A Summer Road Trip Through Manufacturing History

It’s finally summer, and that means warm weather, long weekends, and lazy, sun-soaked vacations. Some factories and shops even partially or fully shut down during the summer months, giving workers more time to spend with their loved ones.

For those manufacturing pros who get nostalgic during their time off, or are reluctant to leave the shop behind completely, a manufacturing road trip may be the perfect summer activity.

Manufacturing Innovations That Changed the Industry

Industry is constantly moving forward, evolving with the times and shifting to adjust to new consumer needs. We’re experiencing some major changes right now, for instance, with the rise of smart technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), broadly known as Industry 4.0. These new technologies are disrupting, improving, and fundamentally altering the way we work.

But this isn’t the first time this has happened, and it can be inspiring to get an up-close-and-personal look at the innovations that shaped the manufacturing industry. Here are some places that you may want to add to your manufacturing road trip itinerary:

Leavitt-Riedler Pumping Engine

Leavitt-Riedler Pumping EngineWhere: Metropolitan Waterworks Museum; Boston
When: Installed 1894

This marvel of turn-of-the-century technology cranked out 25 million gallons of water in each 24-hour cycle at more than 50 revolutions per minute (rpm), providing water to the homes of nearby Bostonians. Until 1928, the pump still saw use as a backup at the Chestnut Hill Pumping Station.

U.S.S. Texas’ Reciprocating Steam Engines

U.S.S. Texas’ Reciprocating Steam EnginesWhere: San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site; near Houston
When: Launched 1912

The U.S.S. Texas saw extensive service during both World War I and World War II, and earned five battle stars for service before being decommissioned in 1948. The ship was one of only two U.S. battleships, the U.S.S. New York being the other, to use a reciprocating steam engine.

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mount Washington Cog RailwayWhere: Coos County, New Hampshire
When: Opened 1868

Affectionately known as “the Cog” or “the Railway to the Moon,” this old set of track is the steepest rack railway in the United States, and the second steepest in the world. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is still in operation today, reliably shuttling tourists to the summit and back.

Watkins Woolen Mill

Watkins Woolen MillWhere: Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site; Lawson, Missouri
When: 1870s

The Watkins Woolen Mill site has been fully restored to its mid-19th-century glory. While in use in the 1870s, about 40 workers in various sorting, scouring, and carding roles — and looms powered by a slide-valve steam engine — created yarn that was cheaper to produce than it was to import from mills in the East.

The Old Mill

The Old MillWhere: Nantucket Historic District; Nantucket, Massachusetts 
When: Built 1746

The Old Mill in Nantucket is the oldest functioning windmill in the United States. The mill has been fully restored several times, and is just as capable of grinding corn today as it was hundreds of years ago.

The Model T

The Model TWhere: The Henry Ford; Dearborn, Michigan
When: 1908-1927

At the turn of the 20th century, most people didn’t own cars. That all changed with the 22-horsepower, four-cylinder engine Ford Model T. This particular Model T was the 15 millionth to roll off the assembly line in 1927, signifying the end of the vehicle’s production.

Wright Flyer III

Wright Flyer IIIWhere: Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park; Dayton, Ohio
When: 1905

The Flyer II crashed in July of 1905, spurring the Wright brothers to make substantial changes to their design. The remodeled version of the Flyer III traveled 24 miles in just under 40 minutes — a new record at the time.

Learn More

So grab your family and load up the car to explore the rich history of American manufacturing. But when you're done, be sure to prepare your business for the future by signing up for the Industrial Marketer Newsletter. We'll deliver actionable marketing insights and best practices that will  help you grow your business all year round.

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