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Owls Head Transportation Museum


Airplanes and automobiles share space within the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine | Larry Edsall photos

When Tom Watson was the head of IBM, he became so used to getting his way that he didn’t use questions marks when he asked a question. That’s because his questions weren’t questions, or even suggestions; they were loosely disguised commands.

Thus the note, handwritten on a graduation program, from Watson to Jim Rockefeller. And, yes, Jim was part of that family.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some old airplanes flying around Owls Head.” Watson wrote in 1974 in reference to the coastal community and nearby areas where Watson, Rockefeller and the like spent their summers.

Rockefeller brought in his friend, Steve Lang, and a year later the first gathering of wings and wheels in the state of Maine was held at the Knox County Regional Airport and before long, at the end of Runway 17, there was a museum with two vintage aircraft, two classic cars, a high-wheeled bicycle and a huge steam engine.

1917 Nieuport 28 C.1 was flown by Americans in WWI
Circa 1900 Clark Ornithopter: An early attempt at flight

Today, the Owls Head Transportation Museum, located in a large hangar-style building with a couple of smaller buildings out back, is home to one of the country’s best classic car and vintage aircraft museums. And Owls Head doesn’t just display its vehicles; it keeps them in running or flying condition.

The museum also is home to the Lang Library, a growing document collection that was gifted with the papers of Tom Hibbard of Hibbard & Darrin coachbuilders.

In addition to its regular collection (you also can visit the automobile and aviation workshops where vehicles are maintained), the museum has several special exhibits running:

  • An Artist’s Passion for the Automobile, a room full of amazingly detailed paintings by Eward Melbourne Brindle, as well as the 1913 Stevens-Duryea Model C Touring the Australian artist donated to the museum;
  • A tribute to the Bentley Boys;
  • A tribute to Women Who Dare — Bertha Benz, who undertook the first road trip in a car; Alice Ramsey, first woman to drive across the United States; and Harriet Quimby, the first American woman to become a licensed pilot;
  • Coachbuilt : The Era of Custom Bodied Automobiles;
  • Faster: The Quest for Speed, a race car display that includes a record-setting Stanley Steamer and the 2002 Ferrari F2002 raced by Michael Schumacher.

In addition to special exhibits, the museum stages a series of annual special events. With 2016 dates, they include an All-American car cruise-in on Father’s Day weekend, a rod-custom-muscle car cruise-in July 9-10, a truck-tractor-commercial vehicle gathering July 23-24, an airshow August 6-7, the 39th annual New England Auto Auction the weekend of August 19-20, a vintage motorcycle festival September 3-4, a foreign car festival September 24-25.

For details, visit the museum’s website.

Photos by Larry Edsall

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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