A Museum of Columbus McKinnon History in Louisville, Kentucky
By Paul Smielecki | Jan 01, 0001
Louisville, Kentucky is known for many things: Muhammed Ali, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the Kentucky Derby to name a few. Just down the road from Churchill Downs is a company called ZXF Flying Effects that Columbus McKinnon Trainers Rob Bruno, Henry Brozyna, and I recently had a chance to visit. ZFX leaves such an impression that we elevated them to number one on the list of Louisville attractions.
Founded by Mr. Robert Dean, ZXF is a complete provider for all flying effects including performer flight, theatrical flying systems, and scenic automation. ZFX custom-designed the Phantom of the Opera chandelier, helped Aladdin's magic carpet take flight, and lifted performers to new heights in Peter Pan. If you've seen a character fly in a theater production, it's likely ZFX was behind it. Being in the Entertainment Industry, Robert is very familiar with the CM-ET Lodestar hoist with many units in his facility. While he spends his days creating flight, he spends free time enjoying a pretty cool hobby.
Robert buys and collects tattered old hoists and restores them to a pristine condition. Robert has accumulated an impressive display of refurbished Columbus McKinnon products, celebrating our history with a museum of hoists dating back to 1905. Columbus McKinnon and its predecessor, Chisholm-Moore Hoist, have the richest history of any manufacturer in the industry, playing large roles in the military and industrial revolution.
Robert has a profound passion and respect for these products and their role in American history. Upon entering the shop we were greeted with a Rosie the Riveter wall mural sporting the iconic CM Lodestar electric chain hoist. Mr. Dean led us through a seemingly never-ending display of antique hoists and we discussed the features and historical impact of each. Despite their age, each looked fresh off the assembly line, frozen in time on the day they were manufactured.
Among the lineup is one of the first CM Puller lever hoists, an original 1955 CM Lodestar electric chain hoist, and a retired Sky Hoist manual wire rope unit. Others included the Al-Lite, one of the first manual chain hoists to feature an aluminum frame in lieu of cast steel, and an original Cyclone manual chain hoist by Chisholm-Moore. The Cyclone is embossed with the manufacturing location "CLEVELAND O," as the hoist predates two-letter US state abbreviations. We even got to see an old CM Techstar which some might not remember, and others would like to forget.
Columbus McKinnon's history is on full display at ZXF and Robert's unique hobby has acquired the most complete historical collection of Columbus McKinnon hoists we've seen. Beyond the restored units, you'll find a complete library of old literature and hours of historic content to explore. Mr. Dean will gladly set up tours of his facility to any interested parties and we will be working together to expand his collection even further.
ZFX is a complete provider for all flying effects – including performer flying effects, theatrical flying systems, and scenic automation. We offer expert pre-production advice, custom-built equipment, effective choreography, skilled and safe installation, and start-to-finish consultation.
Paul Smielecki is the Marketing & Training Manager at Columbus McKinnon Corporation. Paul started with CMCO in 1996 and has served in a number of roles in addition to his current one including Special Applications and Product Management.
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