Airborne Awesomosity, Big Complicated Machines

The Cold War That Wasn’t – The Convair YB-60

When I grow up I'm gonna ride a nuke from your bomb bay down onto the ground

A young “cowboy”, the son of a member of the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, looks over the Convair built YB-60 during its visit at Edwards from the Fort Worth, Texas, plant. 1953 – From Wikipedia

The early Cold War years were a time of experimentation and discovery. You know like your college years. It was also a time when companies just tried to extend the lives of their older aircraft or threw some incredibly oddball stuff out there in hopes it would work. These are their stories.

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Big Complicated Machines

5 Minutes Of Lego-Powered Awesome

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A loom, wheel chair, Rubik’s Cube solver, clock, pinball, and more!

Big Complicated Machines

More Than Meets The Eye

Considering the complexity of the transformation mechanisms of my childhood Transformers toys, the Transformer in the above cartoon may be done transforming before I get Bumblebee’s legs folded up.

[Image Credit xkcd…who else?]

Big Complicated Machines

The Amtrak Dock Vertical Lift Bridge


I don’t envy bridge designers. Bridges which cross shipping lanes, particularly those with large cargo ships, can often be an exercise in trade-offs. A suspension bridge soaring well over the water surface would be the preferred bridge, but they also require significant amounts of land on either side of the river that may not be there or available. So, other types of bridges are built. One of those bridges is called a vertical lift bridge. The entire road bed lifts to allow shipping to pass underneath.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #24: Steam-Hydraulic Forging Presses


 The Mesta Machine Company made large, and I daresay even huge, hydraulic forging presses for a great many years while they were in operation, and were widely used in industry. A while back I wrote a post about the 50,000 ton Mesta hydraulic forging press The “Fifty”, which was built several decades after the dinky little 8,000 ton steam-hydraulic press pictured above. Back in the day, however, an 8,000 ton forging press was a pretty big tool, and the largest that Mesta made at the time (circa 1919) was “only” 15,000 tons.

These machines were the workhorses of many forges through the years as the most efficient way of producing large forgings. I think that they’re wonderful.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #23: Rope Drives and Flywheels


A large-ish rope drive wheel being turned on a pit lathe.

Following on to the last post about the giant frikkin’ gears that the Mesta Machine Co. used to make, this time we’ll take a quick look at their rope drives and flywheels which are also predictably huge.

As it states above, rope drives are used where quiet and smooth transmission of power is required and belts are either not strong enough or too cumbersome. A good example is the drive mechanisms used by most elevators used in buildings. Could you imagine riding a chain-driven elevator up to the 50th floor of a building? I can, unfortunately, and it makes me want to go outside and sit on the nice, safe gravel of my front yard.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta memories #22: Gear Drives


One of the things that always stand out to me when I’m looking at pictures of old factories and machinery, is the enormous gears that are used almost everywhere. The herringbone-toothed gear shown above is a great example.

The Mesta Machine Company made a great variety of large gear drives for heavy industry and power production. The following pictures show some of the monstrous gears that Mesta made on a regular basis.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #21: Sheet Mills and a Pickling Machine


 Today we’ll look at four types of inter-related rolling mills that produce steel sheets. A jobbing mill rolls steel sheets that range between 1/8″ and 1/2″ in thickness and then send the sheets to a furnace for annealing, producing “blue annealed sheets”. Some plate mills can produce light plates that overlap the output of jobbing mills, but the output of plate mills is not annealed, unlike the jobbing mill. The material sent to a jobbing mill is called “sheet bar” produced by a universal mill or a sheet bar mill and sent to the jobbing mill cold. A jobbing mill uses two-high stands, i.e. stands with two rollers, and consists of a stand with both rollers pinion driven, a roughing stand and a finishing stand.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #20: Wheel and Tire Mills



When we think of steel wheels, we normally think of the one on our cars or trucks, but there are other kinds of steel wheels used in industry and heavy equipment. The easiest example I can think of are the steel wheel used to support and drive the treads on a bulldozer or a tank. We tend to think of the toothed wheel that drives the treads as a sprocket nowadays, but 100 years ago it was common to call them steel wheels, and I believe that it’s still a proper term in the industry, although I can’t prove it. Anyway, that’s basically the kinds of wheels that were made on the Mesta Wheel Mill, generally speaking.

The modern equivalent of the Steel Tire Mill would the ring rolling machines you see in forging operations. A common example of a steel tire is on a railroad wheelset, and you can also find them on certain kinds of excavating equipment.

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Big Complicated Machines


I have spent many hours thinking of an escape route through the lower peninsula of Michigan in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse or just a general breakdown of society. I believe that my plans should include this custom Tucker snow vehicle with custom armor. I mean, how incredibly awesome is this?

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