Austin Organs

January 28, 2010

Stops, Austin Organs

There was a time when Hartford was an industrial powerhouse, when the rows and rows of stolid brick buildings meant progress and production, not just empty, untaxable property. It’s a shame, really, that so little manufacturing remains in the city, even as we are surrounded by its vestiges, like the big belt-drive gears that line the high ceilings of the office building where I work, which was once, I’m told, a bicycle factory.

The other day, I was lucky enough to get a tour of a living, breathing, old-time factory, Austin Organs on Woodland Street, one of the oldest continuously operating organ manufacturers in the United States. My friend Brett works there and graciously invited me to a lunchtime walk around the sprawling, four-story factory. It was really really neat. I could try to describe it, but it’s better to just rely on pictures to convey the delightful mystery of the place. It is full of carefully crafted stuff, and has many complicated machines with very specific purposes. You should click on the pictures to see them bigger.

Brett welcomes me to the factory:
Brett welcomes me to Austin Organs

Here is the console for an organ that lives in Honolulu. Austin Organs is repairing lots of pieces of the organ, but they made the console entirely from scratch.
Brand new console bound for Honolulu, Austin Organs

I didn’t know that consoles use electricity to operate the actual pipes and air and all of that remotely – in other words, that the consoles themselves don’t make any noise. But that is how it works, and the newest ones, like this one headed to Hawaii, are totally electronic and control the actual organ through an ethernet connection. Below, the back of the console pictured above:
Console circuitry, Austin Organs

Here’s a close-up of the circuits:
Console circuitry, Austin Organs

Here are some other details of the Honolulu-bound console:
Console destined for Honolulu, Austin Organs

Stops, Austin Organs

Stops, Austin Organs

Swell to choir, Austin Organs

A lot of what Austin Organs does is repair, and they collect unused parts whenever they can, so there are lots of other organs lying around:

Under the hood, Austin Organs

Infallible, Austin Organs

General Cancellor, Austin Organs

Great, Swell, Austin Organs

There were also many many impossibly complicated machines, machines designed to do a series of very specific operations that occur only in an organ factory:
10 saws, 7 drills, Austin Organs

A machine with a very specific purpose, Austin Organs

Machine to wind wire for electromagnets, Austin Organs

Complex Machine, Austin Organs

Complex Machine, Austin Organs

Meteor, Austin Organs

Press for making plywood, Austin Organs

(OK, I know a drill press isn’t so complicated, but this one was awfully cool-looking.)
Drill Press, Austin Organs

Drill Press, Austin Organs

There were lots of interesting tools:
Tools, Austin Organs

Tools, Pipe Shop, Austin Organs

Mandrels, Austin Organs

Tools, Austin Organs

Lastly, sundry other neat things I saw at the organ factory:
Cabinet Shop, Austin Organs

A room for assembling organs, Austin Organs

Austin Organs

Pipes, Austin Organs

Do not talk to machines, Austin Organs

Clock, Austin Organs

Austin Organs

Window, Austin Organs

Reed Room, Austin Organs

Flag, Austin Organs

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2 Responses to “Austin Organs”

  1. Rodger said

    Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve always thought it would be cool to get an inside look in there. Outrageous.

  2. Laura Jackson said

    Thanks so much for highlighting Brett’s work place, even though he was laid off, I’m glad he got the chance to have such an interesting experience. It was nice to see the ”innards”of the place. Great photos.Isn’t Brett just the greatest? I’m kinda biased, being his mom! I love reading your blog,keep it goin’! Love those ”toy stories”

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