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  1. #1
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    Default USA Heavy Iron Disappearance

    Or how the the West Hartford Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool plant - an essential industry - went away, to be replaced by useless fluff like Home Depot.

    My 3B Jig Bore was built on this patch of ground in 1949 and my 12 X 30 Model C I had for 20 years was built here in 1950.

    All the 12 X 30 Model B lathes were built here in the WW2 period.

    They built from 7" bench lathes to enormous Keller horizontal spindle die sinkers.

    Here is some of the info I have been able to come up with. I'll add to this as is possible.






    From a 1941 Fortune magazine advertisement. This was ONE of the wood block floor outfits. Plant was fairly new then, having first been occupied in the late fall of 1939 after they moved from the 70 year old mess along Capitol Avenue and the Park River in Hartford. The Park River flooded both in 1936 and 1938, which likely helped them bite the bullet on the new plant. Park is under ground in a conduit today.

    This was one of the last Albert Kahn himself had anything to do with, having died at age 73 in 1942. Albert as a youngster did the magnificent Packard plant on East Grand in Detroit in 1907, a plant rotting still. He also did Highland Park and later works for Henry Ford.



    And a little later view from the 1957 tool catalog. The below linked newspaper article says that smokestack was a little over 200 feet tall. In 1943, the WPB or other Government agency DIRECTED that they convert from oil to coal for the power plant - they ended up being able to burn both.




    Here is one David Stelly (Boss at P&WMS) sent me. It is big, so I just will link to it here. Shows the modern mess as of 2008. Being a MAPOPHiLE, I notice three years ago they were still identifying some of Oakwood Ave south of Flatbush - not on current Google maps though - not until you go down New Park some to you see it continue.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...08-sat-map.jpg





    J.O.
    Last edited by johnoder; 05-09-2011 at 09:10 PM.

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    Thanks for posting this, John; it's nice to see evidence of what a powerhouse of a manufacturing country we once were, and quite sad to see what it has become lately. Alas, all we can do is save a relic here and there - which is one more reason to hang onto my 12X30 Model B.

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    AUG 1995 article on demolishing the place:

    Crews Clear The Way For Home Depot - Hartford Courant

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    Default Truly a Shame

    All of those professional, skilled, and semi-skilled manufacturing jobs (you know, the kind of jobs that you can use to raise a family) have given way in our new economy to minimum wage jobs. McDonalds recently announced that they are making a major hiring push. The direction this country is taking is indeed sad, and I can't see that our "leadership" is taking any steps to reverse the situation.

    All we hear about is that it is a "global economy." Well, as the economy of places like China goes up, ours goes down in this "global economy." At least the Europeans are smart enough to protect their industry. We are not.

    Regards,

    Mike

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    I opened this thread right after John posted it and the sad just won't go away.....

    How did an upstart like Gene Haas just jump in and make it work. He wasn't even born until 7 years after that plant aerial shot was taken in '49. Started with a servo powered indexer in the early eighties. Now he's got a million square foot manufacturing facilty and a billion in annual sales! He does it so well, that he can make it work in California!

    Was the old way just too resistant to change, because Gene has proven there is a good market for machine tools. How could that magnificent P & W* think-tank have failed that badly with such a great running start?
    *or all the others, with the same fate.

    Does Gene have the game plan to get us back on track? Maybe it was just the timing, combined with smart and lean. Not a bad model for study..... maybe it's that "sole stockholder" thing, no board of directors, stock holders or no-think investment bankers to please.... They typify what's wrong with America and hold most of the reins....... but not Genes.....

    Bob

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    Over the last 40+ years in the Hampton Roads area I have either worked for or subcontracted from manufacturing companies based in Europe or Japan. The ones who are persisting the longest are those who are privately held.

    From my limited perspective, based on what I see in my area, the privately held companies are based in Europe. So, with no stockholder pressure the owners & Board of Directors can make decisions based on long term goals.

    One example of this concept is Stihl. Stihl had a market and production increase during the recent recession. They also sell their products to the public through dealers/distributors who they choose. They do not sell to Big Box Home Improvement companies. Since they are fairly close by I have done some subcontracting work for them in the past. None of this deals with production as that is almost 100% done in-house.

    Another example is Liebherr. The local company now builds mining trucks. Several years ago they bought a truck company in Kansas and moved production to Newport News, VA. I worked for them when they were building hydraulic excavators and now build parts for their truck product line. They are also a privately held company with plants world wide and products from Refrigerators to Cranes to Gear cutters.

    I feel there is a place for equipment manufacturers in the USA but if they are publicly traded the pressure for short term performance creates a real disadvantage.

    It's a real shame that many of these large manufacturers are now gone and the plants are disappearing as well. The cause is multiple factors but the pressures from stock holders has to rank pretty high up.

    Walter A.

    ps - When I mention stock holders I am not referring to the average citizens who have bought, and held onto, stock for years. I am referring to institutional stock holders.

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    A few more of when we could do something besides be distracted by idiot gadgets:




    I like this since I used to own a 20" Model B:



    Those little jewels still enjoyed by forum members:



    Old machines to make new tools:


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    Capitalism baby.

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    Hi John
    I like the pictures of the PW factory and machinery .In April I went to the Haas open house and looked at the factory they are making 1000 machines a month . They have a RD group that was showing 2 new big lathes 30inch swing 10 foot centers about. Talked with the man that designed it he did a good job and he is a shop guy I could tell by his hands all scard up. The machines I saw that day were going to China India korea Russia whats that tell you . Here are some pictures .

    Collector
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails p1040594-..jpg   p1040628....jpg   p1040638....jpg   p1040639....jpg   p1040640...jpg  

    Last edited by collector; 05-11-2011 at 11:04 PM. Reason: add pictures

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnoder View Post

    I like this since I used to own a 20" Model B:
    I've seen you write about your Model B before and if you don't mind me asking why did you get rid of it? Having never run a P&W lathe (my Brother has one though) I assume that they are a jewel of a machine to operate.

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    John,
    I had the luck of working in a local manufacturing company that has a wood block floor. Drop a piece of steel and all you get is a "thunk". This is a machine tool manufacturer (Austrian and privately owned) that has been in our area for about 30 years. The plant has expanded about 3x.

    The entire plant, including the fabrication area is Air Conditioned. The fab shop also had a wood floor when I worked there but may not now. I was hired as a shop foreman in the lathe department which consisted of American built CNC & Manual lathes including a 86" Bullard CNC. Later I was foreman over the Lucas Horizontal Mill section with several 30T & 40T machines. I was their production control manager when I left to start my own shop.

    90% of their equipment is American Made or at least American Brands. It was nice working in a shop with that kind of attention to having great conditions and machines. There really were very few machine jobs we could not do. I still kick myself sometimes for giving it up to open my own shop.

    Anyway, the wood block floor is awesome. Every machinist should have a chance to experience working on one.

    Walter A.

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    Default

    As a P&W owner, and follower of all things P&W, I am a bit mystified by the scarcity of P&W machines given what seemed to be a prodigious enterprise. Does anyone have an explanation/theory why there are so few P&W machines around?

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    why did you get rid of it?
    A party wanted it more than I did. ($$) It was replaced with something more modern and capable and less worn out. They were jewels, but were also oddballs (headstock design with gear train going through the rear wall of the bed) with plain bearings and non hardened ways. The top speed on the 20" was 383. Here is a photo of mine.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...sc/20PandW.jpg

    J.O.

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    Default Wood Block Floors

    Before changing careers and moving to NJ, I worked at GM's Buick final assembly plant in Flint, MI for nearly ten years between 1972-1981. The building I worked in (Building 4) was used for Electra, Riviera and LeSabre assembly. This four story building was continuous with Building 12 (which housed hood and fender presses). The combined two buildings were well over 1/4 mile long, N-S, along Industrial Avenue. Floors on all four stories consisted of wood blocks about 3 inches wide, 6 inches long and 3 inches thick, placed end grain up. The floors received constant (2 shifts and 800 new Buicks per day) heavy (but quiet) lift truck traffic. The only time the floors developed issues was when they got wet. When wet, the wood would swell and create interesting pressure ridges.

    The whole Buick complex (as well as many of the other GM sites in Flint) is now essentially a vacant lot, with few remaining buildings:

    Flash Earth - Zoom into satellite and aerial imagery of the Earth in Flash

    Stan

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    Ha! That reminded me of the times when the block floor got wet at the plant I worked in. Someone left a hose bib on and the water hose developed a leak over night. We arrived in the morning to the site of a foot high dome in the aisle.

    Another reason to love these floors was the ease of running air/water/power lines. We had some bent channel premade that would replace blocks and cover the lines. If you needed to move a machine you just re-do the pavers.

    Even though the wood pavers were oak saturated with tar there were seldom any fires even in the fab shop.

    It's a real shame to see these buildings disappear. Where parts were once manufactured now imported junk only passes through.

    Walter A.

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    The pictures of the Haas factory, while interesting, just plain lack the "cool" factor of the P&W plant.

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    I'll get some more scanning done in the '43 year book. An outdoor Victory Outing took place in their park 11 September 1943. Over 11,000 souls showed up. Since it was just for employees and families, I'll have to assume that there were something on the order of 3500 employees that bothered to show up.

    Here are some big scans related to this outing that I will just link to:
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...berOutingB.jpg
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...berOutingA.jpg
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v3...berOutingC.jpg

    On an earlier occasion, 4 April, 2500 were on hand at Bushnell Memorial Auditorium in Hartford to honor employees with service pins from 10 to 50 years service. V.P. Charles M. Pond (the Pond in Niles Bement Pond) got his 40 year pin then. R.E. Baldwin, then Connecticut governor, addressed the gathering and congratulated the six fifty year guys.

    J.O.
    Last edited by johnoder; 05-13-2011 at 07:33 PM. Reason: ADDED SCANS

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    Hi John, Let's hope this link works, LIFE - Google Books if it doesn't go to google books and search "Life Magazine Pratt and Whitney" it is the Dec 2 1940 edition starting at page 85. I wish it was more than like 8 pages or so but the pictures in there make the interesting ones you posted look boring!

    I don't know what happened here in CT. Right down the street from me in Bridgeport we had Bullard, Moore, and Bridgeport machine. In Hartford, Pratt and Whitney, B&S up in Providence, Hendy in Torrington, who else am I missing? Today Moore is the last still standing.

  26. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by adammil1 View Post
    Hi John, Let's hope this link works, LIFE - Google Books ......
    Very interesting reading. It's hard to imagine a general interest magazine like Life doing such an in depth article. You wouldn't see that today. Toward the front of the magazine was another interesting piece on the dust up between the AF of L & the CIO.

    Thanks for sharing the link.

    Walter A.

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    Great stuff - thanks Adam - definitely a great addition to see what went on there for a very long time, and then was just gone.

    Here is one that shows just the die and mold stuff:



    J.O.


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