The Return Of A Giant

| July/August 1990

47 Clinton Avenue, Westport, Connecticut 06880.

A number of years ago, at a Connecticut company, an account was found in some old file about a man who had once worked for the firm for 70 years before being retired at age 90. Accompanying the article was a photo of a very stern-looking individual with a long black beard. This discovery caused a few of the younger engineers to speculate that anyone would feel that way after working there so long. Older tool-and-die makers disagreed. They said the reason the man seemed so mad was because the company had let him go!

Attitudes and viewpoints tend to be divergent with generation and background. But happily, no such gap seems to exist in regard to an historic preservation project being undertaken by the Connecticut Antique Machinery Society (CAMA) in Kent, Connecticut. Youngsters and adults, engineers, businessmen and mechanics just about everyone seems to have taken a liking to a giant steam engine currently being restored to running condition. Here is the story of how this star attraction is getting its new home.

The huge single-cylinder steam engine, which has a 16 inch bore and 33 inch stroke, was originally located at the Tiffany and Pickett Company in Winsted, Connecticut. While not quite up to the longevity of the worker mentioned previously, it powered the mill for almost 50 years. Mr. Tiffany, an MIT graduate, chose the engine himself and supervised its installation in 1904. It is of the Corliss type, with the modifications of Noble T. Greene, and appears to have been built by the Pacific Iron Works located just south of Artie Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Mr. Tiffany was quite proud of the engine and had it kept in immaculate condition. It was donated to CAMA in 1984 through the generosity of the Tiffany family, and the owners and officers of the Tiffany and Pickett Company.

The Giant's New Partners The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association is a non-profit organization structured along fairly standard lines. The principal officers (president, vice president, etc.) are elected by a Board of Directors who in turn are elected by the membership at an annual meeting. Business is carried on by the Board at monthly meetings. In 1989, a number of chairmen were also appointed by the Board to head up various committees. At the present time, there are no paid officers or employees. One main source of income has been an antique machinery show called the 'Fall Festival' which has now become an annual event. Usually held on the last Sunday in September, all of the proceeds from the show are applied toward major projects (such as the steam engine), improving and maintaining the Association's grounds, and essential operating costs (power, telephone, insurance, and other services). In regard to its grounds, the Association has been very fortunate. A few years ago, it was able to obtain a lease from the state on land at a very scenic spot in Kent, Connecticut. But more than simply luck was involved. Both initial and final approval of the lease took a considerable amount of work to come up with a suitable plan for the proposed use of the property.

To date, CAMA has already completed some very fine projects such as the restoration of a windmill, and the construction of a 5-bay shed used as a storage area for large exhibits and for maintenance equipment. The Fall Festival has been growing in popularity and size. Those who attended earlier festivals could probably recall the bumpy stump-filled exhibition space and upper parking lot. Because of improvements by the Association, these are now pleasant, grassy areas. Once progress in some of these areas was achieved, CAMA was able to get the steam engine project into high gear.