Allis-Chalmers, Factories

The Soviets at the West Allis Works

While doing research on some other Allis-Chalmers topics, I stumbled across an interesting article in the A-C Scope, an employee publication from Allis-Chalmers. It highlighted the visit of the delegation of manufacturing representatives and government officials from the Soviet Union. Here is a transcription of the article from the November/December 1959 issue of the publication.

[Transcribed word for word]

Russian Power Men Visit A-C

Product Range, Manufacturing Skills Draw Comments

“We make everything you do, in the same ratings, only we have to build them bigger to get the same performance because we do not hold the same tolerances you do…”

The speaker is Nikolai P. Galochkin, chief engineer, Foreign department, Ministry of Power Station Construction, USSR. Galochkin was one of 12 Soviet power men who toured facilities of some of the largest electric utilities and electrical machinery manufacturers in the United States by agreement.

The Russians arrived at A-C’s huge West Allis Works in October. They were welcomed by J.L. Singleton, senior vice president, who had toured Soviet plants and power stations a year ago with several other American utility and manufacturing executives.

Leader of the Soviet group was Konstantin D. Lavrenenko, first deputy minister of electric power station construction. Others in the group represented carious Russian power plants, equipment manufacturing plants and electric power institutes and committees.

The A-C method of attaching blading to steam turbine spindles was of great interest to the Russian visitors, shown here as they toured West Allis Works with company executives. Left to right are Valerian S. Belousov, J. L. Singleton, senior vice president, J. D. Greensward, director of manufacturing, Industries Group and a vice president, Valeri G. Pribytkov, Konstantin F. Lavrenenko, leader of the Soviet group, Ivan A. Alekseev, Nikolai P. Galochkin, Nikolai Y. Turchin.

One visitor, Nikolai V. Shchukin, director, Ural Electric Apparat plant, referred to his plant as “the Allis-Chalmers of Russia” be it is one of the few in its field which makes more than one type of equipment.

In their day-long visit at West Allis Works, the Soviet Engineers were accompanied by A-C executives from manufacturing, engineering and sales areas. Most of those who visited with the Russians said they were a friendly group of men who asked many questions but did not engage in political discussions.

The Russians were not overly impressed with the big machine tools and huge erection facilities in the Industries Group shops at West Allis. These were power men, remember, and they had seen big machinery before. They were, however, highly interested in “what” rather than “how” –they wanted to know what products were made, what ratings, what pressures, what sizes, etc.

While the delegation from the USSR was primarily concerned with the generation of electric power, they found much to interest them at West Allis, for example, a new farm tractor (above) and a turbine blade milling machine (below)

They were interested, too, in some of the more advanced techniques for producing hard-to-make components such as steam turbine blades, etc. They talked about safety, about plant modernization, about most of the things that interest manufacturing and utility management people. They talked about standardization as an advantage of their controlled economy, just as we might talk about competition as an advantage of our free enterprise system.

Nikolai Y. Turchin, chief engineer, Electrical Department, Ministry of Power Station Construction, said he thought the Soviet Union was ahead of the United States in power station construction because of the widespread use of prefabricating of whole sections of buildings, piping, etc.

Turchin, incidentally, had served as a lieutenant colonel in the Russian army of occupation in East Germany and apparently alternated periods of military service with his “civilian” job. He spoke some English and explained that it was his “third” language, after Russian and German. All advanced engineering degrees require at least one second language, Turchin said.

Shchukin, who apparently rose from production work to director of his plant, seemed completely familiar with machine shop and foundry operations at the plant. He agreed with some of the others in his part who felt that the workers they had seen at Allis-Chalmers seemed to be in a good frame of mind and “very happy.”

Pausing before the plant’s 144-inch lathe, one of the largest machine tools of its type in the Western Hemisphere, are left to right J.D. Greensward, Konstantin D. Lavrenenko, J.L. Singleton and Valeri G. Pribytkov.

After touring West Allis Works and meeting some of the company’s top management people, the Soviet engineers moved on to their next stop, leaving behind them the thoughts that “there is room for both systems, yours and ours, and a need for both in this world.”

2 thoughts on “The Soviets at the West Allis Works”

  1. Wow, who knew? Russia and the US talking together! 😉

    My grandpa was born in 1889 and died in 1956. I know he was working at AC when he filled out his draft card in 1917. Not sure how long he worked there. But I know he lost two fingers!! He allegedly was a good carpenter. My dad couldn’t hammer a nail! My mom sold grandpa’s old wooden tool box with all his “stuff” at a rummage sale since my dad never used it. He was NOT happy! 👿

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Allis-Chalmers produced the Rotobaler for more than a decade. It was the first commercial round hay baler. The advantage was the round shape shed water and the bale could stay in the field longer. There was no labor savings advantage as the bales were small and picked up by hand. Question: Did AC ever envision and work to develop a large round baler to produce 1/2 – 3/4 ton bales as we see all over the countryside these days? Is that an opportunity that AC didn’t see and missed? Or did someone at AC see the opportunity along with the AC expertise in that process which we have not heard about?

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