Once upon a time, when gray sandstone was the lifeblood of the local economy, big machines were used to cut away slabs from the walls of Amherst quarries.
A hulking remnant of that long-ago era was packed up Friday and sent on a 425-mile trip to its new home at the National Museum of Industrial History.
Located in an old steel plant and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the museum opened its doors last August in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Amherst Historical Society has been in talks since 2013 to number an old quarry channel machine among the NMIH exhibits, said president Bob Pallante.
“A piece of Amherst is going to be residing in the museum for all to see. A piece of Amherst history will always be there,” he said.
Channel machines were used to separate huge slabs of sandstone from quarry cliffs, running along rails, punching holes in the rock face, and inserting explosives.
The machine — estimated at about a century old — was spotted four years ago at the society’s annual German Festival by museum rep Mike Piersa. At the time, the museum was under construction.
Piersa worked with society members to buy the machine for a display on granite quarries, Pallante said.
Exhibits are populated by more than 200 industrial artifacts, most from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and silk manufacturer Scalamandre Inc.
The goal is to tell the story of American industrial achievements through the sweat and sacrifice of workers.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.