Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Truck et cetera

 After I finished my piece about Oshkosh Corporation (née Oshkosh Truck aka “Truck” to an Oshkoshian), I kept seeing things I had missed.

I just discovered that they did final assembly of cement mixers in a shop on the north side. It’s on a road I often traverse on my bicycle but had never noticed it before. Wouldn't you expect this kind of thing to be done in a giant plant?

The lot is full of trucks in various stages of completion.

There were two sitting near the front gate with their rear bodies tilted open. It seems a lot of mechanical work is done on them out in the lot during nice weather. 

This big diesel is just for mixing cement. There’s another in the front which provides propulsion.

Driving through Oshkosh on Highway 41, you’ll see a shopping district for four miles on either side of the highway. Next to a large auto dealership is this storefront with an Oshkosh Corporation logo. I'd never seen it but I rarely go that way. There’s nothing else identifying it. The sign next to the door reminds visitors that they must be accompanied by a staff member at all times during their visit and several more of the same statement inside the vestibule. 

Behind it is a dumpster full of what look like parts of military vehicles.

There’s a van which identifies it as the Defense division’s product support.

There are several other well known companies that are associated with the city of Oshkosh. 

Riding along the shore of the Fox on the Wiowash trail, I often pass Meritor. You probably don’t recognize that name. It’s the last manufacturing plant still in operation in the middle of the city, a block away from the ritziest historic neighborhood in town.

You can see how close it is to the University’s Nursing-Ed building across the street.

Before the current destruction of the state government by the Republicans, the University had been waiting for years for them to move somewhere else so they could expand the campus.

Begun as the Wisconsin Parts Company, they began making heavy duty axles and became North American Rockwell, now more famous in the aerospace industry. Meritor was later spun off as a separate company. They make the axles for some of Truck’s heavier products.

Continuing downtown along the river trail, I noticed an Oshkosh military truck parked behind the former shopping mall.

You see them all over but usually not in a regular parking lot. I wonder if the designers thought about what kind of face that looks like. For some reason I think that if it could talk it would sound like Cheech Marin.

Nice to get a chance to get close enough to fill the frame with a wide angle camera.

They are engineered quite differently than civilian transport. In a city leadership training program I was part of, one of Truck’s participants described his company to the group. What I remember is that you can shoot out the tires with a machine gun and the truck will keep them inflated enough to continue at normal speeds.

What’s this thing doing by itself down here? What’s the closest business?

It’s Silver Star Brands, the company that Miles Kimball became when they started acquiring other companies. They were a nearly ubiquitous mail order brand of quirky and personalized merchandise. If you had a very specialized kitchen gadget or pencils with your name on them in the 50s and 60s, it probably came from Miles Kimball. Alberta Kimball was a major mover and shaker in Oshkosh. When she needed a new headquarters in 1969, she included it as part of downtown shopping mall she was developing. When it was an active mall, I never knew they were in there.

Their original location was across the river in a building I’ve featured several times, in color and black and white, now standing alone in the historic “Sawdust” manufacturing district.

They also have a larger Operations Center in the southwest industrial park.

Another long low flat building without windows surrounded by a giant lawn.

If you look to the right, there’s a familiar khaki line.

The north end of the employee parking lot is fenced off and full of Light Tactical Vehicles. The exit to the road was being guarded by the same firm I had an encounter with on Osborn Avenue. The guard was sitting in an SUV reading a book, so I didn’t have the heart to get closer and disturb her.

The main factory complex is on the other side of the road from the airport. Truck also makes airport maintenance vehicles, but not in town. This is a broom. Just visible behind the front of the truck are more Oshkosh Defense trucks. Oshkosh Corporation’s Global Technology Center is nearby. I wonder if the broom is here because of that, or if it belongs to the airport and they’re letting Truck use their lot to store trucks.

The southern end of the factory is on Waukau Avenue.

Across the road of course is a large lot full of vehicles. This was on Sunday and the place was really deserted.  There was an occupied guard station a bit to my left but a cluster of trees was between us. I held my tripod against the fence to get a close up of a Light Tactical Vehicle. It’s basically a four passenger sedan. They cost $422,000 each, but you can survive if a bomb goes off underneath it.

In the earlier post, we saw the former site of Nolte’s Garage on the north side occupied by Oshkosh Defense. Odd to find a Nolte’s tow truck parked in Truck’s south side lot.

All with the Manic Expression Cube. .17mm hand-drilled pinhole 24mm from 24x24mm frame. Fujicolor 200.


  1. Great post, love the rich colors, and rich background story.

    1. Well I know you know how addicting words and pictures are. I sometimes think my visual style is more driven by overexposing color film than anything else.