• 68°
franklin county times

Soul festival organizers hope for increased turnout

By By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
November 8, 2004
Jim McRae, president of the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum, believes many people are interested in the Soul Steam Feed Works site at 402 19th Ave. because they like to see how things used to work.
The Soul Live Steam Festival will be held Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and will feature a mold-making workshop for children and adults, a tour of the Soul Steam Feed Works factory and a nighttime iron pour called "Sparks in the Dark" that begins at 5 p.m. Admission is free; donations will be accepted.
McRae and Greg Hatcher, project manager for the museum, talked about the event in an editorial board interview with The Meridian Star.
The Meridian Star: Tell us about this year's festival and how it's different from last year?
Greg Hatcher: This year will be similar to last year, except we will have more of the building open and we will have more demonstrations. We will have a woodworker, an antique tool collection display and a model steam engine table that will feature hand-built steam engines that will be running on compressed air instead of steam.
The Star: Why it is important today to look back at Soul and the role the company played in Meridian?
Jim McRae: The bottom line is that this can be a real revenue generator for our area in the tourist sense. We expect, if we can get the museum in operation, that it would draw somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000 people a year.
The Star: How close are you to creating the actual museum?
McRae: A long way, because we need community support to make this happen. That is what the festival is about, to create interest, to familiarize people with it and, hopefully, get support. Like the agricultural museum in Jackson, there is a move in the U.S. to have more industrial museums and more industrial heritage preserved. We think that will be as attractive or moreso than the farm museums. Soul was a significant player in steam engine manufacturing back in the 1920s and 1930s. They had a far greater influence than just in this area because they sold and shipped the engines all over the country as well as other parts of the world. They built and sold 4,300 of the 2-cylinder that was used to drive the carriage on sawmills. The last one of those we still have. And this year, we had a person donate three engines that were made at Soul and we are reconditioning those.
The Star: How do you market this to people who may not know what it is?
Hatcher: People are interested in mechanical type things. In England, there are a lot of industrial museums and they are based on steam or whatever was housed in the building originally. People like to see things in motion and they like to see how things used to be done. People are insulated now from how things are made and how we got to where we are today. So it is a nostalgic look back to the way things were.
The Star: What will be at the Soul Festival this year?
Hatcher: Back Forty Restaurant will be at the festival again this year serving fried catfish lunches, most parts of the building will be open for visitors, the pattern shop will be open and a woodworker will demonstrate the old wood lathe that turned out pattern parts for Soul, the old steam engine factory also will be open and a guide will explain some of the equipment and manufacturing techniques. There also will be an early 20th Century print shop display and a local historian is planning to gather oral histories from former Soul employees.
The Star: Why would someone want to come to Meridian to see this?
McRae: Well, because they have an interest and because as far as we can tell Soul is the last or one of the last machine foundries in America in the original building with the original machinery. We have about 80 percent of the original machinery and about half of that is in working condition. And a lot of people don't understand the term live steam but that is when you actually have steam operating equipment. The sounds and smells are what makes it unique. There will actually be things in operation.

Franklin County

University of Alabama announces spring graduates

Franklin County

Dean’s, president’s lists students named for UA spring term

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Hugh Plott

Galleries

PHOTOS: Inaugural downtown Russellville Art Crawl winners

Galleries

PHOTOS: Russellville Public Library holds princess, pirates bounce party

Franklin County

Northwest Shoals Community College signs 24 students in FAME class

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Tony Chard

News

Car show benefit helps raise needed funds

News

Russellville High School varsity cheerleaders attend UCA cheer camp

Franklin County

NWSCC receives $18,000 in grants from Dollar General Literacy Foundation

News

Russellville equine therapy visits library program

News

Steam locomotive delivery to Red Bay delayed, arrives July 1

News

Local author holds book signing at RPL

Franklin County

Former Russellville resident performs ‘Miracle Worker’

News

Presenting: Miss Phil Campbell

Franklin County

All American Tang Soo Do students recognized

News

Russellville High School students sign to pursue fine arts careers

Franklin County

Football Funday, special needs probowl take place June 15

Galleries

PHOTOS: RMS students take the stage for spring sing

News

Russellville member named among finalists for GFWC Jennie Award

East Franklin

East Franklin Junior High celebrates May 21 graduation

Belgreen

Belgreen Class of 2024 celebrates graduation

Franklin County

Local churches plan Vacation Bible School programs

Galleries

PHOTOS: Tharptown High School Wildcats graduate

x