Road Trip! Destination: Ohio transportation sites

Ohio on a map retro look.

They say it’s not as much the destination as it is the journey. If that’s the case, then why not make the “getting there” your destination?

Just about every mode of transportation has its dedicated fans, from big-rig trucks to fire engines. And the state of Ohio, as befits its central location and manufacturing history, has been a big part of the country’s transportation history. The Wright brothers were bicycle shop owners in Dayton, after all.

It would take weeks to hit all the important transportation sites in the state, but it’s easier to hit a few at a time.

This particular route curls along the northern and western edges of the state, stopping at an array of sites big and small, well-established and brand-new, encompassing everything from ships to fire engines to trains and aircraft of all stripes.

National Museum of the Great Lakes

Toledo, Ohio, might not be the obvious place for a maritime museum about the Great Lakes (there’s an excellent one in another not-very-obvious place — Erie), but the new National Museum of the Great Lakes seems to be getting its sea legs in short order.

The museum is on Toledo’s industrial waterfront and features about 300 artifacts and 40 interactive exhibits that simulate everything from stoking a steamship boiler to diving to explore the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Visitors can climb aboard the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship, still moored right outside on Lake Erie.

Details: 419-214-5000 or

Toledo Firefighters Museum

Although all the latest advancements in the museum businesses are good — high-tech interactivity, online components — and probably necessary, it’s also easy to spare some affection for old-school museums. Basically, somebody’s amazing collection of stuff, arranged with obsessive care.

The Toledo Firefighters Museum is one of these. It’s a historic multistory brick fire station that lovingly depicts the city fire department’s evolution from actual “bucket brigade” into a modern, high-tech firefighting force.

There’s a 1929 Pirsch pumper engine, a 1927 American LaFrance pumper, a shiny brass horse-drawn “steamer,” a 1969 Willy’s Fire Jeep, a working firehouse dispatch telephone system, and, of course, a firemen’s pole.

Some of the smaller exhibits are the most fascinating, though. Did you know that before fire extinguishers became common, the first defenses against fire were glass hand grenades filled with water?

Details: 419-478-3473 or

Tony Packo’s Cafe

If you’re in Toledo, you might as well hit Tony Packo’s — a local institution (since 1932), classic Roadside Americana-type attraction, touted by local boy Jamie Farr on the CBS sitcom “M*A*S*H,” and an actual good restaurant.

The menu is basically belly-filling workingman’s grub — giant hot dogs, fried pickles — sprinkled liberally with old-world Hungarian staples, like classic paprikas dumplings with gravy and kraut cabbage simmered in fresh tomatoes.

The newest location is across from the Toledo Mud Hens (Triple-A baseball, Tigers affiliate) right in the middle of Toledo’s slowly reviving Downtown.

The walls are covered in autographed buns — everyone of consequence who has ever passed through Toledo apparently has autographed one: Presidential candidates, famous athletes, pop stars and Burt Reynolds.

Details: 412-246-1111 or

Fostoria Rail Park ‘Iron Triangle’

About 40 miles south of Toledo, the city of Fostoria, Ohio, is known as “Train City U.S.A.” for good reason. The “Iron Triangle” is where several working Norfolk Southern and CSX rail lines meet. The area gets more than 100 trains a day passing through. For the train buffs, it can be a pretty special place.

There’s a small, triangle-shaped park — really just a grassy meadow — with a shelter, bathrooms and parking lot for visiting rail fans, who come from all over the country.

If you have time, the Fostoria Water Park is typically open from the first week of June through the first weekend of August.


National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

While the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington gets most of the attention, a massive sprawling museum on the campus of a working Air Force base, Wright-Patterson, is easily its equal.

Dayton, Ohio, is where the dream of flight began for the Wright Brothers, who actually made it happen.

This is all military aircraft, though — especially aircraft used by the U.S. Air Force and its allies and foes. There are hangars dedicated to early military flight, World War II, Korea, Southeast Asia (Vietnam) and the Cold War, as well as a missile and spaceflight gallery.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a B-24 Liberator (World War II strategic bomber) or Messerschmitt Bf-163 Komet (Nazi rocket-powered fighter) or Supermarine Spitfire (victors of the Battle of Britain) up close, this is the place to go. Plus, it’s free.

Details: 937-255-3286 or

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7901. ___


This article was written by Michael Machosky from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.