Destinations: Owls Head Transportation Museum

Visit the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine.

1868 Roper Steam Velocipede

The 1868 Roper Steam Velocipede on display is a faithful reproduction of the original made by Sylvester Roper.

Photo Courtesy Paul Garson

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Owls Head Transportation Museum
What: The Owls Head Transportation Museum in Owls Head, Maine. Admission is $10, $8 for seniors 65 and above; children under 18 are free.
How to Get There: The Transportation Museum is located on SR 73 in Owls Head, Maine, adjacent to the Knox County Airport, and easily reached by air. The museum is 3 miles south of Rockland on SR 73, 10 miles south of Camden, and approximately 85 miles north of Portland.
Best Kept Secrets: The events! Visit The Owls Head Transportation Museum website and click on the Events link at the top of the page to see a listing of all the exciting events scheduled for 2013 at the museum.
Avoid: The few days a year the museum is closed. The museum is open year-round except Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day and an early April day set aside for a volunteer banquet.
More Info and Photos: OHTM.org 

Located about 85 miles north of Portland, Maine, on SR 73, the town of Owls Head, Maine, sits on Penobscot Bay. It’s home to the Owls Head Transportation Museum, which contains a variety of classic and antique motorcycles, along with many other forms of transportation.

Founded in 1976 by the James Lang family, one could call it the “Little Museum that Could.” From outside it looks like a small community airport, but once inside it grows exponentially in size and scope. At last count there are more than 150 vehicles of all kinds on display, with many unique and rare examples. The museum specializes in vintage automobiles as well as motorcycles, bicycles, carriages and even fire engines, not to mention 28 historic aircraft spanning aviation history from 1804 to 1946. The museum really is the town’s hidden jewel.

There are at least 50 cars spanning more than a century of progression from 1885 to 1980. Standouts include a 1908 Stanley Model K Semi-Racer and a 1935 Stout Scarab, one of approximately five known to exist today and described as the “World’s First Mini-Van.”

The motorcycles or “semi-motorcycles” on display include the Scripps-Booth Bi-Autogo. It seems like a motorcycle Frankenstein might have designed, but it is very impressive, especially considering it was built 100 years ago. Other surprises include a reproduction of the 1868 Roper steam-powered Velocipede, one of the world’s earliest motorcycles. Another unusual motorcycle in the collection is the 1901 Steffey Motorbike, which has a beautiful single-cylinder engine.

As a visitor at the Owls Head, you spend a lot of time looking up. Hanging suspended overhead are several vintage aircraft that seem very large in engine and small in wing. They are often composed of fragile wood, wire and paper. Perhaps the crowning point of the museum’s aviation focus is the meticulously constructed replica of the Wright Brother’s “aeroplane.” The reproduction of the Kitty Hawk Flyer was built by staff and volunteers at the museum and put on display in early 1998. After marveling at its delicately woven construction, you fast-forward only some 60 years and there stands a faithful replica of the 1963 Gemini Space Capsule. Like they say, we’ve come a long way, baby — in a blink of history’s eye. It’s but one of many lessons dramatically presented by the museum’s panoramic perspective on man’s drive to go faster, farther and be more productive. Many of the vehicles and machines on display were restored by the museum’s team of volunteer preservationists under the guidance of the museum’s staff. Year-round events bring together antique motorcycles, cars, airplanes and even giant earthmovers, plus auctions and swap meets from whence you could go home with a piece of history yourself. Yes, there’s definitely an abundance of different strokes for different folks at the Owls Head Museum. MC