The Penngrove Power & Implement Museum, a private collection of working machinery from the past, will hold its annual “Power Up” day on July 14. Interested people can visit the museum, see the machines in action, ride the train on the property, and enjoy a rare look at human ingenuity.
Visitors will also see displays of vintage farm, home, camping and military paraphernalia. They will see old tractors, vintage printing presses, and one of the engines from Howard Hughes’s famous Spruce Goose.
Three Fairbanks-Morse engines will be running on the grounds and in the barn.
The private museum is the creation of Steve and Nancy Phillips. Its mission is to preserve in working condition the equipment and machinery that helped America transition from manual and animal power to external power sources such as steam, diesel, gas and electricity. While the museum is open to interested people one day a month, “Power Up” is its major fundraising event of the year.
“We will have everything slowed down so you can see the machines work,” Nancy said. Because of all the moving parts in the collection, the Phillips insist that children be carefully tended. They find that kids should be at least ten years old to enjoy the museum.
Visitors will find docents stationed around the machines to answer questions.
“This is a look-and-learn experience,” Nancy said.
The main building is the former barn of a chicken ranch and dairy of J. Howard and Nita Phillips, Steve’s parents, who bought the property in the 1940s. Steve, a mechanical-electrical engineer, grew up there. An inveterate collector of machines, engines, motors and tools of all sorts, he and Nancy have turned Steve’s passion into a one-of-a-kind venue that the word “museum” fails to describe. It’s more of showcase where rare machines of the 1930s and ‘40s, and even earlier, come to life.
“We show the transition from human and animal-powered machines to power generated by engines and motors,” said Nancy. “We have working representations of all these types - and everything runs.”
To keep their unique collection intact and functioning for future generations, Nancy points out, the Phillips need three things. The first is capital to provide long-term stability for the collection.
The second is more volunteers, to help with everything from marketing to maintenance. Asked what they are looking for in volunteers, Nancy says anyone willing to come and learn.
“Our youngest volunteer is only eleven,” she reveals. “He loves the machines. His grandfather brings him here.”
Finally, they need to find the next generation of leadership for the museum. Currently, only Steve can run the “Big Six,” a six-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse engine from the 1930s. It weighs 70,000 pounds.
“It’s quite a rush when you get something like this running,” Steve said. “You don’t know whether to start running yourself.”
And only Steve can start the Pratt-Whitney R4360, one of the eight original engines powering the Hughes H-4 Hercules, or “Spruce Goose,” the largest flying boat ever made. Steve bought it from the holding corporation of the Howard Hughes estate.
“It took him six months to figure out the engine’s governor,” Nancy said with a laugh. She pointed out that even the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, where the plane now resides, doesn’t have a working engine from the plane. “On New Year’s Eve, we start it up and it shoots out gorgeous blue flames,” she said.
PLANNING TO GO?
What: 2018 Power Up
Where: Penngrove Power & Implement Museum, 200 Phillips Dr., Petaluma
When: July 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free, donations accepted
More information: (707) 484-0272