View Full Version : Need suggestions on industrial things to see on cross country trip...

08-12-2009, 11:52 PM
Hey fellow metal heads:

We're going to be taking another cross-country trip and I'm looking for spots that would be on your must see list. While there are at least 10,000 places to see between here and there, in order to keep this thread within some sort of limit, how about we keep this to just your "Must See" or "Really, Really Worthwhile" lists?

Our trip will begin the middle of September in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and will head east with no specific agenda or route except to end up in New England somewhere by about the second week of October to see the fall colors.

We will stop at Greenfield Village to see the steam engines and machinery there and may or may not, depending on the colors of the leaves when we get there, end up at the Mt. Washington cog railway.

My wife canít tolerate motorcycles and hot rods, so those are out. Weíre mostly interested in historical stuff. Machine museums (or cool old working shops that would welcome visitors), railroads (museums or working), antique auto collections, farm museums, or anything connected with industrial archaeology could be part of the agenda. And if there are any stationary steam plants that are open to visitors, that would be cool, too, as could anything similar along the way.

My wife wants to see both the Dakotas but I don't know that we'll have time to touch both states. After Greenfield Village, we probably go south of the lake to Buffalo. I've taken the route through Canada before and while no offense to our northern brethren, that stretch is a real head banger. So we'll more than likely go south around the lakes.

We like to avoid the interstates; the more obscure the road, the better I like it. We'll be in our truck camper so finding lodging isn't an issue. But a sneak into a big city for something worthwhile is certainly OK. Perhaps there are some steam boats on one of the lakes that would still be running at the end of Sept. or early Oct.

After we're done in New England, we'll have about two weeks to scoot homeward toward Central California on a more central route depending on the weather. (I don't like snow.) We need to be back by the first of November. We'll not go south of a line roughly through Missouri, Kansas and Colorado unless forced farther south by early snow (We've been the old Route 66 and its equivalents a number of times.). We've seen lots of railroad stuff in Colorado, so we'll probably have to pass that by this time. Anyway, my sweetheart is a great traveler and tolerant of my addicitons, but also a bit of a stable horse when pointed homeward so I don't think there will be much stopping after Kansas. More than likely, we'll take US 50 from Grand Junction to Reno. (I just love that road... you really know what the pioneers saw when they made the trek west. If you ever go that way, be sure to stop at the ruins of the Pony Express station. Turn off the motor and listen to the silence.) But the railroad in Ely will probably have to be a separate trip. Getting my honey to spend two days there at that point in the trip is not going to happen.

And if you have other suggestions that would not fit into these categories, letís hear it.
Perhaps our paths will cross along the way! THANKS!!

08-13-2009, 12:23 AM
Mid September is a bit late for Alberta tourism, but I'd suggest the "going to the Sun road" in Northern Montana and the Remington Carriage museum at Cardston Ab. The Remington Museum has the largest collection of turn of the last century rolling stock and some very talented artisans doing restorations for the museum and for private interests as well. Ducking back across the Medicine Line would avoid an admittedly lacklustre trip across the Southern prairies.

If you're in N Dakota at the right time, it may be worth it to at least check on when the Estevan Model Engineering show is.

What can I say.... I've been a Canuck all my life. I like it here.

My $.02

08-13-2009, 07:14 AM
The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. There is a working coal mine there and a real WW2 German submarine. And other stuff. Or visit Manitowoc Wisconsin and see where submarines were built on the Great lakes. There is a real WW2 United States submarine there. Go to both and compare the two.
The Art Institute has a small display of armor and arms.
There's a wicked bunch of really tall buildings too!

08-13-2009, 10:53 AM
A couple ideas for in New Engand, Old Sturbridge Village shows how the Shakers lived in the 1800s and has an old saw mill. Not much in the way of machinery, but historically very interesting.

In Springfield MA, you have Springfield Armory. Haven't been there yet, it's on my short list of things to visit this year, but reading about it sounds like it would be worth visiting.

If you like trains, there is the Essex Steam Train where you ride the train up river and then can take a river boat back. http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/index.html

08-13-2009, 11:11 AM
Dunno if it counts as "industrial" but I always liked visiting Mystic Seaport in Connecticut when I lived there. Old sailing vessels, museum and wooden boat building classes.

Also there's the Groton submarine museum not far away. Never been there, always wanted to!

Rich Carlstedt
08-13-2009, 01:29 PM
September 19th is the Black Hills Model Engineering show in Rapid City South Dakota.

Manitowac Mariners Museum has some neat Great lakes exhibits in
a well done manner along with the submarine

Chicago Museum of Science and Industry
Lots of technical stuff, but they show off the kids attraction in ads

Henry Ford Museum is an ABSOLUTE must
Greenfield Village is slightly less for mechanically inclined, except for the Armington and Sims Machine Shop, and the RR Roundhouse with all the maintenance lathes and equipment. The Sims shop is a Complete Machine shop from 1900.. drool on your shirt so you don't slip on the wood floor

Wright Air Force Museum, Dayton Ohio
A huge airplane and aerospace facility

The Springfield Armory, Springfield mass
More into guns, but the tooling exhibits and videos were neat

The American Precision Museum in Vermont.
You will never appreciate history and old machine tools, like you can here.
History of machine tools in the making
Early tools and exhibits -awesome- first bridgeport ie...
And they have a model engineering show on October 31st *

I am sure there are many small museums around New England, but
I tried to cover the big ones.

* It will be cold by then but you probably won't see snow until you hit Colorado


George Bulliss
08-13-2009, 01:51 PM
September is the best time to see Glacier Park and a trip on Going to the Sun road is something else. The tamaracks and aspen in the park should be starting to turn about that time.

The submarine tour in Manitowoc is worthwhile. I went through it a few weeks ago and would gladly do it again. After the tour, you could take the SS Badger across Lake Michigan to Ludington. It leaves Manitowoc around 1:15 pm and is a four hour crossing. One of the last coal fired, steam ships in N. America. It is probably a three hour drive from Ludington to the Detroit area.


08-13-2009, 02:46 PM
X2 on the Henry Ford - even she will like it and there's hot rods too. Lots of mechanical stuff. I only got 2 1/2 hours in there, it's an all day thing.

08-13-2009, 05:02 PM
Take a little time and see the Mid American Air Museum in Liberal Kansas. It boasts to be the largest aviation museum in Kansas and 5th largest in the nation.

I was working in Liberal for a week last year. We took an afternoon off to tour the museum, I was floored!! It was awesome. I think the entry fee was only about $5.00/person and they are open 7 days a week.

If you like airplanes, this is must see.

I couldn't get it to pull up on the internet under their web address, but if you search on mid America air museum you will find plenty of hits on it.

Enjoy your trip


08-13-2009, 05:39 PM
If I lived back east, I would vacation in the Couer d'Alene area.

If I lived in Couer d'Alene, I would vacation in Alaska.

That said, if I were traveling east, I would swing through Cody, Wyoming to see the Buffalo Bill historical center (lots and lots of firearms).

08-13-2009, 05:48 PM
+1 each on the Henry Ford and the Museum of Science and Industry. The U-Boat at the MSI is really fantastic. They built a new enclosure for it a few years ago and you just have to see it. That's all I'll say about it.

08-13-2009, 07:55 PM
Check out Warp's Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, roughly halfway from Omaha to Cheyenne. http://www.pioneervillage.org/

Harold Warp invented Flex-O-glass and went on to become very wealthy. He returned in 1953 to create a huge, twenty-acre museum meant to display the evolution of American Technology. It is, quite simply, the most remarkable and complete such museum.

Warp set out to show us America in the making -- to provide complete histories of transportation, domestic life, farm equipment, toys, sound recording, and crafts ... each spelled out in a chronological sequence of original artifacts. The most complete history of the bicycle, not in words, but in a sequence of actual bikes from throughout the nineteenth century. And that is only one small bay in a huge warehouse of a building. Another far smaller bay shows the evolution of -- the parking meter! Just try to imagine all 25 museum buildings! Warp's collecting was encyclopedic.

john hobdeclipe
08-13-2009, 08:18 PM
In the Titusville / Oil City area of Pennsylvania are some museums devoted to the early oil industry.

If I remember correctly, there is the Goodyear museum in Akron, Ohio.

Over in Minnesota, the largest open pit iron mine in the world is at Hibbing, also the Greyhound (Bus Lines) museum. In nearby Chisholm you can tour an open pit iron mine.

If you go as far south as Indiana, don't miss the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum in Auburn, IN.

Errol Groff
08-13-2009, 09:25 PM
check out this list of interesting things to see in New England.


Almost 80 things that "metalheads" will find of interest with a couple of things thrown in for the wife.

Errol Groff

08-13-2009, 10:41 PM
in ND, it's worth the time to see the north unit of Teddy Roosevelt NP- far fewer people (as if there are very many out there). Fort Union if you'd like an idea of just what it was like in the early to middle 1800s.

If you're into steam power, Makoti nd has a steam threshing show oct 3-4. (just checked the dates online- google Makoti ND for some other info).

It's been a while since I lived there (although I'm moving back around the 1st of the year), but I think that you can still at least see one of the largest draglines down around Bismarck in the coal fields. Falkirk mine, near Underwood ND at the moment, I see. That's about it for the industrial stuff in western ND- it's mostly agriculturial- oh yeah, there's the big cow at New Salem-just drive by on I94.

08-14-2009, 02:05 AM
If you travel through MO on your way home stop at the Museum of Transportation in St Louis. Lots of steam rail road stuff, cars, trucks all forms of transport.

People say I'm getting crankier as I get older. That's not it. I just find I enjoy annoying people a lot more now. Especially younger people!!!

08-14-2009, 08:13 AM
Pennsylvania Railroad Museum and Strasburg Railroad, both in Strasburg, PA

Hagley Museum - near Wilmington DE. Site of the original DuPont powder mills. Nice antique machine shop, working steam engine, house tour, museum. Take the wife to Longwood Gardens, not far away.

In Baltimore: B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry. Streetcar Museum The Inner Harbour area has the National Aquarium, USS Constellation (1850s frigate), WW2 sub, lightship, Public Works Museum. .

NE Ohio - Tod Engine Foundation www.todengine.org restoring a 5000 hp steam engine and other artifacts

john hobdeclipe
08-14-2009, 08:43 AM
The North Carolina Transportation Museum is in the old Spencer Shops, at one time this was Southern Railroad's main steam locomotive repair facility.


08-14-2009, 12:44 PM
Greg. You may have already been to this one, but there is a really nice museum about rocks and minerals at the University of Montana in Butte. There is also a mining museum site just a short walk from the unversity where you can view the different equipment and roam around an actual 19th century mining town.

08-14-2009, 01:30 PM
American Precision Museum in Windsor VT. I live ten miles from there. Do this first or second weekend in October and they have the annual model machineist exhibit going on. You will want to check the schedule though. Even if not during that time, these are weekends with the height of the foilage in our area.

Starrett in Athol MA

08-14-2009, 05:30 PM
The Grand Canyon. It started out as a government funded rose garden, before the politicians got involved in it.

08-14-2009, 06:33 PM
The last full weekend in September is the Conn. Antique Machinery Assoc. Fall show in Kent, CT. It goes Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Kent is in the northwest part of the state on the NY Border. Lots of BIG operating steam engines, diesels, old machinery, all kinds of neat stuff. They also have people selling all sorts of tools, parts, material. You can get more info at www.ctamachinery.com

Another neat place to visit is the American Precision Museum in Windsor, VT. Lots of original machinery for making gun parts, one of the original BPT mills and a lot of other stuff. It's a little off the beaten path but worth a visit. Windsor is in the SE part of VT - a little east of I91


08-15-2009, 12:11 AM
Wow! THANKS guys for the great suggestions! You've given me enough to see for several trips. I've copied them all and will take them with us, since our route is subject to change depending on how we feel each morning!

The northeast stuff is of particular interest since I haven't seen any of that at all (beyond Mt. Washington some 55 years ago!).

Been to the transportation museum in St. Louis and would like to stop again. I rate it as very user friendly. One of my considerations that I didn't mention in the first post is how "user friendly" a museum is. Some have displays that are completely roped off with much stuff hidden from view, and almost make you feel like they are doing you a favor by letting you in. Others are quite the opposite and encourage folks to touch, photograph and measure. And there are many in between. Nevertheless, we'll be taking your wonderful suggestions along and trying to fit in as many as we have time for (and the wife will tolerate....She owes me. After all, I spent 8 hours a day for a week in the city archives of Philadelphia scanning microfilm while helping her research her roots....).

Thanks again for your wonderful suggestions.

I'll try to post a few travelogues as we move along....