The Steam Engines of the Henry Ford Museum

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

| May/June 1997

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