Two guys walk up to a barn and ask to see a bomber…
Some stories just seem to fall in my lap. Other times, I feel like a rube who just fell off a passing FS truck ‘cause everyone already knows the story but me. And then, there’s the kind of story that simply stretches credibility. This story that covers the gamut.
Ever since I took on the duties of editor for Galt Traffic, I get occasional emails from people asking me about what ever happened to the B-7. I had no idea what they were talking about, having been around Galt for less than four years. I turned to a former GT editor who has been around here for something close to forever, Jeff Hill. (Jeff assures me that old editors never die, they just become ghost writers.)
So, for anyone who’s ever asked…
Jeff confirmed that, many years ago, a B-17 Flying Fortress had indeed inhabited the grounds at Galt, between the equipment garages and an old EAA chapter building that has since been torn down.
He even knows the owner, Mike Kelner, and made a call. Mike said we were welcome to come down to his place outside of Marengo and check out the progress. That’s how Jeff and I found ourselves cruising around in the middle of corn country looking for a barn with a bomber in it.
Mike Kelner’s B-17 in mid 1980 at Galt
The story from Mike is that he always wanted a B-17. One day back in 1984, he learned that one had somehow ended up in a scrap yard in Maine. Unfortunately, it had been cut into pieces before he got to it. However, Mike is not the kind of guy to let something so minor stand in the way of his dreams. He bought the pieces and hauled them to Galt where the powersthat-were allowed him to park them behind the storage sheds.
A number of years pass and nobody’s getting any younger. Mike is itching to restore his prize so in 1995 he buys the farm (appropriate for a decaying bomber) builds an pole barn and moves the remains to its new home near Marengo.
Originally cut into 8 pieces, the reunited fuselage as it appears today
Fast forward to last week and two guys are staring through the partially opened door into a sight straight out of the Twilight Zone.
Over the years, Mike and any number of volunteers have spent uncounted hours cleaning, measuring, cutting, drilling, forming, riveting, and, like Jeff and myself, uselessly marveling at the giant hulk in that barn.
To be honest, I don’t know what to think about Mike’s endeavor. At this pace, it appears to need several lifetimes of restoration work, making my Sonex look like a quick, weekend build. On one hand, I am in awe of the dedication and passion that it takes to accomplish what may appear to be the impossible. On the other hand, we’ve all seen many misadventures, like the C97 lawn ornament that was once intended to become a restaurant at the Don Q in Dodgeville, as well as the sorry SeaBee in our own back yard. All were once somebody’s dream. Who am I to question the motivations and drive of those dreamers? I do believe that the world is better off with them in it.
One thing is for certain though. As is inevitable with most home-built projects, when that Flying Fortress is completed, it ain’t gonna fit through the door.