Each year, they come back to line the streets of the town where they were built
For a brief time back in the mid-1970's, when I was still in grade school, trucks and truckers were the rage. Well, not trucks really. "Big Rigs." CW McCall was on the radio singing about a "Convoy" (if you could call it singing), CB radios where the popular automotive accessory, and all the kids at school were debating whether Kenworth, Mack or Peterbuilt made the best rigs.
Forty-odd years later, that fad is long since forgotten. And, thankfully, that awful song. While Kenworths, Macks and Peterbuilts are still commonly seen on North American highways, one of the smaller truck builders, Brockway, faded away with the 70's. But it isn't forgotten by everyone.
Brockway Trucks were built in Cortland NY USA, and every year since 2000 the town has hosted the National Brockway Truck Show. There is also a Brockway Museum that hosts the event just north of town.
The atmosphere around the show is very much like a single-maker car show, only the "cars" are three and a half times the size. Many of the trucks are like-new polished, some are looking for new owners. There are some that look like they still see regular use, some are custom-modified showpieces, and some are pristine restorations. And, yes, there are one or two rust-buckets.
Brockway began life building carriages in 1875. By 1909, the company started building auto delivery wagons, first as an experiment, before officially becoming a truck manufacturer in 1912. A large portion of the company's history is represented, ranging from horse-drawn carriages built in 1902 through diesel tractors built in Brockway's final year, 1977.
Brockways saw service in a variety of ways, including fire engines, school busses and even hearses:
This 1927 Model 75 was left in a barn for 50 years before seeing the light of day again in 2000. The owner says the engine started and ran after the carburetor, ignition points and plugs were cleaned and the battery was replaced. It had been used for farm work before its retirement.
Most of the event showcased the mainstay of Brockway's business, short- and long-haul trucks.
Some are meticulously kept, like this 1955 155W museum-quality tractor:
Not surprisingly, diesel engines were the standard power plants for these trucks, especially in the later years. They were predictably massive. As one participant showed, so were the problems when those engines failed:
The last Brockway truck was built 40 years ago, and by then the company was a subsidiary of Mack Truck. The story goes that a union strike did the company in. They were told if they went on strike, the company would close the plant. The workers went on strike anyway, and company kept its promise. This truck was built during that final year:
While kids may not be memorizing 10 codes and wishing they had CB radios anymore, some of that trucker culture revisits "Huskietown" every August. The National Brockway Show feels a lot like a big classic car show, but with a very different twist. It makes for an interesting step back in time.