The Steam Engines of the Henry Ford Museum

The Henry Ford Museum contains more than 30 traction and portable steam engines

| May/June 1997

  • 8 HP Huber
    8 HP Huber "Buckeye" portable steam engine built in 1882. Huber had only been in business a few years when this engine was built.
  • Boilers used for heat and electricity
    Boilers used for heat and electricity at Henry Ford's estate "Fairlane." President Hoover, while visiting the estate, was caught in a rainstorm and was able to dry his hat by placing it on a spotlessly clean boiler steam pipe.
  • 10 HP Upton steam traction engine
    10 HP Upton steam traction engine, serial  no. 401,built in 1887 at Battle Creek, Mich. Upton moved in 1890, changing its name to Port Huron Engine & Thresher Co.
  • Flue portable steam engine
    "Iron Slave" return flue portable steam engine was built in 1875 by the L. Sweet Co. of Wellsville, New York. This engine was used to power a cream separator.
  • Russell traction steam engine
    Early Russell traction steam engine. It was equipped with a driver's seat and foot rest on the cylinder side of the engine.
  • Birdsall 12 HP
    1885 Birdsall 12 HP. The valve eccentric is reversed by a sliding rack instead of link motion.
  • 12 HP Jumbo steam traction engine
    12 HP ''Jumbo'' steam traction engine, serial no. 1486, built in 1895 by Harrison Machine Works, Belleville, Ill.
  • 10 HP Ypsilanti portable steam engine
    10 HP Ypsilanti portable steam engine built by Ypsilanti Machine Works of Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1890.
  • 10 HP Chillicothe portable steam engine
    10 HP Chillicothe portable steam engine built in 1878 by Chillicothe Foundry & Machine Works of Chillicothe, Ohio. The valve gear is operated by a very unusual eccentric operated off the crank disc.
  • Baker steam tractor
    16-30 Baker steam tractor built in 1925. Powered by a cross compound double-acting steam engine and a high pressure boiler with "U" shaped water tubes, vertical header and steam condenser. Inexpensive slack coal was automatically fed to the firebox.

  • 8 HP Huber
  • Boilers used for heat and electricity
  • 10 HP Upton steam traction engine
  • Flue portable steam engine
  • Russell traction steam engine
  • Birdsall 12 HP
  • 12 HP Jumbo steam traction engine
  • 10 HP Ypsilanti portable steam engine
  • 10 HP Chillicothe portable steam engine
  • Baker steam tractor

The Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan, contains more than 30 traction and portable steam engines; many of them are one of a kind. Few people realize the affection that Henry Ford had for steam engines. This affection developed at an early age as he showed an interest in mechanical things and a dislike for chores on the family farm.

When he was 16, Henry left to work in nearby Detroit as an apprentice machinist. He remained an apprentice for three years and returned to the farm. For the next few years, Henry divided his time between operating or repairing steam engines, overhauling his father’s farm implements and occasional factory work in Detroit. Henry was married in 1888, he supported himself and his wife by running a sawmill. In 1891 Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company after fixing a bearing problem with one of their engines.

The museum contains not only small engines but also some very old walking beam engines on exhibit and some very large Corliss engines. One of the Corliss engines was used in Ford’s Rouge River Plant which was at one time the world’s largest industrial complex, containing a steel mill, glass factory and an automobile assembly line.

The Henry Ford Museum, which was founded in 1929, receives over one million visitors annually. I would recommend that a full day’s visit be allowed to see the museum and a full day to tour Greenfield Village which is next to the museum. The museum is not air conditioned so it would be best to visit during the cooler seasons. Both the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving.



Enjoy my pictorial catalog of the museum’s engines: 8 HP Huber “Buckeye” portable steam engine, 10 HP Upton steam traction engine, Russell traction steam engine, “Iron Slave” return flue portable steam engine, 1885 12 HP Birdsall steam engine, 12 HP “Jumbo” Harrison Machine Works steam traction engine, 10 HP Ypsilanti portable steam engine, 10 HP Cillicothe portable steam engine, 16-30 Baker steam tractor, and steam boilers from Henry Ford’s “Fairlane” estate. IMA  

Larry G. Creed is from Brazil, Ind. 

Russell LeFurge
3/16/2011 5:56:43 AM

If Mr Creed, the writer of this Steam engine Story could contact Me , as I have some Questions of those Engines. My Great Grandfathers is there, A Ypsilanti (small one With The wood of the Tree in one Wheel). If He or any one Else Has Knowledge on This could contact Me Please, RUSTY LeFurge At rustylefurge@yahoo.com