Wheels Museum Displays Best of Farm Life

Max Nordeen's Wheels Museum puts rare farm life treasures on permanent display

| June 1999

Several decades ago, Max Nordeen metamorphosed from a keeper to a collector. He had kept many toys and other items from his childhood, and, as an adult, he lived in the farm home in which he had grown up. It still held his mother's sewing machine, and many other family furnishings. 

Always interested in the past, Max began buying items that intrigued him.

"People thought I was nuts for buying that old stuff," he recalled. "I got things for next to nothing. Now, I go to auctions, and I think they (the other bidders) are nuts."

When he began attending flea markets, auctions and antique shows, Max realized that he had become a serious collector. Soon, his collections filled his home and garage. But the thrill of collecting wasn't enough for Max. He wanted to share his collections with others.

In 1980, he built a 48x105-foot metal building on his farm near Woodhull, Ill., and arranged his collections inside. Then he opened the Wheels Museum (so named because many of his collections pertain to motor vehicles) to the public.

Later, he located a huge flywheel, which he installed just outside the museum's entrance. The wheel was part of a stationary one-cylinder Norris engine once used by a natural gas company. The flywheel is 18 inches thick, stands 12 feet tall, and weighs almost 18 tons.