Consider Visiting a BIG archive – Liberty Aviation Museum

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September 21, 2015 by tomneel

Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton

Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton

Sometimes an archive holds big things! I found this out when having lunch at the Tin Goose Diner in Port Clinton – This was one of my uncle Ted Mahl’s favorite stops. The Tin Goose was manufactured by the O’Mahoney Company and first opened in 1954 as Steve’s Diner in the village of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Why move it to an airplane hangar at the tiny Carl P. Keller Field of the Erie-Ottawa County International Airport? Because it is attached to the Liberty Aviation Museum – – and this is what my uncle loved.

Theodore C. Mahl 2 Aug 1922 - 1 Apr 2015 B-25 WWII Pilot

Theodore C. Mahl
2 Aug 1922 – 1 Apr 2015
B-25 WWII Pilot

You see, Uncle Ted (1922-2015) was a B-25 pilot during World War II and had many missions. I have a CD with original images of many of the planes that his unit flew. And guess what, Liberty Aviation has a B-25J Mitchell Bomber called “Georgie’s Gal”. Most of these planes sported emblems showing off some aspect of the female anatomy.

Uncle Ted's photo of the plane Sweet Eloise

Uncle Ted’s photo of the plane Sweet Eloise

But it isn’t just the B-25 that is on display in this big World War II archives. They have two 1929 Ford Tri-Motors. After all, the City of Port Clinton flew out of this airport on a regular route to service the Lake Erie Islands for a number of years. My Dad often took my brothers and I up to Island Airlines to watch landings and take-offs of the Ford Tri-Motor at Port Clinton as a kid. Liberty Aviation has several WWII jeeps, a WC-54 Dodge ¾ ton ambulance, a GM TBM Avenger 3E (WWII vintage torpedo bomber), a German Kubelwagen, and even a PT-728 MTB motor torpedo boat. It takes a different mindset to house, restore, and preserve collections when they are this big, but it still follows the basic archival principles.

German Kubelwagen

German Kubelwagen

This group of collectors banded together in 1991 but didn’t really have a home until this airport facility opened in July 2012 with a bequest from a major donor. And they really went big! The museum is wonderful. The visitor can get lost in all the WWII-era displays featuring all aspects of military history and social life back home. After all, the women for whom those planes were named were at work in war production factories right in the Port Clinton – Sandusky region. Most of the time, visitors can actually watch volunteers painstakingly doing restoration work on the Ford Tri-Motors and several other projects. On July 8, 1929, Amelia Earhart and twenty other dignitaries boarded two Ford Tri-Motors in Columbus, Ohio, and flew to Glendale, California. This was the beginning of the Transcontinental Air Transport Company which offered 48-hour cross-country service, an air-rail combination across the United States. Aviation really did begin in Ohio!


1929 Ford Tri-Motor aka “The Tin Goose”

The museum also does outreach literally. Besides participating in many air shows and related events, folks with big bucks can actually rent these historic planes for fly-overs. One small (but large) project was led by Ron Bowerman of the EHOVE Career Center, the joint vocational education high school that covers Erie, Huron, and Ottawa counties. He led 8th grade students from several schools in the area in building a full-scale 1902 Wright brothers glider. This plane, “Aircraft #5”, because it is the 5th that Bowerman has built, is currently on display in the lobby of the Dayton International Airport. As an aside, it is perhaps an Ohio thing that Dayton and even this tiny Port Clinton airport can be termed an “international airport” because Canada is so close. The Ford Tri-Motor, affectionately known as the Tin Goose, did serve the islands on the Canada side of Lake Erie as well. The Liberty Aviation folks also do a museum newsletter, called “V-Mail: News from the Front”, that describes new projects and activities. The PDFs of old issues are on their web site. These newsletters and the web site often feature interviews with WWII veterans who flew these planes or worked on this equipment. I hope they got to talk with my Uncle Ted on one of his visits. He had some stories to tell and was a difficult one to get to stop talking about them!

The Tin Goose Diner

The Tin Goose Diner

And the food at that Tin Goose Diner attached to the museum is really good! I do encourage you to visit the Liberty Aviation Museum and the Tin Goose Diner when you are in my neck of the woods – North Central Ohio. It is located just west of Sandusky. Take SR 2 across the Edison (Sandusky Bay) Bridge and exit on SR 53 north. Immediately turn left on East State Road (old Route 2 heading west). You’ll see the museum. It is open every day: Sunday to Thursday 10 to 5; Friday and Saturday 10 to 6. Admission for adults is $10. Contact information: Phone 419-732-0234; email:; address: 3515 East State Road, Port Clinton OH 43452.


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