Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations at Silver Dollar City
We had a great time with Kevin, Becky, Dayna and Peter at Silver Dollar City. I’ll admit that with all of us in the little cabin it was a bit crowded at times, but it was really a great time. I think we’ll come back here when it’s a little warmer!
Taking a brake in Tupelo
So on New Year’s Day, as we were working our way (slowly) back to the boat, we started hearing a graunchy sound from the brakes. The next town of any size was Tupelo, Mississippi, so we got a place to stay and I drove to a repair place at 7am on the second. Yes, they could get us fixed up, but no loaner car or ride available. It had been cold and rainy, so I punched up the Uber app. It was going to take 20 mins for an Uber driver to get there, and I noticed the rain had stopped. It was only a couple of miles back to the hotel, so I decided to skip the Uber and get some exercise. Siri had me walking through all sorts of areas in that short walk… some rather sad, and some very nice residential areas.
The Rev. Thomas Stuart came to this area in 1821 as a missionary to the Chickasaw. He founded three congregations, this one in 1867. They built a church here in 1905, watched a tornado destroy it in 1936, and built this building in 1938. It was significantly damaged by fire in 1951, but reopened in 1952. I didn’t linger too long in case it was time for a flood…
We had planned to take in a tour of the Tiffin plant on our way to Virginia. I love most any kind of manufacturing tour, and am sad that for liability or other reasons few plants offer public tours anymore. Tiffin is an exception, in many ways. They have tours every day, and you walk right through work areas. The tour guides were very friendly, and everyone you meet seems a model of Southern Hospitality. And the workers seem to take pride in their workmanship and the beautiful final product.
So maybe some of you are wondering what Tiffin makes… in the 70’s, Bob Tiffin decided he could make a higher quality motorhome than what was available at the time. He builds beautiful coaches now, at a much larger facility and with about a thousand employees. So since I love motorhomes and manufacturing tours, I had a great time!
If you’re not into either, you might as well skip the rest of this missive. I had decided I wasn’t going to take a lot of pictures, but I forgot and took a bunch!
Bob and company turn a bare chassis like this:
Into a finished motorhome like this:
They have a huge cabinet shop, and we saw wood as it’s imported in raw planks. Most of the wood used is cherry. They trim and plane it, getting it ready for use. They have a cool gluing gadget where individual boards are glued on the ends and clamped together to make wider stock, and the clamped pieces rotate like huge Rolodex cards through what I assume is a heater/dryer. Computers program cuts in large sheets of wood, deciding how to best use the entire piece, and then send the routers to follow the pattern. All pieces cut are assigned a number, which ties it to a specific coach. Somehow all the pieces are moved into the correct order to be ready at the right time for installation as the coach moves down the assembly line.
The cabinet shop is not dusty, thanks to a vacuum system throughout the plant with inputs at each power tool.
It was kind of funny seeing bare chassis being driven around! Some chassis are Freightliners, built elsewhere and trucked in. Some of the larger coaches use a chassis they call Powerglide, which they build here.
Once in one of the four lines, a coach moves a few times a day, with components adding up quickly. The chassis move under their own power down the line. The floors are placed first, some with radiant heating wires underneath.
Cabinetry, kitchens and baths are installed.
Entire walls are created, with computers again cutting the insulation to fit against framing and wiring. Top left shows the computer routing out the walls for windows and other cutouts, with a stack of uncut walls waiting their turn.
Eventually the walls are attached, the roof is placed, then the end caps.
The slide outs have been built on another line, and are now slid into place, using unique forklifts or cranes.
Outside storage doors are added, and the coach looks like a huge silver alien craft. It drives that way to another facility in nearby Mississippi to be painted, and then back here for final touch up and testing. The actual time to create each motorhome is a little over three weeks, but 13 per day roll out of the plant. If you order one (which I didn’t) you can plan on about 4 months for the planning, getting a place in the sequence, and actual construction and testing.
I was impressed with the openness and honesty of the whole process. I came away with a greater respect for all the people who make this happen!
Thank you Bob Tiffin and sons, for your beautiful craft, your integrity, and great work ethic!