Recap – Visit to Museum Bronze
Story by Fred Young
Photos by John Keilly
On Saturday, March 17th about 35 members of SEM/ PCA came to Museum Bronze in Auburn Hills. We were warmly welcomed by Mr. Glenn Reid, founder, and his daughter, Ms. Sheri Reid Grant, the executive director. They were clearly pleased to provide this opportunity to peruse a magnificent collection of over 3,000 cars, trains, ships, steam engines and various other models in the main building.
Most are one of a kind and hand built by various craftsmen; some are limited editions. In all cases, the detail is incredible. All of the ships have the intricate rigging one would expect on a full size ship. The car engines actually work with tiny sparkplugs and ignition systems. Transmissions shift gears and some cutaway models were on hand to demonstrate the inner workings.
Most of the models were powered. The working steam engines produced tiny motive power. Other models were battery powered with remote or radio controls. No expense or time was spared in making these reproductions authentic. Every screw, nut, bolt and rivet was replicated in exact detail. It was a labor of love for the builders – and a treasure trove for the onlookers. Many of the displayed items evoked connections to pleasant childhood memories.
Adjacent to the museum was a full size 1931 Canadian National Railway caboose. Its interior was remodeled with gorgeous wood paneling and glass shelves. This provided display space for models of 1/87th to 1/43th scale trains and model cars, fire engines, trucks and the like. Another display featured toy soldiers in various period dress. Everyone was impressed by the enormity of the vast collection.
After about a half an hour of browsing we assembled in the cafeteria for a chat by Mr. Reid. He took us for a walk back in time by storytelling the history of manufacturing in metro Detroit and how his father, also an engineer, got him involved in manufacturing.
One of Mr. Reid’s first ventures was ownership of a bronze foundry – which cast a statue for the City of Hamtramck. However, the completed statue was too heavy to move! With the assistance of the City of Detroit planner at that time, a Mr. Blessing, it was decided to dig up some old buried railroad tracks and transport it with a rail car. This story certainly amused recently retired Detroit city planner, SEM/ PCA member Alex Pollak.
Then Mr. Reid related how his father had worked as an engineer at Ternstedt, a well known Detroit manufacturing firm at the time. During WW II, Ternstedt made gyros for the Norden bombsight under license from Sperry. According to Wikipedia, “The the Norden company joked that they could hit a pickle barrel from 30,000 feet. In operations, the Norden proved to be far less accurate than in testing.” Mr. Reid heard that in one case, a bomb aimed at a target in Japan hit China!
Intertwined in all of this were Mr. Reid’s recollections about companies in and around Detroit – some of which were involved in the Norden project. In addition to Ternstedt, he mentioned TRW, Burroughs, GM Hydramatic, Ford and its founder Henry Ford, the Ford Willow Run plant and the Fleetwood Cadillac plant. This was a real walk back in time for the life-long Detroiters in our group. Anyone not familiar with the Industrial Revolution could certainly see it and live it through in this place.
Then Ms. Sheri Reid Grant told us about the origins of Museum Bronze and the Reid Family Foundation. The primary purpose of both is to engage, educate, emphasize and enable students in the furtherance of hands-on skills in manufacturing. They provide an annual six figure grant to institutions supporting this goal. Along with this they give scholarships to students pursuing an education based on hands-on skills. The Reid Family Foundation is working hard to ensure that manufacturing does not become a lost art in this area. is is most certainly an anachronism in this day and age.
After a few short questions we resumed our tour but not before giving Mr. Reid a plaque expressing our appreciation for the opportunity to visit his museum. To also show the club’s appreciation, members donated over $100 to the museum’s foundation. It certainly was a worthwhile endeavor to visit this institution.
As a bonus, besides viewing the museum and caboose we were given a guided tour through the corporate offices of Flexible Products, a company founded by Mr. Reid. Along with a full size Model T in the lobby, the offices also contained a plethora of collectibles. Spied were car pins, hood ornaments, car posters, paintings, artwork, sculptures, paper money, coins, and stock certificates – all of which were displayed on the walls, floors, desks and countertops. And we thought we had seen it all! Even a collection of toy banks was displayed.
Back at the main museum we were given additional time to review the extensive collection.
Mr. Reid recounted how he had bought a 1/8 scale dragster from TV star and Detroit native, Tim Allen. Next to that was another dragster with a jet engine that was modeled after the jet that powered the U-2 spy plane that Francis Gary Powers flew over the USSR. Other stories followed about various other artifacts. This was a real treat for the visitors of all ages.
A poster in the offices read, “The one with the most toys still dies.” To counter that I will say it is about the people who made this visit possible not the toys.
Our sincere thanks go out to Mr. Reid and his daughter Sheri for being such gracious hosts, sharing their museum, and allowing us to take a step back in time. May they live long and prosper with friends. As they say in our club – it is about the people.
To find out more about Museum Bronze go to www.museumbronze.com.
Visitors may call ahead for an appointment