GEORGIA AGRIRAMA

Frick engine

The Frick engine at the 1896 cotton gin.

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P.O. Box Q, Tifton, Georgia 31794

Dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the vanishing agricultural heritage of south Georgia's 19th century settlers, Georgia Agrirama offers a unique fascination for lovers of steam engines and the history they represent. Officially designated the State Museum of Agriculture, Georgia Agrirama pays special attention to those early industries which were so important in clearing the region's pine forests and harvesting its crops. The museum is a living history center, re-creating 19th century life through the day-to-day activities of costumed museum staff at the various exhibits on the seventy acre historical site.

Especially notable exhibits are the Lummus pneumatic-feed cotton gin, powered by a 110-horsepower Frick steam engine, and the sawmill, powered by a 25-horsepower Atlas steam engine operating a 1 DeLoach mill. The cotton gin, reportedly the only steam-powered gin in regular operation in the United States, runs on a regular schedule each October and November, while the sawmill operates on a regular weekly schedule for the other ten months of the year.

Scheduled to begin operations in early 1981 is a 1917 Vulcan saddle tank locomotive. Built for 36' (narrow-gauge) track, the locomotive is representative of the many logging trams used in the harvesting of Georgia's immense tracts of pine forests around the beginning of this century.

Currently the only operating single-pole handcrank magneto telephone system and switchboard in the United States is at Georgia Agrirama, in daily use and demonstrations for many of the visitors to the museum's rural town area.

Cecil Branch, himself an avid collector and restorer of historic machinery, shows off the museum's 1914 Rumely steam traction engine. This engine was recently in the movie The Long Riders, which was filmed in Georgia and California and told the story of the Jesse James gang.

Other impressive exhibits on the historical site are an operating hand-crank magneto telephone system with switchboard, a water-powered gristmill originally constructed in 1879, an active farmstead, a blacksmith's shop, a printing press and newspaper office, and a turpentine-sawmill company commissary. Scheduled to open during 1981 is a wood-fired turpentine still with a cooper's shop for producing the barrels needed for turpentine resin.

Georgia Agrirama is host to over 50,000 vistors a year, more than 14,000 of them school students in special educational tours. The steam machinery, and the way of life it evokes, captures the imagination of youngsters of every age who visit the museum. Georgia Agrirama staff have taken early steam and gas engines to the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, an annual event in south Georgia attracting over 200,000 visitors, and these engines were a special hit to Expo visitors where they stood in sharp contrast to the enormous and fancy modern tractors and gleaners on display by John Deere, Massey Ferguson and other present-day manufacturers.

Open every day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving, Georgia Agrirama maintains a full schedule of special activities and events. Iron-Men readers will be particularly interested in the annual Georgia Steam & Gas Show, scheduled this year for April 4 and 5. The first show last year drew almost a thousand visitors to view a wide range of engines ranging from the late 1800s through the 1940s. Coordinators for this year's show encourage readers to attend and to bring along their agriculture-related engines. Georgia Agrirama will provide fuel and water and will treat exhibitors royally.

Georgia Agrirama is located in Tifton, Georgia, at the intersection of Interstate 75 and Eighth Street. The museum is three and a half hours south of Atlanta and four and a half hours north of Orlando, Florida.

Georgia Agrirama is open 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 12:30 to 5:00 on Sunday through fall, winter and spring. Between June 1 and Labor Day the museum is open 9 to 6 every day. Admission is $3 for adults, $1.50 for children 6-16 years old and $8.50 for families. Special group rates are also available. More information on the museum and the Georgia Steam & Gas Show can be had by writing Georgia Agrirama at P.O. Box Q, Tifton, Georgia 31794, or by calling (912) 386-3344.