Is craftsmanship gone?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by G51989, May 9, 2014.

  1. G51989, May 9, 2014
    Last edited: May 9, 2014

    G51989 macrumors 68030


    Feb 25, 2012
    NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
    In the day and age of full automation in many industries, computers. We can build some awesome things.

    I came across this video awhile back

    It's an old steam locomotive being built from the ground up.

    I always felt making something by hand like that probably gave the workers a lot more pride in what they were making than things today. Ive seen big ass working locomotives from that Era to, and the craftsmanship and attention to detail is amazing. Blows away anything I've seen produced today.

    Things being made by mass production are here to stay of course.

    But I feel the overall attention to detail and pride in work is just gone.
  2. SkyBell macrumors 604


    Sep 7, 2006
    Texas, unfortunately.
    On the whole, sure, mass production and automation is here to stay and definitely will remain the top dog.

    However, I do see many companies capitalizing on the fact there are still a sizable number of consumers out there who will pay more for a more "personal touch" in their purchased goods. It's just become more of a niche market in the last few decades, but I don't see interest in it going away.
  3. localoid macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
    I've seen that video posted on many of the railfan forums I visit. It's always a favorite of the steam fans!

    My earliest childhood memory was when my dad carried me up into the cab of a steam locomotive and got to ring its bell and blow its (extremely loud) whistle. I was just a toddler then and unfortunately, within a few short years the steam locomotives had been phased out and replaced by the diesel-electric locomotives. Steam locomotives were awesome machines that produce an awesome array of sights and sounds. They seemed almost alive -- they breathed and to had a pulse, even when standing still.

    Each steam locomotive was build largely "by hand". No two were exactly alike in every detail or dimension. Swapping out large parts, or complete assemblies, usually required some "hand fitting" in the railroad shops. They were much less expensive to build (compared to diesel-electrics), and could be rebuilt numerous times. Many often saw 50 or more years of service. But they required much a great amount of regular maintenance. Even a small railroad terminal might employ a few hundred men to keep them operating, which was of course wonderful for the local economy.

    I've talked with dozens of workers who maintained or operated these venerable machines. They all had a great sense of price in their vocation. The men that repaired often took it upon themselves to tinker with their machines, to get more out of them, or to give operating crews more comfort or safety. Most repair shops had its own foundry, where replacement parts, both big and small, were made. Crews would spend months, completely rebuilding the locos from the ground up, often turning out a rebuilt product that worked "better than new", by adding add-ons improvements as well as updated appliances.

    Several of the American railroads designed and built their own locomotives, and most employees, from the lowly engine wiper to the CEO, felt an incredible amount of pride in the locomotives their company had produced "in house", virtually "from scratch". A lot of railroads paid schools to bus school kids to their locomotive building plants so they could give local kids a sense of pride about what was being accomplished in their local area.

    The French railways arguably produced some of the best designed and most efficient steam locomotives in the world, while the American railroads took a more conservative approach. The American locos were generally built bigger and stronger, with less attention paid to efficiency and aesthetics, but with great effort made to achieve high reliability.

    Today however, we're still rebuilding old steam locomotives in America (and around the world, for that matter). One of the largest steam locomotives ever built is being rebuilt to be ran on the Union Pacific, and one of the most modern steam locomotives ever built will hopefully soon be rebuilt to operate on the Norfolk Southern. And dozens of other steam operations are still running around the country. While the specialized tools, jigs, machinery, etc. needed to rebuild them isn't as easy to find as they once were, "where there's a will, there's a way". So even today, this sort of "craftsmanship" isn't a completely lost art.

    Overall, steam locomotives were horribly inefficient. Efforts to improve efficiency didn't start until the mid-20th century, when it was far too late in the game. The Coalition for Sustainable Rail plans to add a new pages to the history book of steam locomotives however. The organization plans to rebuild a 1937 steam locomotive to "bring it up-to 21st century standards in power, maintenance and performance". The rebuilt loco will then serve as a prototype for designing and building a completely new steam locomotive that will hopefully be "cleaner, quicker and cheaper than current diesel-electric passenger locomotives" that will burn biofuels.
  4. Kissaragi macrumors 68020

    Nov 16, 2006
    Plenty of craftsman around still, they just charge a lot of money for their work so are out of the price range for most of us.
  5. Menel macrumors 603


    Aug 4, 2011
    That kind of pride doesn't put food on the table for as many families.

    Plenty of craftsmen, its just pricy. Mass production gets nice tools and devices to the price for the common man.

    E.g. Bicycles.
    You can go buy a Trek or Cannondale that comes out of Taiwan factories,

    Or you can have a custom handmade built in USA by Lynskey, Seven, Enve, Waterford, Etc.
  6. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Craftsmanship still exists but I'd basically go out on a limb and say a lot of mass produced consumer products does not have it.
  7. SandboxGeneral Moderator emeritus


    Sep 8, 2010
    If one equates craftsmanship with manual labor, consider the ship building yards. There is a lot of craftsmanship and manual labor there.

    That was a very cool video too.
  8. deluxeshredder macrumors 6502a

    Nov 30, 2013
    No, it's not.

    It's just more technical nowadays.
  9. D.T. macrumors G3


    Sep 15, 2011
    Vilano Beach, FL
    It’s still present in quite a few industries. Of course, there’s a boutique market segment of highly expensive goods (speakers for example, where you can spend $20K/each...), but there’s plenty of affordable “craftsman market” products that I support.

    I’d put things like craft beer, other small alcohol bottlers and cigar companies in the craftsman market - it’s one reason I appreciate all three, there’s still pride, skill and a feeling you can connect with the people who made the product.

    As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a big car enthusiast (highly enthusiastic, the cars can be small ... :D ) There are small manufacturers of nice, well designed products, built by hand, and for small markets because they enjoy contributing to it. I’ve got a slick front air dam on one of my rides, so nicely built, some really thoughtful design, and inexpensive.

    Even one of the cars I’m shopping has a hand built engine, and the two assemblers names are etched on a plaque right on the motor.

    Heck, the downstairs TV mount is built by a very small company (they only build a few dozen at a time) it’s well constructed, beautifully engineered (it allows for ~25” of horizontal travel over a mantle).

    I think since so much focus is on electronics: phones, computers, etc., that are mass produced, they overshadow craftsman products, but the latter are there if you look around. :cool:
  10. Arran macrumors 601


    Mar 7, 2008
    Atlanta, USA
    I don't think craftsmanship is so much gone as in hiding from the ordinary man. It has been for a long time.

    Thankfully Apple has shown the masses what a quality product looks like. And yes, you can argue they're not built by craftsmen - but I think two of the most important aspects craftsmanship are thoughtfulness and taking a pride in your work.
  11. G51989 thread starter macrumors 68030


    Feb 25, 2012
    NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
    I am not a huge rail fan, but I do like trains, I know a little bit about them, and I have always loved steam trains, even as a kid. I loved the idea of well made, if simple machines like Steam Locomotives, I love the idea that back in the day, they had no computers, or turbochargers, or all this crazy electronic crap in locomotives. They had...boiler...firebox...running gear....and a shovel... But hey, what else do you need ;)

    Was not my first memory, but I had lots of family in Pittsburgh PA, I went up there a lot as a kid ( my main family is based in GA, PA, and Wisconsin ), and as far as I can tell, Steam is alive and well for historical stuff, tourist trains, and some steam trains up in PA even still actually work pulling loads. Up until not to long ago until it needed a rebuild Amtrak sometimes ran a steam train from Pittsburgh to Johnstown and back a few times a year, they busted out the old school cars and everything ;) and promoted it locally. TONS of people showed up. They even used to stop the trains along the river in areas like Homestead or Sharpsburg, and the locomotives would just be MOBBED with people, who never saw anything like it.

    I hope they bring those trips back again.

    So I was lucky enough to ride in cabs, learn how they work, and It was really cool. It is probably why I am HUGE into model trains, but not a hardcore rail fan.

    Yep, I knew all of that. I feel that is something that is lost today, esp in America more than anywhere else, as someone who does run a fairly large machine shop and small assembly line, as well as a simulation department in my own business.

    It might be a good idea to bus kids in from the local schools, so they can see whats made in their local area.

    And I have always been blown away by the pure craftsmenship and attention to detail of steam locomotives.

    Though... I cannot discount the SD40 series locomotives, You see them all over the Northeast, from Chicago, to Pittsburgh to New York City, and even up near my town ( about an hour north of NYC ), moving tons of freight, and doing a very reliable job of it. But they aren't as cool ;) Or " Alive "

    I knew that to, I love how for well...a very long time...steam locomotives provided 50+ years of incredible service.

    The only newer locomotives I can think of that do that are the SD40 and up models of locomotives, I see them all over the country, and some are going on 40 years old, and they still work behind the scenes, quickly and quickly moving freight from point A to point B. But they dont have the magic.

    Yes,I do know tha tmuch as well, the railroads took HUGE pride in producing amazing cars, well laid tracks and well made locomotives.

    That pride in local work needs to come back.

    That makes me think as I said above...should I get the the local high schools to bus in kids to my " campus " ( machine shop, simulation department and research center, employing a whole 35 people atm, gonna break 100 by the end of the year, the ground is broken on additions ), so they can see well made products that are actually made right in their own backyard? Rather than in China?

    I will admit, I think the SNCF 240P is one of the most amazing Steam Locomotives built, it was crazy efficient, TONS of tr active effort and power, insane reliable, and so good looking. People mock the French, but they are incredible engineers.

    Yep, and I welcome it, building new steam locos, and restoring old ones is important, Steam locomotives built the west, I think its imporant to teach kids and people what they were, how they worked,and how to operate them.

    Steam locomotives have lots of advantages, massive power, built to last, simple operation, and with the advent of biofuels....could make a comeback


    This is very true, it seems like America hates the small business, and would rather buy Wal mart Chinese slave crap


    When I mean craftsmen...I don;t put Apple into that category..not hard to make

    I mean something like this


    Every single peice on that is pretty much made by hand, by craftsman who care, its a beautiful machine.

    iPhone? Not so much.

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