We were in Meridian Mississippi recently and took the time to visit the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum at the site of the old Soulé Steam Feed Works factory and went on a tour given by Greg Hatcher, executive director of the museum. See also their Facebook page and Wikipedia page.
They have an amazing array of artifacts from the steam age. Many of them in working condition though not all were in operation at the time we went through.
As well as preserved areas of the factory floor with examples of the casting tools used to make replacement parts
and workshop areas in much the state they would have been when the factory was an active operation.
They have several examples of the wooden patterns used when they needed to cast new parts for the steamworks. They would create a mold in sand, using the pattern you see on the top of the block frame below and cast the new part in metal.
They have a working factory floor with the longest operating line shaft in the U.S. at 160 feet long with a single motor turning the entire shaft. You can see this in motion in the video at the end of this post.
They also have an exhibit on the record breaking endurance flight by the Key brothers in 1935. The flight was made possible in part due to to a plane to plane refueling invention by A. D. Hunter, an employee of Soulé Steamworks.
We were also able to go through the Soulé office area where they’ve gone so far as to reproduce the original layout using period pieces, such as an Ediphone wax cylinder recorder, as well as furniture that was actually in the office at the time.
The office also includes a steel vault from about 1914 which is no longer kept open as a previous visitor allowed his 6 year old into the vault and closed the door, not realizing that the vault was still in working order. That would have been bad enough but then the child spun the knob from inside. Fortunately the child was never in any danger as there was plenty of oxygen inside and once Greg Hatcher was able to reach the area they were able to re-open the door from the outside using the combination.
Near the offices are the shower and locker rooms used by the employees who would change out of their suits and into their work clothes in the morning and shower and change back into their suits in the evening. This ensured that the people in town had a good opinion of the steamworks and the people that worked there.
They have several other artifacts such as a two-shaft loom, which needs a bit of TLC that Susan sorely wanted to give it
Broom making jigs
and an amazing printing press that would actually cast the type pieces in the machine as they were needed.
See below for a few of the machines in action and over here for many more photos.
If you find yourself in Meridian, drop by for a formal tour. The days and times available for tours are listed on their web site. You won’t regret the time spent.