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Digging it: Bucyrus museum fascinating world for buffs

Manufacturer exhibits life-size replicas and scale displays

April 8, 2009

A new museum at local manufacturing behemoth Bucyrus International gives visitors a chance to view the company's gigantic products at a smaller scale while learning a bit about the firm's history.

The free museum features multimedia exhibits, vintage company memorabilia, life-size replicas of monstrous machine parts and intricate scale models of past and present Bucyrus shovels, drills and draglines. The company has manufactured earth-moving and mining equipment since 1880.

Kent Henschen, director of corporate communications at Bucyrus, said it can be difficult to grasp the reality of a machine that dwarfs a typical house.

"Even people that live right around here don't understand exactly what we do," Henschen said.

The museum's models and exhibits allow the general public to get a feel for Bucyrus' larger-than-life line of excavation products.

For example, visitors can climb into the driver's seat in a replica cab of a 495 Shovel, a machine weighing nearly 3 million pounds and able to lift up to 120-tons (240,000 pounds) of dirt.

Jack Schwall, owner of well contractor J.A. Schwall, came from Northbrook, Ill., to visit the museum Feb. 28 after hearing about it through a steam engine club.

In addition to the full-sized Bucyrus equipment owned by his business, Schwall said he has collected several scale models - a product of his longtime fascination with large machinery.

"I like the shovels and all of that," Schwall said. "I've been aware of Bucyrus Erie all my life."

Schwall said he remembers his father making the trip to South Milwaukee to purchase equipment at the company that changed its name from Bucyrus Erie to Bucyrus International several years ago.

Henschen said the 3,000-square-foot museum, which opened in January, is the "crowning piece" on three years of renovations costing more than $200 million.

The museum is inside the Heritage Building, one of the oldest parts of the Bucyrus campus. The building, part of which was constructed in the late 1800s, was refurbished to house the museum, the company store, meeting rooms and the employee cafeteria.

Original materials were kept in place or reused wherever possible; the aged lumber and Cream City brick give the Heritage Building an ambiance of sturdy authenticity. Many of the items in the museum were collected over decades, with a future museum in mind.

Isral DeBruin can be reached at (262) 446-6608.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Bucyrus Museum

WHERE: Bucyrus Heritage Building, 10th Avenue (Gate #1)

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18, then first and third Saturday of the month (see Web site for details)

INFO: bucyrus.com/museum.htm

VOLUNTEER: to work at the museum by calling Deborah Schulz at (414) 768-4137

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