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2,600 Maine students visit transportation last year — always free

Posted April 23, 2013, at 9:22 a.m.
Last modified April 25, 2013, at 6:13 p.m.
Students visiting Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor interview veterans about their experiences in conjunction with tours of the museum. Youngsters age 18 and under always are admitted free. (Cole Land Transportation Museum Photo)
Students visiting Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor interview veterans about their experiences in conjunction with tours of the museum. Youngsters age 18 and under always are admitted free. (Cole Land Transportation Museum Photo)

‘The World of the Wheel’ new exhibit for 2013

BANGOR — It’s a sure sign of spring when school buses turn in at 405 Perry Road, home to more than 200 vehicles of all shapes, sizes and functions at Cole Land Transportation Museum, which has been described as the largest museum in the country devoted to one state’s land transportation.

The youngsters are usually not aware that they are fulfilling the requirements of the Maine Learning Results/Common Core Standards as they stop by the Bangor-built Sargent snow plows, which were sold nationwide in the early 1900s.

As with kids of any age, their eyes are drawn to the bright red of the firefighting equipment, one of the trucks accompanied by a brief video showing the efforts of a museum volunteer in restoring it. For sheer size, there are the behemoths of railroading — the American Railfan BL2 locomotive and two cars the youngsters are welcome to enter, a freight car and a decked-out caboose.

These children, who pay no admission to tour the museum — youngsters 18 and under always are admitted free — numbered more than 2,600 last year when the museum totaled up the youth who visited the Cole Museum with their classes from schools throughout the state.

Other youngsters came by throughout the museum season, May 1-Nov. 11, with their families from all 50 states and several foreign countries. This year the museum is highlighting “The World of the Wheel,” ranging from the wooden wheels of wagons to sporty chrome wheels and the sturdy train wheels on the museum’s engine and caboose. The motorized wheel has been called the world’s most important invention in the past 200 years.

Just beyond the caboose is a portion of the Enfield Station, the actual railroad station where Allie Cole worked as a young boy, and later made pickups and deliveries with the horse and wagon that were the forerunner of the statewide business known as Coles Express.

One whole row (Cole Avenue) of the museum is devoted to the signature orange of Coles Express vehicles, from the early trucks to a tractor that logged more than 1 million miles hauling 18-wheelers. Near the head of that row is a World War II halftrack, the kind of vehicle a young Galen Cole was riding in back in 1945 when it was hit by a German shell, killing half of his squad.

Just beyond the halftrack is the 5th Armored Division Room, a tribute to the division Cole served with, and full of hundreds of military memorabilia donated by fellow members of the 5th Armored Division, which three times made Bangor the site of its worldwide reunion at Cole’s invitation.

The exhibit is a stepping-off point to one of the museum’s special features, the Veterans Interview Program which allows youngsters in small groups of three or four to interview a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the Global War on Terror. This is the program that helps keep many schools coming back to the museum year after year.

By the time each 45-minute interview is over, the youngsters are ready to promise museum founder Galen Cole that they will remember forever the time with their veteran. Further, they are ready to promise that they will go home and interview members of their own family who served in the military.

History lesson, civics, good citizenship and even the importance of good writing are part of these youngsters’ brief time at Cole Land Transportation Museum. One young student honored for her essay “What Freedom Means to Me after Interviewing a Veteran” this year went on to become the state’s top essayist in the Maine Daughters of the American Revolution Christopher Columbus Contest.

The schools that come to Cole Land Transportation Museum for a field trip tend to keep coming back, but there is capacity for more schools to sign up, Cole emphasized, adding that the museum can help defray transportation costs for schools that request it.

To obtain information, or to learn more about bringing a class to the museum, call Pat Trice at 990-3600, ext. 13. Information is also available at www.colemuseum.org.

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