Thursday, July 23, 2020


I’ve thought of doing this for some time, but what got me finally going was seeing Light Tactical Vehicles belonging to police departments and the National Guard parked on city streets around the United States last month.

The eponymously named Oshkosh Corporation - previously Oshkosh Truck - is one of the city’s oldest and largest employers. It’s probably the biggest multi-national company in town. They started doing military vehicles in the 1970s. Oshkosh Defense, the military division of the company, occupies most of their presence here.

Locals refer to the company simply as Truck.

Osborn Avenue is a popular route to the highway shopping district because it's a mile long stretch without intersections right through the middle of the city. On the north side is a giant series of high power line towers and the back of the former National Guard Armory. On the other is a large berm crowned with vegetation and a chain link fence with an occasional "Authorized personnel only" sign.

In spots the growth is thinner. If you walk up the berm and hold your pinhole camera on the top of the fence, you can see that it's the Viking Quarry, a giant hole in the ground in the middle of the city. It's pretty invisible. I'll bet most people have no idea it's even there.

At the western edge is a gate through which you can see military vehicles being stored. I extended the tripod and got the camera set up a step or two away from the gate and then moved it just inside the gate enough to get the picture. I was surprised that there was a car with it’s lights on, sitting in the shadow of the tree but that also seemed kind of intriguing. Just as I was about to open the shutter, an SUV pulled in from behind me and another one I didn’t realize was there pulled out from behind the car with the lights on.

They pulled up next to each other, conferred for just a second, and then a guy got out of the new arrival. He came over and asked me what was going on here. I told him I was taking a photograph. I showed him my camera and explained about the blog. It was interesting to me that Truck had these lots of vehicles all over town. I gave him my card. He said “We’re asked to not take pictures of the military vehicles.” I’m pretty sure he phrased it that way. I pointed out these were all over the city and they even display them. He repeated the same statement.

He was very polite and seemed a little uncomfortable having to confront me. I thought about my white privilege as I rode away.

Just south of the airport is another large berm that extends both ways from the intersection.

Something like that has to affect water runoff management.

A quarter mile or so down Old Knapp Road, there’s a gap in the berm where it looks like there was a pre-existing storage shed. Behind it, more military vehicles are visible.

Inside the berm is a chain link fence and a variety of Oshkosh Defense trucks. They have a very diverse product line. I didn’t realize it until after I closed the shutter and he moved, but there was a guy working on the the light pole. I don’t think he noticed me.

The ungated entrance is down Highway N. It’s another quarry. Several very large dump trucks rumbled by while I was there.

If you step inside the berm and look to the right, you can see the trucks. Four Light Tactical Vehicles were lined up at a little guard house and roared by me as I packed up the tripod. They didn’t seem to pay any attention to my presence.

They have facilities all over town. I used to take my Renault 18i to get fixed in this building on the north side. I’m not sure if Truck no longer leases the building or if they’re just in the process of putting the new logo on it.

It used to be Nolte’s Garage, who also operated a towing service. This lot is the last place I saw our Datsun 210, totaled by a drunk, and our ‘90 Taurus wagon, totaled by a guy who just wasn’t paying attention.

Just across the road is the Harrison Street Plant. Leach Garbage Trucks were made here before they were bought by a Canadian conglomerate.

They’ve put a water feature in one corner of the parking lot.

The back half of the employee parking lot is fenced off and full of Light Tactical Vehicles. That’s kind of an ironic name - they weigh 5 tons. I held my tripod against a light pole to get a look over the fence.

I really didn’t need to be stealthy. This was on the Fourth of July. I could walk right up and point my camera through the gap in the gate hinges.

There’s another large lot to the west of the plant. The chain link fence has white plastic woven in it to obscure the view. I wonder what they’ve got back there?

This facility in the northwest industrial park usually has a vehicle parked out front like they’re proud of it. There’s not one there now. They just have a few trucks behind the building.

The original main plant is at the south end of town. There are four or five gigantic buildings scattered for three quarters of mile alongside the airport. It’s kind of hard to capture the scale of this place.

Most of what is in Oshkosh is Defense but Oshkosh Corporation has numerous divisions that make other kinds of utility vehicles. In the middle of the complex they also make cement truck mixing drums.

It’s quite a relief to see some deliberate color in the sea of khaki. I recently discovered they do the final assembly of these in a plant on the north side.

Just south of that the fence is woven with green slats.

I happened to go by on shipping day. Flatbed trucks were lined up for two blocks waiting their turn.

As I was standing there, a Light Tactical Vehicle came out of the plant and roared down the road past me. It is pretty common to see them driving around Oshkosh going between plants. I waited for a light with two of them downtown today. They always seem be roaring when they go past.

It was going down just a block to re-enter the factory. The driver was impatient and honking the horn, which sounded like a normal car.

They’ve got a facility in a strip mall just next to the plant. In the ‘80s when it was new, this was Roy’s Supermarket, an upscale we’ve-got-the-freshest-produce grocery store.

Until recently, the global headquarters had been in this nondescript office block stuck on the front of the plant. You can just barely see where they removed the name above the door.

Their new world headquarters is in a scenic setting along the shore of the Fox River where it widens into Lake Butte des Mortes. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an increase in corporate jets landing from the north on Runway 18 so they can get a view of the new building from the air. It’s noticeably visible from the Highway 41 causeway.

The city sold them half of an under-utilized public golf course so they wouldn’t relocate to one of the half dozen other cities they have a major presence in. This wetland was the location of a sand trap on hole 7.

I’m trying to figure out the symbolism of the two-story temple-like relief set into the brick.

Some stairwells are appended to the side at an angle to break the stark rectangular structure. Most of it has a good view of the river. From certain angles you can see right through it.

They did re-landscape a lot of the golf course and maintained most of the mature trees, which include a lot of majestic native oaks.

One really good thing that came out of it was a sizable new public park. It includes a new trail from the Wiowash trail system back into the city so you don’t have to ride down the sidewalk of busy Oshkosh Ave. Yes, in Oshkosh, to get to the Oshkosh Corporation, you turn off the highway at Oshkosh Avenue.

I guess I’m willing to share a little of the shore line with them if they let me ride through it.

With the Manic Expression Cube. .17mm pinhole 24mm from 24x24mm frame. The film is Lomography 100 until the cement mixers. Then it’s Fujicolor 200.

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