Henry Ford’s vision and legacy changed the world. His innovation, business sense and social ideas have shaped our world into what it is today. In Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, is one of the most significant museums in the United States.
The Henry Ford Museum houses an immense collection of technology, art and Americana. It is a must see for anyone who loves history.
Nestled to the side of The Henry Ford (as locals call it) is Greenfield Village. Originally the site of an agricultural college, it is now a 90-acre recreation of a turn-of-the-century industrial village. The village covers many aspects of the industrial revolution in America, but for the focus of this post, I will try to cover the many aspects of rail history. After all, Henry Ford's ideas, which led to the automotive assembly line, also led to a major change for freight railways, who have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with automotive production plants ever since.
I took my family to the museum for a day trip this summer. As you may have read here before, my young son is a railfan. It’s in our family's blood, generations deep. Thomas the Tank Engine was the main attraction for the kids, a life-sized engine taking kids for a ride.
Torch Lake, an 1873 0-6-4 Mason Bogie steam locomotive. It's one of the oldest operating steam engines in the USA.
Another interesting site for railfans, especially those who like vintage rolling stock. You can see the vintage Cotton Belt boxcar, a C&O For Progress-clad boxcar and an ornate New York, New Haven and Hartford boxcar.
At the end of the string, a wooden Detroit, Toledo and Ironton boxcar. DT&I was a precursor to the Grand Trunk Western, a CN subsidiary that operated in Michigan for years before it was folded back into CN.
The Weiser Railroad is unusual, in that it is connected to the Norfolk Southern right-of-way that is used by Amtrak for the Detroit-Chicago run. There is a station reserved for tours that arrive via Amtrak (pun intended, for Canadian readers).
Another great attraction is a operating steam crane that was used in the construction of the Windsor-Detroit rail tunnel. Built by the Detroit River Tunnel Company for the Canada Southern Railway in the early 1900s, it was leased by the Michigan Central Railroad and owned by MCR parent company the New York Central. It changed hands through the years, ending up in the hands of CPR and CN in the end. That tunnel warrants its own post!
The crane was lifting and moving rails and trucks for the crowd. It was fascinating to watch. Be ready for the whistle, it’s loud!
Detroit’s historical society has a group that specializes in model railroads. They brought a great display that drew quite the crowd. Not pictured: Dad enjoying a cold beverage.
I will be taking the family back to this gem of a museum. I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone with an interest in history. Greenfield Village is a day on its own, and I imagine the Henry Ford Museum would also take a whole day to roam.