Admission to the National Construction Equipment Museum is $10/person (large group discounts available).
- Open to the public year round by appointment only; call ahead 24 hours to set up visit.
- Location: (Map It) 16623 Liberty Hi Road in Bowling Green, Ohio
- Phone: 419-352-5616
- Web: hcea.net
The National Construction Equipment Museum: If you like to visit offbeat places, here’s one you won’t want to miss, especially if you have children who like playing in the dirt. Turn north off US Route 6 onto Liberty Hi Road west of Bowling Green and drive 1-1/4 miles. Now, look to your left. There, emerging from the trees like a giraffe foraging for food, you’ll see the tips of two crane booms. A little bit further on, a sign at the head of a long gravel driveway signals that you’ve arrived at the National Construction Equipment Museum, one of NW Ohio’s most unusual attractions.
The NCEM, established by the Historical Construction Equipment Association (HCEA) to preserve the history and equipment of the construction, surface mining and dredging industries, is guaranteed to thrill both junior and adult construction equipment enthusiasts. Be sure to bring your camera.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is the equipment that dots the museum’s thirty acres of land. Don’t worry, though, they haven’t been abandoned. Each piece is waiting patiently for its day (or more likely, months) of attention in the museum workshop, where volunteer enthusiasts from all walks of life spend every Wednesday night and one Sunday a month cleaning, dismantling, fabricating, painting, and restoring donated equipment to its former glory.
Once a machine is finished, it is then moved into the museum, where hulking metal monsters arranged in displays will take you back to childhood days spent in the sandbox. The displays include signs packed with historical information, but you won’t need them if you get the pleasure of a tour conducted by museum archivist Tom Berry. After nine years with the museum, Berry seems to have almost everything at the tip of his tongue, and as he bubbles over with story after story, you can tell he loves what he does.
Although enthusiasts come from all over the world to ooh and ahh over the museum’s contents, the museum isn’t just for sightseers. It has been the venue for several of the HCEA’s international conventions. The museum archives also hold an extensive collection of historical documents, photos, slides, movies, and videos representing over 2,600 companies, including dozens from Ohio (among them Bucyrus-Erie, Euclid, and Marion Power Shovels), providing research material for researchers around the world..
Several things not to miss: the cool wall of advertising signs, both restored and original condition; the glass cabinet full of construction equipment toys and memorabilia in the Office and Archives Building’s lobby; and the guest book, with signatures from visitors as far away as Australia and the UK. If you time it just right, you might even be able to take some pictures of your junior construction equipment enthusiast seated at the controls of one of the machines. However, do be sure to ask for permission first before allowing your children to climb on anything, to avoid injury to both your children and expensive equipment.
Finally, when you get back outdoors, check out the patio, which is made up of bricks and pavers recognizing donors from all over. (My favorite was the one from New Zealand…) There’s also a pond, so be sure to keep an eye on the little ones.
Excerpt from from a past edition of OhioTraveler by Betty Winslow