Things that go bump, rumble, and roar
Imagine a mechanical wonderland filled with tractors, motorcycles, Caterpillars, steam powered saws, fire engines and streetcars. And that’s just a handful of the rumbling, smoking, crawling and rolling vehicles housed on Antique Powerland Museum’s 62-acre site. Powerland is a non-profit museum association, housing 14 independent museums under its umbrella.
Located in Brooks, Oregon, the museum log is impressive: The Pacific Northwest Truck Museum; Willow Creek Railroad; the Northwest Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum; and the Oregon Electric Railway Museum all share Powerland’s common meme.
Antique Powerland draws its collective persona from rural threshing bees once held in Silverton and Woodburn during the 1950s and 60s. During these mid-century gatherings, farmers would challenge one another with tractor pulls, and show off heritage farming equipment handed down through generations.
In the late 1980s, a small portion of the original acreage hosted a curious event with the enticing name “The Great Oregon Steam-Up.” In 1988, advocates for a truck museum were searching for a location, and Steam-Up associates thought it might be a good fit to site museum at Powerland.
As other antique vehicle and steam associations followed suit, Powerland took shape and was able to accommodate displays on blacksmithing, electric and miniature railroading, Caterpillar equipment, steam operated construction equipment and local history, all under one “roof.” Today, the land is owned by Western Antique Power, Inc., and managed by the Antique Powerland Museum Association.
When teenagers put the pedal to the metal
“We like to say that Powerland is ‘the best kept secret in Oregon,’” said Antique Powerland’s Logistics Manager Tom Kneeland. Kneeland is a typical Powerland supporter and mentor—his background as a highway engineer lends itself to Powerland’s educational outreach, and in particular, the Speedster Program.
“We get to share our knowledge with disadvantaged kids and mentor them,” said Kneeland. Early on, Powerland and Roberts High School Tech Prep Academy joined forces to oversee the innovative program for Salem-Keizer students teetering on the edge of high school dropout.
“This will be our fourth year running the Speedster Program,” Kneeland said. “We teach kids about the history of transportation, and help them to take apart an antique Model T piece by piece, and put it back together again.”
Kneeland is proud that over 80 percent of the high school age students entering the program end up graduating from high school.
“If we can turn these kids around and convince them to stay in school and graduate, then we’re doing actual good,” said Kneeland. “Each mentor in the program spends months with a team of four students, restoring parts. We reassemble the Model Ts and make them run again.
“There’s usually a major discussion about who gets to steer or turn over the engine when a roadster is ready. To make it fair, we draw straws. Afterwards, the cars are displayed in the museum and the kids get to take them to the roadster show.”
Kneeland smiled as he described the high jinks following the long labor of love performed by the students.
“At the show, we crank up the cars, get some greased pigs, and hold a pig under one arm while we ride around the track. After we complete the circuit, we pick up another pig. It’s quite a big deal!”
Kneeland is emphatic that Powerland’s contribution to the success of local youth follows the students well into adulthood.
“The Speedster Program gives them a sense of pride and ownership,” Kneeland said. “This entire place is a catalyst for life changes.”
Oregon Travel Experience (OTE) is proud of its association with Antique Powerland Museum via OTE’s Highway Business Sign Program, and encourages Oregonians to help support the non-profit by attending the museum and its annual events. Your admission fee will sustain the museum’s grounds, buildings, and educational programs for years to come.
If you go
Interested in finding out more about Antique Powerland and its 14 museums? Visit the association’s website at www.antiquepowerland.com or phone 503-393-2424. The museum is located one-quarter mile from I-5, at Exit 263, approximately eight miles north of Salem. Turn west off Exit 263 onto Brookdale Road, and the museum will be located two blocks from the exit on the north side of the road. Although most events are seasonal (and generally closed for winter hours), there are exceptions and the Oregon Electric Railway trolley runs on a weekend schedule on their own website at http://oerhs.org/oerm/schedule.htm.