Bucyrus Museum returns to Milwaukee

After four and a half years, the new Bucyrus Museum opened its doors to the public on August 3, 2021. Since the abrupt closure of the Bucyrus Heritage Museum in 2016, the South Milwaukee Industrial Museum LLC (SMIM) group had to find a new location and obtain funding and donations needed to resume public display of Bucyrus history and artifacts.

The majority of the artifacts on display were donated to SMIM by Caterpillar in 2017. After nearly two years of discussions, a partnership with the City of South Milwaukee, a local restoration company, and the Bucyrus Foundation was finalized. The target building was the home of the Bucyrus Club from 1920 to 1994. Previously, from 1907 to 1919, Bucyrus used it as a small parts machine shop, small valve and pipe assembly, inventory storage, and specifically as a steam engine. assembly stage. Most of the steam engines used in the Panama Canal’s excavators, pile drivers, dredges, and railroad demolition cranes were built on the first floor.

When the expansion of the South Milwaukee Bucyrus plant in 1919 made way for these functions on the east side of the railroad, President William Coleman ordered the construction of an employee club and cafeteria. Most of the third floor was removed to create ceilings high enough for a gymnasium, stage and handball court which took up the entire second floor area. The steam engine bay became the cafeteria and kitchen, with the machine shop divided into a retirement room, a billiard room, a bar, and a six-lane bowling alley.

The building was sold to two different private groups, but suffered extensive water damage from a burst pipe in 2015 and was abandoned.

As the building was set to be razed in 2019, SMIM worked with the city to set up a public/private venture that included a $1.5 million building renovation donation from the Bucyrus Foundation. . The joint project was announced in February 2020 and work began in the fall with an expected completion date of August 2021. We were able to move our exhibits, artifacts and archives to our new second floor home in mid- June. We received several donations that enabled us to hire movers, hire lifts and hire other skills needed to get everything in place, including the three-quarter model 85B dragline, by the end July.

We officially opened as the Bucyrus Museum in August. Our lower tier partner is the Bucyrus Club and Event Center, operated by Skyline Catering. The Museum holds special hours for groups and event guests to enjoy the space and our interactive displays, such as the 1570W Dragline Operator Seat or our 495HR Rope Shovel Simulator.

Public days and groups are led by members of our docent team of 22 volunteers, most of whom come from a Bucyrus background and with various careers.

We also have a few unique items coming home since reopening. The Ludeman family donated a full-scale model 350H backhoe built by their father Don, who was BE’s model maker from 1958 to 1984. Grant Gregory, retired BE assembly superintendent in Pennsylvania, donated of his 1/8 scale wooden 110T truck crane. model that adorned the hall of the old factory in Erie. At one point, these two hand-built models have traveled the world on equipment shows, and they are being restored to be put back on display soon.

We hope this trend of returning artifacts will continue.

In the absence of corporate support as a safety net, we are grateful to be part of the Bucyrus Club’s unique event venue/museum combination to help support our mission as a 501 nonprofit educational museum. (c)(3). We continue to work with local schools, host class visits and participate in their career days by talking to students around the world about opportunities in manufacturing and engineering. We invite everyone to visit us in our new home.

About Marc Womack

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