The Clinton Engine Museum in Maquoketa has a lot to offer visitors.
From engines used to power tools, to large scale vehicle engines, director and curator of the Jackson County Historical Society Bonnie Mitchell says, there’s something for everyone.
“When you come, there’s several interactive things, there’s a go-kart for children and adults, you can race a go-kart, because of course, go-karting was so big back in the day, and Clinton engines were a big part of that. There’s interactive engine building machines and videos, and many things like that to see and do.”
It all started in 1950 when Don Thomas purchased a factory in Maquoketa and moved his Clinton based engine company there.
According to Mitchell, “Over the years, they were the 10th largest employer in the state of Iowa. They produced over 18 million engines on this site. They drew people from 88 different communities for their work force here. They employed up to 24 hundred people at one time, so it was a very, very successful small gasoline engine manufacturing company, worldwide company, and certainly the largest manufacturer ever in Jackson County.”
Now, the museum resides in the last remaining building in the facility, standing as a reminder of what the company used to be.
Mitchell says, “We’ve been told by the telephone companies that it was the busiest switchboard in the entire Midwest for a time,”
And the site is adding new attractions in the soon-to-open heritage center, and recently added Le Mott train depot.
Mitchell remembers the process of bringing the depot to Makquoketa.
“The Le Mott depot was donated to the historical site, the last remaining narrow gauge depot in the state of Iowa, so it’s very, very historic. To save it, we moved it 20 miles to Maquoketa. It was completely volunteer work. We got a couple grants, and we restored the building, and it’s really quite fascinating.”
Bonnie says the train had an incredibly important job back in its day.
“Ran 36 miles from the city of cascade to the city of Bellvue, and while that’s not very long, it’s extremely significant, because the farmers back then, the roads were nothing but mud and ruts, and they couldn’t get their goods to market.”
Mitchell also says that they plan to add a recently restored train car to the exhibit on August 12th.
“That will be our 10th anniversary of this museum being open. There will be a huge open house, so it’ll be free to come in, and everyone can look at everything. We’ll have some new exhibits that we’ll be unveiling at that time.”