A unique museum exists in Illinois, the project of the division
of Highways, District 5, headquartered in Paris, Illinois.
While the main responsibilities of District 5’s employees is
to ‘plan, design, construct, and maintain over 2,000 miles of
roads and 913 bridges on the state highway system’, these
employees have also been inspired to collect, restore, and display
antique equipment and tools used in their profession.
J. D. Benson, District Engineer, explains that there are
currently two units to this unusual museum a static unit, which
consists of a display of model horses and a 1927 grader; and a
mobile unit, comprised of a 1936 Plymouth, a grader (with an 1888
stamp on the blade) drawn by a team of Belgian horses, a 1930
Caterpillar crawler, a 1927 Adams road grader, and a tandem axle
truck with mounted snow blade. The static unit is on display at the
Central Office at 2300 S. Dirksen Parkway in Springfield, and the
mobile unit appears in parades and festivals around the state
(accompanied by clowns who distribute candy and balloons to the
Road building has played an important part in the history of
Illinois. The period from 1818 (when the state was admitted to the
Union) to 1918 was characterized by poor road conditions and
difficult travel between communities. In 1918, a ‘Pull Illinois
Out of the Mud’ campaign resulted in the beginning of
construction on the state highway system.
An appreciation for the early equipment used in this work led
the Department of Transportation employees to form the Museum
District 5 has now been involved in another historical
preservation project that of moving a unique design pony truss
bridge from the small community of Fancher to a rest area at
Marshall (a distance of 70 miles). Only approximately 150 bridges
were built with this type pony truss, patented in the 1800s by
Hiram B. and Everett Trout, and only a few of these remain. This
bridge was narrowed in width, moved to the rest area site, and is
being used as a footbridge.
Benson emphasizes that the success of the Museum Without Walls
depends upon the enthusiasm and excellent support of the
Division’s employees. The Museum would appreciate donations of
more highway items, literature, etc. They are especially interested
in locating a horse drawn elevating scraper.
For making contributions or obtaining more information, please
contact J. D. Benson, District Engineer, Division of Highways,
District 5, Rt. 133 W., P.O. Box 610, Paris, Illinois 61944-0358.