Monday, June 07, 2010

Ford's Mechanical Salmagundi

I was ready to post last night when Blogger refused to work. Here in the First World, that's as surprising as no water coming from the tap, since the service has become so much like a utility. Nothing like this has happened to my access in more than seven years of using Blogger, even before it was part of the Google behemoth, though I've read it does happen from time to time, here and there.

As far as I can tell, it was a regional problem, affecting parts of the Midwest and parts of the South and maybe Canada. I have an image in my mind's eye of someone tripping over a cord at a Google server farm somewhere. Oops.

No point in antedating the post now, especially since I'm not posting again until next Sunday (the 13th), provided Blogger lets me. Too much for-pay to do in the coming days, and when that's over, I want to do a little nothing if possible. Nothing is a rare activity around here.

The would-be Sunday post: "More powerful than a locomotive," is one of the long-standing attributes of Superman, which sounds a little quaint to more recent ears. But I suspect that whoever came up the line (cartoonist Jay Morton usually gets the credit) was thinking of something like this:

Nothing quaint about that machine. This particular locomotive, C & O Allegheny #1601, a 2-6-6-6 locomotive by the Lima Locomotive Works, can be found on permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum, the indoor component of the complex that includes Greenfield. I happened to catch a random visitor, bathed in sunlight and dressed in light colors, for scale and contrast.

"Built in 1941 and weighing in at 600 tons, this was one of the largest steam-powered locomotives ever built," asserts the Henry Ford web site. "Designed for pulling huge coal trains over the Allegheny mountains of West Virginia, this locomotive could reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour."

We ducked into the Henry Ford in mid-afternoon to see such cool machines, but also for the cool air. Like Greenfield, it's too large for any one visit -- nine acres under one roof, I've read, including who knows how many trains, planes and automobiles; agricultural implements; clocks; pieces of furniture; household machines; jewelry and silver; and other thoroughgoing bits of industrial-age Americana, displayed or recreated on the spot. There were entire sections we missed for want of time or walking energy.

But plenty more things were highly visible (besides the weinermobile, see June 1). Such as the friendly Holiday Inn sign, life-sized and included in a large exhibit about American car culture.

I see that effervescent example of commercial neon sculpture, and it's August 1969 again, and I'm a kid aficionado of motel neon off the Interstate.

Naturally I found my way to the Kennedy death limo, a Midnight Blue 1961 Lincoln.

Surprisingly, the car wasn't junked after the assassination, but modified for further use by succeeding presidents -- Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter. "Hess & Eisenhardt, which had modified the 1961 limousine for use as the presidential parade car, would repair and re-customize it at a cost of more than $500,000," noted the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2003. "Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon would later ride in parades in the now heavily armored car, and it would remain part of the presidential fleet until 1977."

If any of those presidents worried about bad juju while riding in the car, history hasn't recorded it.

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