Touring Idaho to Find Old Machines


One of the greatest things about Idaho is its history. A lot of cool things have happened in the state over the years and before the time it was even really a state at all (When statehood was just glimmer in some settler’s eyes) and Idaho works very hard to remember those times. If you are the kind of person who loves to visit new places because you want to find the museums they have that you can visit, Idaho is the place to be. Museums are everywhere throughout the state. There are museums for cleaning supplies and the potato. There are also museums that have the artifacts you are probably accustomed to finding in such a place, and I want to talk to you today about a particular kind of artifact, that being machinery used in the past that has been restored for display. Humans are set apart from the rest of the animal kingdom at least partially because of the machines we have built, and it can be very cool to come into contact with some of those machines and maybe even use them. Here are a few places you can visit to do exactly that.

Now, whenever you talk about big machines that pushed humanity forward, it is hard to ignore the military side of the topic. But if you like tanks and field cannons and military transport vehicles that pushed the boundaries of what we thought technology was capable of back then, there is the Idaho Military History Museum located in Boise, Idaho. Inside the museum, you have most of the same things you will find at any other museum about war and the military like medals and uniforms and old weapons. All of these things are cool and interesting, but I would posit that the coolest and most interesting thing to do at the museum is to check out all of the big tanks and other vehicles they have outside. The museum has a variant of the modern M1 Abrams main battle tank, and M4A3 Sherman tank which was used during World War 2, field ambulances and field guns, and even a Russian MIG jet. You probably are not going to be able to get on or inside any of these pieces of machinery, but if you want a little more hands-on experience, I would recommend giving their F-4 Phantom cockpit simulator a try. 

Speaking of pilots, if you are especially interested in the aerial side of combat and transportation, your next stop should be the Warhawk Air Museum that can be found in Nampa, Idaho. This museum has a pretty large collection of different kinds of airplanes and helicopters from different eras of war and technology. They have a Fokker DR-1, the same variant of the airplane that the famous and infamous Red Baron fighter ace flew. They have a P-51C Mustang, a plane used for a part of World War 2 and nicknamed the Cadillac of the sky, largely because its engine was so powerful and cool sounding. The particular P-51 in the museum’s collection is still capable of flight and routinely does so. There are also more Cold War era flying machines such as the Huey, a helicopter that you have probably found featured in Vietnam War movies and more MIG jets.

To finish, I want to talk about a particularly large and complex machine that you can visit in Idaho. Out in Arco, Idaho it is possible to find what is left of one of the first nuclear reactors ever constructed and tested. The Experimental Breeder Reactor I was a research project to explore the possibilities of nuclear power and to discover how viable that sort of power was. As you might imagine, it was extremely successful. The reactor near Arco (It was not actually in the city, of course) was not active for very long and was decommissioned in the middle sixties, but before it was brought offline, it provided power to the entirety of the city of Arco. Arco became the first-ever city to run completely off nuclear power. You can still visit this historic landmark today and check out what exactly went into running and maintaining a nuclear power plant in the fifties and sixties.

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