The Cummins Historical Restoration Center
Those who appreciate diesel history are always happy to see the cornerstones of diesel manufacturing maintaining corporate investments in it. Cummins is one of those foundational companies that got diesel power where it is today, and it might interest you to know they maintain a Historical Restoration Center (HRC) near their headquarters in Columbus, Indiana, where they store, restore and operate old Cummins engines. It’s not open to the public, but if you see a vintage Cummins engine at a Cummins facility or event, it probably came from there. Cummins gave us an inside look at the HRC and we got to see some restorations in progress.
You may already know that Cummins does maintain a museum at their headquarters and it’s open to the public. Normally. When we visited in the spring of 2018 it was undergoing a major renovation that won’t be complete until 2019. That turned out to be a good thing, because many exhibits from the museum were being stored at the HRC, giving us “one-stop-shopping” experience. And what an experience it was!
The guy in charge of the HRC is David Goggin. He’s the Cummins marketing communications director, and since 2015 he’s enthusiastically overseen both the HRC and the Cummins Archive. Part of his job is educating new hires on the history of Cummins and we got to see him do his stuff running a large group of new employees through a “Cummins History 101” course. Most of the restoration work at the HRC is done by volunteers that include current and retired Cummins employees from various levels in the company. Their efforts are supported with a modest budget from Cummins.
The founding father of the HRC is a guy named Jeff Jones, who was a sales and marketing VP. He had a sense of the history languishing in various storage areas at Cummins, largely unseen by most in the company. He recognized the danger that short-sightedness and a casual “let’s clean this place up” order often leads to a company forever losing its history. He found like-minded people in the company to carry out a master plan to see it preserved, documented, restored and displayed. It began in earnest in 2012, when Jones tapped engineer Bruce Watson to help carry out the plan. With Goggin and Steve Sanders, Watson located a building in which to store it and got it moved in 2012. The collection moved again to a larger 10,000 square foot building in 2015. Watson retired that year but still works at the HRC and is currently leading the restoration of the legendary 1934 Cummins racecars.
The historical artifacts are used by Cummins marketing in displays at shows, dealer events or new-product introductions. The HRC is also used as a training venue for new hires and for catered events for Cummins personnel and dealers. The HRC volunteers often find themselves doubling as teachers, and education both inside and outside the company is another key focus. In addition, the HRC supports car and truck clubs, charities and local history organizations.
The Cummins Historical Restoration Center is proof that the history of a company, especially one as rich and industry-pivotal as Cummins, is a useful corporate tool that not only benefits the company but the public as well.