well as maintenance issues.
The Train Shed was built in 1974 and located by the Village entrance gate. In 2000 train maintenance was shifted to the DT&M Roundhouse and the building now houses the Antique Vehicles Garage.
The Train Maintenance building was completed in October of 1974 and for the first time an on-site facility was available for maintenance work and winter storage of the locomotives. From 1974 to 1982, all train maintenance and repair was handled or directed by the Edison Institute Plumbing Shop Supervisor, Ralph Schumberger (a licensed plumber and boiler engineer).
In 1982, John Scott, a recognized train maintenance expert (who had been working with the Illinois Railroad Museum) was hired to exclusively supervise maintenance of Greenfield Village’s locomotives and rolling stock.
The train crew at this facility tackled more than normal maintenance. Two of the early restoration projects Scott and his crew handled were the reconversion of the two locomotives to coal; the Edison in 1986 and the Torch Lake in 1987.
In early 1990 a study was made to establish if the Torch Lake cab was in fact the one installed by C&H in their 1909/10 rebuild. This investigation included Tom Fisher, from Train Operations, going to Michigan Technical University to review the drawings from C&H (Union Oil had bought up all property rights for the C&H and had donated all the records to Michigan Technical University). The research concluded that it was the 1910 cab. A replacement cab, of the same configuration, was ordered from an outside supplier. At the same time a new smoke stack was built in the shop and the water tank was modified to reflect the 1909/10 configuration.
The new cab was a disappointment. Substandard material was used in the construction and serious deterioration began to appear within a few years. In 2001 Train Operations began making drawings for a new cab. In 2006 a major reconstruction of the cab began at the Roundhouse. Train Operations personnel, with Bill Town and Kirk Brosch of the Carpenter Shop, began rebuilding the cab with appropriate materials. The now-new cab was installed in 2007 and remains in service.
Through the years other aesthetic and functional changes were made to the locomotives and rolling stock to improve their reliability and authenticity. One of the original passenger cars was sold after finding that the company that had rebuilt the car but had left a section of badly deteriorated wood frame underneath some newly added structure.
The adding of the new train stations was not without incident. When the Main Street Station was first completed a trial run was made to check clearances and step-up height. As the locomotive pulled into the station, it was quickly discovered that there was insufficient clearance as pieces of the platform deck began flying across the station.
Gate 14 (now Orange Gate) was finally constructed. The new Susquehanna Station was constructed in that area to provide more convenient guest access to the historic homes on Maple Lane (In 1974 Maple Lane was known as South Dearborn Road), historic base ball games and other events at Walnut Grove.
In 1998, the Riverfront Street (Suwanee Park) Station was being converted to 11th and 12th grade classrooms for the new Henry Ford Academy and was no longer used as a train stop. The train stops for the Perimeter Railroad were now Main Street Station, Susquehanna Station and Smiths Creek Station.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of Transportation and Crafts Programs
In 1971 Henry Ford Museum Administration Management began to implement a new master plan program for significant improvements to support the Museum and Village's upcoming celebration of the United State's Bicentennial. Greenfield Village improvements included construction of a new area called Riverfront Street (later known as Suwanee Park), new or improved visitor amenities, and a railroad that would circle the perimeter of Greenfield Village.
The Perimeter Railroad element of the project included the requirement for two operational locomotives, three new passenger cars, building a train maintenance facility (train shed), and the construction of 2.5 miles of track.
One of the major influences in deciding to develop a Perimeter Railroad was a 1968 presentation given by Edison Institute employee Tom Urban. Urban independently developed a plan and went as far as hiring an airplane with his own money to take aerial pictures of the Village. The photographer for this venture was a young man by the name of Rudy Ruzicska - our current photographer. These pictures were used by Urban in a presentation to Finance Director Lyle Hughes to demonstrate the feasibility for the routing of the railroad. Hughes was so impressed he set up a meeting with other members of senior staff to present the proposal.
Hughes’ proposal was well received and a study was started to see how to make the plan a reality. Leslie Henry (Curator of Transportation) began a study that included a number of options. Some of those options were: purchasing and moving a complete functioning railroad (with four miles of track), leasing the locomotives and cars or obtaining our own locomotives and building a railroad from scratch.
One of Henry’s inquiries during his study was to contact the Northern Peninsula mining company about an 1873 Mason-Fairlie locomotive. The Calumet & Hecla Mining Company was in the process of celebrating their 100th anniversary and had the 1873 locomotive on display in Calumet, Mich. After the celebration ended C&H agreed to donate the locomotive to The Edison Institute where it would be restored and maintained in running condition.
The restoration of the Torch Lake was to be completed in 1971 for exclusive use in an interim ride known as the One-Way Railroad. For the following year it would become the secondary locomotive for the next phase of the plan, the Perimeter Railroad.
For the primary locomotive it was decided to take the Mason #1 locomotive out of the museum and make it operational.
The Mason #1 was originally a wood-burning 0-4-0 locomotive built by the Manchester Locomotive Works in Manchester, N.H., in the 1870s. Ford purchased the locomotive and tender from the Edison Cement Corporation in 1932.
After the purchase, Ford had the locomotive sent to the Ford Rouge Shops were it was rebuilt and significantly modified to its current 4-4-0 configuration. Additionally, the boiler was enlarged and the sand dome was moved forward. The tender was rebuilt and appears to be in its original configuration.
After the restoration/modification of the locomotive and tender was completed, it was moved into Henry Ford Museum and put on display with the number plate and designation of “Mason #1.”
The Edison Institute did not have the facilities to complete the work necessary to make Mason #1 functional, so bids were requested. Keystone Products of Pittsburgh, Penn., was selected to repair the Mason #1 (Edison) locomotive and tender as well as construct three passenger cars that would be built on used chassis that Keystone would purchase.
The Mason #1 (Edison) and tender were transported by trailer to the Keystone plant in December of 1971. The contract called for replacement of the boiler, rebuilding of the compressor, governor gauge, locomotive/train valves and brakes on the tender. The Edison at that time was oil fired and the fire pan, burner, damper, fire clay lining and oil tank were to be rebuilt. The schedule for the Mason #1 restoration was that all work would be completed and the locomotive and tender would be operational by March 31, 1972.
The construction of the three-passenger cars was a less-than-straight forward process with many design options being discussed throughout the construction. Two of the cars were to be built from existing chassis and a third was going to be built on a soon-to-be purchased obsolete caboose. These cars were to be added to the three already built by Crown Metals for the 1971 One-Way Railroad.
In October of 1971 the landscaping architectural firm of Ecbo, Dean Austin & Williams (EDAW) was given approval to begin developing landscaping plans for the new track. EDAW, located in Los Angeles, Calif., was a highly respected firm with national recognition for their cultural landscaping efforts with universities and national parks.
The architectural firm of Nordstrom-Sampson & Associates from Dearborn was contracted for development of the track layout and grading. Additionally, an engineer from the DT&I railroad was acting as a consultant to N-S&A. Thomas P. McEvilly of N-S&A was chosen as the field superintendent for the project.
The Edison Institute retained Herb Rosenthal and Associates, Inc., as the designers for the new Perimeter Railroad. This project included the track system, a covered platform near Main Street (now Firestone Station), a covered platform at the Riverfront Street area (this platform is now a part of the Henry Ford Academy campus) and a platform at the east end of the Village area. The later platform was removed from the contract just as overall construction was to begin.
The Walter L. Couse Company of Detroit was awarded the contract to build the roadbed and lay the track. In all 12 companies were involved in the project’s construction.
The master plan called for the railroad to be fully functional no later than July 4, 1972. It is unclear if the original intent was to have the new platforms completed by this date, but their actual construction would not be completed until the 1974 season.
Work progressed on the tracks and the roadbed throughout the spring and early summer. Existing water lines, sewers, and gas lines had to be moved as well as filling in some soft clay areas with compacted sand backfill. Several weeks of exceptionally wet weather served to slow progress and put the scheduled July 4 completion date in jeopardy.
In late June track and roadbed construction had progressed to the point where a trial run from Smiths Creek over to the Main Street area was conducted. This run served to identify a number of issues with the curves, rails and switches and the contractors were instructed to make immediate corrections. It was also determined that the public opening of the railroad would need to be postponed to Aug. 23, 1972.
By early August work had progressed to the point where a test trip of the complete 2.5 miles could be conducted. On Aug. 9 the Torch Lake was fired up, cars were attached and a small crew of employees and management rode around the complete perimeter of the Village. (Although the original plan called for the Mason #1 to be the primary locomotive, for some reason the Torch Lake was given that role for the inaugural run even though Mason #1 was on the grounds.) There were a number of issues with the rails, ties and ballast, but not enough to postpone the rescheduled public opening.
The inaugural trip for the Perimeter Railroad was on Tuesday, Aug. 22, when the three cars were loaded with specially invited guests at Smiths Creek Station. The Torch Lake then pulled the consist up to the Main Street crossing were it waited while then-Edison Institute President Dr. Donald Shelley and Board Chairman William Clay Ford drove in the final spikes (painted gold) with chrome plated spike mauls.
The Perimeter Railroad began regular service the following day offering 18 trips around Greenfield Village with each trip lasting about 20 minutes. This schedule provided for a capacity of 3,500 riders per day. For at least the first year of operation, Smiths Creek would be the only stop.
Engineers Frank Petroski (formerly New York Central) and Ivan D. Mead (formerly Grand Trunk Western), who were engineers for the One-Way Railroad, were back to alternate duties on the Perimeter Railroad.
The total number of riders for that first year was 154,761, which were 66,516 more rides than the One-Way railroad had the previous year.
Don LaCombe is Supervisor of Transportation & Crafts Programs at The Henry Ford.