Back on June 18th we spent a day at the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor. This is one of several museums in the area, and I think we may have started at the top. I learned that the Cole family have a long history in the Bangor area. Allie Cole started the Cole Express Delivery Company in 1917 and his trucking runs between Bangor and Houlton, Canada, were famous because the roads and weather were so bad that almost nobody else could make it through regularly. There was even a country song, "Winter of '31", about him making the run during one of the worst winters on record. The road he traveled was called the Hainesville road and it's danger level in winter was legendary. In 1965 another country song, "A Tombstone Every Mile", was written about that specific road. Allie's son Galen took over the business in 1955, and he is the one who created the museum to preserve some of the old machines he knew so well.
Near the front of the museum is a beautiful old steam firetruck, the 1907 Portland Steamer #836. It was pulled by two horses until 1924, at which point a 1917 ladder truck front end was added. This really appeals to my love of steampunk.Next to it is a 1923 Augusta Ladder truck, and what I liked about it was the "Life Net" - that big trampoline-like thing that firemen used to use. I've never seen one before!
Standing up behind it is a true Bangor Ladder with the patented "tormentor poles" that allowed 7 firemen to quickly position the 300 pound ladder. Later models were made of metal, and one of those is displayed with the tormentor poles in position.
Something else important in Bangor history is snow plows. They have almost a whole row of those things. This 1935 Linn Snowplow has a blade taller than Randy.In fact, a lot of their transportation items have something to do with snow. They have "Pungs", which are one-horse box sleighs, and graceful Swan Cutters for gliding across the snow. Several hand sleds are displayed, as well as Ice Cutters, which horses would pull across the ice to score it before guys with hand-saws finished the job. The 1926 "Snowmobile" is a Model TT truck fitted with a kit that adds snow skids.
The weather influences everything in Maine; this 1895 horse-drawn hearse, built at the State Prison, has sleigh runners between its carriage wheels.
Apparently potatoes were also important in this area because they have a whole row of Potato Diggers.
They also have bicycles of all makes and models, going back to the wooden "Bone Shaker", which surely lived up to it's name. Dating back to the 1840s, it's supposed to be the oldest bike in New England.
I thought of "American Pickers" at one point because they have some great old motorcycles, like a 1915 Excelsior Electric, a 1943 Indian Scout, and a 1954 BMW. The have a lot of showy cars including a 1941 Streamliner Torpedo Pontiac, a '60 powder-blue Ford Fairlane (costing $2,369 new), and a car identified as a 1922 1/2 Packard Coupe. They also have a predecessor to the RV - a 1925 camper that sits on Model T tires. But if I could have driven one out, it would be the gorgeous 1931 REO Royale Coupe.
They have a short but complete train with a diesel-electric engine on display, and a complete train station. The Enfield train station was used from 1890 through the 1960s, after which it was used for storage until Galen Cole asked for it. In 1989 he loaded it on a flatbed truck and put it in his museum.
And they have a real Prairie Schooner! This is one of the coolest things to see and if you were headed West, you would be very glad to have it. But it sure would have uncomfortable after a short period of time.They even have a World War I saddle, which reminded me of the importance of horses in WWI. If fact, they have several displays related to the American role in wars. There is a small section about the Civil War, including the stamp-sized photos of General Grant that were issued to Union soldiers so they could recognize him. Hanging over the World War II display is a 48-star battleship flag, which is believed to have flown at Omaha Beach during D-Day. An unusual item in the display case is a stuffed doll labeled as a "Hari Kari" doll. I never heard of this before and cannot find any more information about it.
On the grounds outside the museum are a couple of more modern war transportation items - a helicopter and a tank.
This is a great museum, and I recommend that any who comes to the Bangor area should come visit.