Harris-Corliss Steam Engine

| January/February 1996

  • Harris-Corliss engine

  • Harris Steam Engine Company works
    Harris Steam Engine Company works, 1878.

  • Harris-Corliss engine
  • Harris Steam Engine Company works

800 Spring Valley Drive Cumming, Georgia 30131

This story about a piece of metallic history starts off like most of them, by accident. As a newcomer to Atlanta, Georgia, I had started restoration work on a French Morbier grandfather clock. Early into the restoration, I realized that the moldings on this piece would have to be replaced. Easier said than done. After a hundred-fifty years, moldings like these have to be custom made.

After letting my fingers do the walking, I came upon Randall Brothers. This company manufactures custom moldings, doors, windows, etc., perfect for my project. I called and spoke to Jack Spangler about my molding needs, faxed over a side view to scale and was told 'no problem.' Still skeptical about the price (very reasonable!) and their ability to reproduce it accurately in red oak, I took over a sample.

View of the Harris-Corliss engine as it appears today, still at Randall Brothers almost 90 years after it was purchased. From an ASME brochure.

One could tell that the building had been there for a long time. Jack confirmed that Randall Brothers had been in that same location since 1885. So I asked if there was any old wood-cutting equipment back there. He casually mentioned a few molding cutters and an old steam engine with a 13 foot flywheel! (My mind raced frantically to figure out how to tell my wife this steam engine followed me home...) We made a tentative appointment to get a tour of the shop when my molding was ready for pick-up.

A few weeks later I went back and picked up the molding. It was difficult to tell the difference between the old one and the new. Their tooling personnel faithfully reproduced it to the last detail.


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