Critique Pioneer Village, Nebraska

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Oct 17, 2007
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Orland Park, Illinois
For years, I saw the signs all along Interstate 80 encouraging travelers to exit the highway to visit Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska. At one time, it was a major tourist attraction.

I always figured it was a tourist trap and therefore never took the 20 mile round trip detour to see it. However, during this road trip I wanted to make an effort to see mostly things that I haven't seen before.

Pioneer Village is not a tourist trap. Instead, it is a massive museum consisting of 28 buildings and more than 50,000 collectibles. Many of these items are incredibly valuable. I was absolutely stunned at the size of the place. There are more than 350 vintage cars, 17 planes, 150 tractors, locomotives, etc. There is also a tremendous amount of random stuff...collections of barbed wire, knives, old appliances of every kind...you name it. There are tens of full sized kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, dens, etc. (so that you can see what things looked like in the various decades.

But, the most incredible part to me is that the place is in complete disrepair. I was there for three hours...and was one of three visitors for most of that time. I think there were two employees. I was told that all of the buildings were dark...but that I could enter any of them and turn on the lights. Just be sure to turn the lights off when I left. There was no heating in the buildings.

After a while, I was just laughing out loud--literally. I kept walking and walking (for miles according to my Apple watch)...entering yet another building with rows and rows of cars or tractors or whatever. And these buildings are massive...and have more than one level. And, I was the only one in the buildings. It was kind of eerie...but fun.

One time I left a building and turned off the lights...and someone from upstairs yelled out because they couldn't see a thing. I didn't realize that there was another visitor in there.

I didn't do the place justice by any means with my photography. But, here are some random images from my visit:

1- It's clear right from the start that the place has seen better days. I parked to just to the right of this frame...the pickup truck and my car were the only ones in the lot.
2021-10-14 Nebraska-115-bw.jpg
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2- The first building I entered had a lot of stuff on the shelves.
2021-10-14 Nebraska-55-Edit.jpg
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3
2021-10-14 Nebraska-64-Edit.jpg
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4
2021-10-14 Nebraska-51-Edit.jpg
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5- The paint on a locomotive was peeling in what I thought was an interesting pattern
2021-10-14 Nebraska-72-Edit.jpg
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6- This is a closeup of the back of a farm truck
2021-10-14 Nebraska-87-Edit.jpg
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7- And so is this
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8- The church was in good shape. Like most of the buildings and items here...it is authentic. This church was moved from Minden to Pioneer Village.
2021-10-14 Nebraska-77-Edit.jpg
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9- License plates
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10- This is an example of how most of the cars are displayed...rows upon rows of these...more than 350 cars.
2021-10-14 Nebraska-104-Edit.jpg
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11- The horse stable
2021-10-14 Nebraska-95-Edit.jpg
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12- I was told that the carousel would not be available for rides for quite some time.
2021-10-14 Nebraska-110-HDR-Edit.jpg
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The employees were friendly and accommodating. Photography was permitted. Looking at my shutter speeds makes it clear that tripods were allowed.

Next stop, Buffalo Bill's prairie mansion in North Platte, Nebraska!

Thanks for looking...
Glenn
 
Joined
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Quite a find...and very well documented by your fine photographs.

That said, I'm still not sure I would go out of my way to see it. Kudos to you for doing just that!
 

NCV

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Love the precision of the compositions in this set. Looks like a wonderful place to wander and photograph.
 
Joined
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Orland Park, Illinois
WOW. A trip back in time for sure, and one to blow your mind!
It did blow my mind!
Quite a find...and very well documented by your fine photographs.

That said, I'm still not sure I would go out of my way to see it. Kudos to you for doing just that!
It's in disrepair, but filled with fascinating things. I think it could be a great place to just wander around with a macro lens.
Incredible!! I'm not sure I would have even gotten out of the car when looking at that first photo.

In typical Glenn fashion, you found some wonderful shapes, colors and contrasts. I particularly like 6 and 11.
Thanks Mitch...my three hour visit wasn't nearly enough. I felt like that allowed for just enough time to walk through the buildings.
Love the precision of the compositions in this set. Looks like a wonderful place to wander and photograph.
Thank you...it is a great place for photography.

Glenn
 
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These are terrific. I suspect most people that visit, did not see what you saw.
We could all learn to see, but it takes training and will.
Thanks for sharing your visions
gary
 

Butlerkid

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Excellent images, Glenn. Although small in numbers, they do give a nice sense of the place and the variety of items to be found there. I wonder if some well placed articles and photos in various media (WSJ Travel section, tourist centers, etc) would help increase interest in the place. There is certainly a need to preserve such well preserved glimpses of times past.
 
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Awesome find and even better images. You have the knack of 'making an image' out of the most mundane. Great job!
Thanks Shekhar...I take that as the highest of compliments!
So much of interest!
Thank you, Allan...a photographer could spend weeks there.
These are terrific. I suspect most people that visit, did not see what you saw.
We could all learn to see, but it takes training and will.
Thanks for sharing your visions
gary
Thanks Gary...my goal is try to walk away with pictures that might be a little different than what most people would capture. Photography is so rewarding because pictures can be captured from anywhere.
Excellent images, Glenn. Although small in numbers, they do give a nice sense of the place and the variety of items to be found there. I wonder if some well placed articles and photos in various media (WSJ Travel section, tourist centers, etc) would help increase interest in the place. There is certainly a need to preserve such well preserved glimpses of times past.
Thank you, Karen...they have so many treasures. I suspect at some point items will be sold off or transferred to other museums. Even the billboards advertising Pioneer Village on I-80 were hardly legible.
Such a fascinating place and, thus, such a fascinating thread!


The person that told you that clearly suffers from being overly optimistic.
Thanks Mike...I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. I am so glad I took the time to visit.

Glenn
 
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Alvin
Excellent photos Glenn. That is a photo rich environment and the fact that they are accommodating to photographers makes it a real treasure.
 

Commodorefirst

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I visited primarily because of the car collection. Funny how it looks the same as it did 23 years ago.
 
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Glenn, how many miles do you do annually? Do you travel alone or with friends and family? Just curious because your shooting locales are far off the beaten path. Looks like an interesting lifestyle.
 
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Orland Park, Illinois
Glenn, how many miles do you do annually? Do you travel alone or with friends and family? Just curious because your shooting locales are far off the beaten path. Looks like an interesting lifestyle.
I usually take two or three road trips a year. Some have been quite long. I have driven to places like Newfoundland, Key West, Olympic National Park, etc. A few road trips have exceeded 30 days. Most are 2 to 3 weeks.

They are usually solo trips, although I meet people along the way sometimes. On my website, I list all the trips since 2010…and clicking on any of those trips brings up a collection of pictures.

https://www.nagelphotography.com/travel

Glenn
 

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