Saturday, October 29, 2016


Museum Entrance - Note the 3' Narrow Gauge track in foreground

Greetings all.  Still around.   It's been many months since my last post.  Roughly zero model railroad during that time period, really nothing since last Fall to report.  No prison stay, no insane asylum, just overwhelmed with work.   We opened a new shop in March, which, besides all our general construction work has taken beyond crazy hours to get up and running.  A big chunk of my time was spent building a large CNC machine, and learning the five CAD/CAM programs I'm using to build things on it.

I did host an open house for the local NMRA Division last month.  I realized then how little model railroading I've done this past year.  Usually I end up spending a long night cleaning all the junk off the railroad that I've left there while working on it.  Since no work was done since the previous open house in October of 2015, it was just a matter of cleaning track and vacuuming.  Sad.

The seven day weeks, working 7am to between 12-3am (not an exaggeration)  have lately just began to take a physical and metal toll - I'm stubborn so put up with a lot for much longer than I should.   I resolved last week to make some changes at work - namely take on less than I have been - so I can get back to doing some of the other things I enjoy, like model railroading.   Note, I say "other" as I do enjoy what I do for a living, well the making sawdust part.  The spreadsheets, insurance, contracts, etc... not so much.

I took off a weekend - the first since I think January - and visited Bethlehem, PA to see the recently opened National Museum of Industrial History.   For those of you not familiar with this museum, it's origins date back to the 90s when Bethlehem Steel was closing.  I was involved with the Society for Industrial Archeology back then and within that group there was a proposal to open this museum on the sight of the old steel mill to house large industrial artifacts from the Smithsonian and presumably Bethlehem Steel.   An office was opened and funds raised.  Soon after corruption and nepotism took over the operation and I believed it would never open.   I was surprised when I heard it did.
3' gauge mill engine

The museum is located in the former Bethlehem Steel Electrical Repair Shop.   There is plenty of parking next to the old iron foundry ruins (formerly 19th century Bessemer Building)   You can also walk to the Hoover Mason Highline and walk along the five extant blast furnace complexes - beyond outstanding views if you are a steel mill fan.    Admission to museum is $12. (High Line is free)  

Initial impression - disappointing.  I guess if those scumbags hadn't criminally squandered money for years it could have been better.   The museum houses a mis-mash of industrial machinery and other artifacts.   When you first enter there is a very large Corliss Pumping Engine (neat) and a dozen or so smaller steam engines and industrial wood and metal working machinery.   There were two very fancy woodworking machines from the H.B. Smith Company.  The ruins of this factory are a few miles from my home.   Next are three very cool models of Bethlehem Steel Coke Works, Blast Furnaces, and Open Hearth.  A foundry or open hearth teeming ladle and just a small quantity of Beth Steel artifacts.   Following the steel section, are a few textile machines and artifacts.  Then a sizable section of propane industry models and displays (I think some gas association donated a good chunk of money.  And that it, well inside anyway.  

Outside there is a small fenced off yard with some ladles a winch, a Beth Steel narrow gauge loco - can't get close to any and no signage for anyone to know the significance of what they are looking at. My verdict is to give this museum a chance and see if any outside displays materialize.  My thoughts are this might be as good as it gets.  While the building is "large" it's probably the one of the smallest in the steel complex - too small to house a decent collection of "large artifacts"    Go and see for yourself, but again, the Hoover Mason Highline is worth the trip by itself.

1 comment:

Chris Crook said...

I enjoy your blog, even if you are only posting every few months, I hope you keep it up. I too enjoy heavy industry, and have ordered a few of the Ghost Rails books on your recommendation- my wallet thanks you. I look forward to your next post.