Pam and I chose to take the slow route during the heat of late July in Northern California and Southern Oregon. We left Weed and drove to Grants Pass, Oregon logging a whole 107 miles, uphill, in the heat pulling a load, and with no timeline whatsoever. Just north of Grants Pass on I-5 was a beautiful (it had space for us too) K.O.A. park located on “Jump Off Joe” creek and water fall. We decided to stay for two nights in order to avail ourselves of shopping in G.P. and to soak up the mountain atmosphere. When getting off the freeway we saw a brown sign for Pottsville Museum and it indicated that it was three miles west and we were camping to the east. After shopping on the first morning, we grabbed Olivia and headed west to indulge out historic curiosity. Neither one of us had bothered to do a ubiquitous Google search since we were going to the museum anyway. It is actually located in Merlin, Oregon and resembled a small rural village with only a huge steel plow blade painted white with blue letters to show we had reached our destination.
There was a fence line and gate from the road to a big red barn. The barn had rusty old artifacts laid out in front the main doors where some signage of various ages told us what we were seeing. Inside the fence-line were all kinds of antique machines, vehicles, and buildings; clearly we were ‘there’. We could see no formal parking lot and it seemed as if there was often regular vehicular traffic through the ‘museum’. Since I am (now) such a polite fellow, I parked near the fence and we dismounted the truck thinking that discretion would be best. It was sunny and hot for Oregon with a light breeze and high temperature in the low 90s. I convinced Pam and Olivia that we needed the exercise anyway and that there was enough shade that they could scurry from shade to shade. Olivia does not like to leave my side so we baked in the sun and no one complained.
Pottsville is laid out like a small village with a rail line against the highway fence line (southern border) and buildings to the north. The rails have artifacts on them with a walkway between the rails and a second row of artifacts just to the north. Just beyond this second line of artifacts, under some lovely shady pine trees were various old buildings, two sets of bleachers and a grandstand. Clearly, this site did not just serve as a repository for historical artifacts and as I inspected these old treasures, it became apparent that some of them worked. Several of the buildings also had old artifacts laid out around them and placards festooned the exteriors explaining the building’s purpose and age. Benches for folks to sit were available along the corridor of buildings and Pam availed herself, patiently waiting for me.
We reached the west end of the outdoor gallery where some beautiful old steam engines were sitting in various stages of repair. I moved my attention to the main road through the village and noticed across from the grandstand, a massive four-cylinder diesel engine with a flywheel to match its size. Hurriedly I went to get a closer look and Pam followed since it was under a large pole barn roof with no walls (always about the shade). It was a huge Fairbanks Morse bolted to a massive concrete pedestal poured on top of a bigger concrete pad. There was fuel oil and grease all over the place with buckets under the dripping areas and the exhaust pipes to catch the drooling fossil fuel. I was amazed to think that this monster had actually been running in the very recent past. No mufflers and only three feet of ten to twelve inch diameter exhaust pipe to vent the four massive cylinders led me to believe that even if I was lucky enough to be near this beast while running some expensive hearing protection would be required.
As we finished our tour of this amazing facility, we saw many different tools, machines and workshops that operated for the benefit of an audience. If only we had thought to plan this excursion, we might have been able to see Pottsville alive. I took many pictures (not nearly enough because I had no desire to overheat Pam or Olivia) and learned many things that translated so well to my recent adventure at the Weed Lumber Town Museum. Check out their website http://www.pottsvilleoregon.com. If you can make the opportunity, go see this amazing place and try to schedule when they have their living component open and working.