Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Orgblo

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: These are noble spaces, but it’s not only in their high vaulting, shadowed tracery and dark silences that these Farrel sheds resemble cathedrals. Here, in the side aisles behind the cathedral nave, a hose saddle waits like a minor altar inscribed, "Spencer Turbine Company, Windsor, CT, Hose Rack No. 2.”  It was one of various vestiges hinting that purposeful work once took place here, but nothing explained what part the Spencer Turbine Company’s rusting hose reel played in Farrel Foundry’s daily devotions and in the rites of those who came here religiously for long hours in service to the Foundry. It made me curious: Hose? Turbines? What did they do here beside the casting ovens? 

I went on a Google pilgrimage and learned that Spencer Turbine still exists in Windsor, CT, and an email inquiry brought a friendly reply from Janis, Spencer Turbine Marketing Manager. She explained that the company had begun in 1892 as manufacturers of the “Orgblo.” 

In an age when keyboard music in church, theater, or soon in silent movie houses may have been most people's major experience of professionally made music, the Orgblo, Janis wrote, "provided air to pipe organs – many are still in operation today – churches, theaters, universities, etc.” 

In 1892 practical electrical motors were still in their first decade, but they were already powering new trolley travel bringing people over greater distances to dance halls and skating rinks, to churches and theaters where the stomach rumbling organs could be felt, and Orgblo was giving organs new lungs at the dawn of that era.

It’s not clear what hose was wound here, but it’s not likely Farrel Foundry had a pipe organ. What they had was a lot of hot and dirty air, and the makers of Orgblo had a useful engineering expertise for moving it. Janis of Spencer explained further: “Today we manufacture multiple types of air and gas handling equipment including central vacuum systems for industrial applications and at a  few noteworthy landmarks (Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, White House,etc.)” 

The saddle looks not too different in size from a saddle for garden hose, and I’d take a wild guess that pressurized air might play a role in cleaning debris from fresh castings. Whatever was done here, the hose saddle and the small crane behind it are relics of equipment long gone and labors long ceased in a world that is vanishing as I write. It’s good to know Spencer Turbine is still in Windsor, Connecticut.