Profile Photo
David A. Thomas
14 articles

Evergreen Air and Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon, USA

July 23, 2019 · in Aviation · · 23 · 2.8K

Greeting, iModelers. A week ago I road tripped down to McMinnville, Oregon with some friends to see the air and space museum. There is a modest but nevertheless impressive collection there of aircraft across the history of flight, from a 1:1 model of da Vinci's flying machine to modern fighter aircraft. The real claim to fame of the place, though, is that it is the home of the Hughes H-4 "Hercules," aka the "Spruce Goose"--by a number of metrics the largest aircraft ever built.

I took lots of photos, but won't bore you with them as they are plentiful elsewhere on the web. I lean WW2 most of the time, and other than their Catalina, their most impressive offerings of that conflict were the FW 190 and the ME 262. Still, gazing up close into the cockpit of the Phantom, examining the boosters of a real V-2, touching an SR-71, and gazing inches away into the business end of the A-10 Warthog was all pretty cool.

The star, however, is the Goose. Essentially the entire aircraft museum (1980s+ era aircraft and space/rocketry is all housed in another building) is built for and arranged around the H-4. Under its vast wings are huddled the lesser aircraft, which is both economical in terms of spacing the exhibits and serves to give us a sense of scale. Shots of the Skyraider, the Spad (nose/engine only), the ME 262, and other planes in themselves are bonuses; my purpose was to get shots of the H-4 itself. The Spruce Goose (a name the media gave Hughes' creation but that he despised) is so huge that a man can walk upright inside its wings. It boasts a total of eight 2,500 hp engines, is made almost entirely of wood (birch, mostly), and is, in fact, itself a "living model" of sorts. As most know, it was originally conceived by Hughes and Kaiser (the master of the "Liberty Ship") as a tactic to circumvent the U-boat wolf packs; American industrial might, better anti-submarine tactics, and the delaying complexity of the H-4 project all rendered the issue moot. The H-4 flew once for about a mile after the conflict had ended, Hughes himself at the helm, skimming the waters of the Bay. It's been a museum piece, simultaneously the very embodiment of brainstorm and boondoggle, ever since.

The pics I've posted show wings, fuselage, tail, and interior, along with a scale schematic that compares the Goose to other massive aircraft in history. How it came to McMinnville, of all places, comes down to expense: it was costing $1 million a year to house in the Bay Area, so the deal was cut and the airplane disassembled. It came to Oregon in 1993 by sea and then by river, in pieces. It was finally assembled by 2001.

Reader reactions:
8  Awesome

11 additional images. Click to enlarge.

23 responses

  1. Looks like a great museum, nice shots, thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks, David. I remember featuring the ‘goose’ on the ‘On This Day’ series. She’s a real monster of an aircraft. In every sense.

    That 262 is gorgeous, beautifully painted.


    • Thanks, David. Good to hear from you.

      What's cool about the museum is how much modeling is actually featured. Not only are there lots of display cases with scale models of era aircraft (to be expected), but also under the nose of the Goose is the scale model used on the set of the movie The Aviator, with shots of how it was built, etc. I learned that the Goose was originally glued then nailed, but once the glue was dry every nail was pulled to reduce weight. The Goose itself is held together by glue, just like our models are.

      There was also an incredible, prize-winning 1:10 flyable P-47 (pictured). Really nice stuff.

      1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  3. Cool! I was just gazing at a book on Hughes on my bookshelf in the dining room a few days ago - got the itch to pick it up and read it now!

  4. Hey Dave !, glad to see you and your pals had a roadtrip and got to see this amazing aircraft, thanks for posting the pictures. I'm a s****r for a Catalina so if you got any pics of that maybe you could add them on.
    Cheers N.

    • I thought you'd never ask, Neil. I am equally a s*cker for the Catalina, so I took a number of shots, including of the interior. Just remember, you asked!

      11 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  5. Great pic's David, thanks for sharing.

  6. Great pix, David. I had the pleasure of visiting the Evergreen Museum at McMinnville a few years back, when the old Oregon modelers club had a contest there. Wow! What a place. IIRC, the museum is spread across two or three buildings, with the Spruce Goose housed in one of the buildings (along with a lot of other WWI and WWII aircraft and engines). The building where the contest was held had the more modern stuff, like the SR-71,fighter jets, missiles, rockets, and helicopters. There was even a full-size replica of the X-15 hung unside. The SR-71 had open panels, as well as a lot of the Top Secret stuff laid out next to the aircraft. A few years ago, just seeing much of this stuff would have been verboten.

    Along with the indoor displays (which are amazing), there are quite a few aircraft on display outside in the lawn area. I also saw some some armor located behind the building, but I didn't get a chance to go over there.

    The Evergreen Museum is a spectacular gem, that has a superb collection of aviation-related artifacts. I highly recommend that you visit Evergreen, if at all possible.

    Thanks again, David.

    • Great description, and spot on. I have nice pics of the SR-71 and other items, maybe to post later. I personally feel the veteran C-47 of D-Day is a real jewel.

      6 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  7. Love that P-47...thanks for all the other shots as well.

  8. The Goose was actually being housed in Long Beach, in the geodesic dome next to the Queen Mary. Neither brought the number of visitors expected, and it was easier to put the Goose on a barge to Oregon than to take the Queen Mary out beyond the 12 mile limit and turn her into an artifical reef (since the ocean's too deep past the relatively narrow continental shelf off California).

    Nice pix!

  9. Big isn't always better. Just usually!

    Brilliant shots David - what a monster! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thanks for sharing, David. Looks like a nice place. I will certainly stop in if I ever get out that way.

  11. What amazed me was the visibility out of the pilot's seat. I have a hard time seeing over the instrument panel of a 172, but the panel on the H-4 barely makes it above my stomach! I would imagine piloting it was pretty easy, you'd just have to remember that there's 160 feet of airplane sticking out each side. Hopefully you sprang for the VIP tour as it's totally worth it.

  12. I didn’t, Josh; time was too restricted. As you know, to do that place right you’d really need a couple of full days, and I only time budgeted for a day trip outing, driving down from the Vancouver, Washington area. But your input is really appreciated!

    • Well, when you go back... When I did it it was $50 and included a tour of the flight deck up to the front spar. (Which is massive and looked for all the world like milled aluminum only it was a laminated and milled birch wall around seven feet tall.) You also get a photo in the pilot's seat while wearing a fedora. (Oh, and a chance to peek out the top hatch at the top of this beast!) You also get to peek inside the wing, but so far no one is allowed inside of them.

  13. Nice pics David you may not be building airplanes but there's always time to view some in 1:1 scale. Saw the Goose when it was based in Long Beach and one must see it up close and personal to really appreciate it's size and wood construction. They also had a mannequin in the cockpit with the stash and a fedora representing Hughes, nice touch.

  14. When I visited several years ago (2002) there was a B-17 sitting behind the Goose.
    Tailspan of the Spruce Goose - 113 feet, 6 inches
    Wingspan of the B-17 sitting underneath the tail - 104 feet!

    • Bummer! That B-17 must have been a loaner because she isn’t there. I’ve shown the pics of the WW2 era multi-engine gems they have on display—C-47 and PBY.

  15. Thank you for sharing all your nice pictures David. Amazing to see the huge difference in size with the Me262 in front of the Goose. I'm sure you've had a great day in and around the museum. Hopefully we manage to save up some money to take a extended trip to the U.S.A. one day, as there are still places like this on my "to visit" list.

Leave a Reply