The first stop when we visited the Caterpillar Visitors Center in Peoria, Illinois, was the 797 Theater. The theater sits in the bed of a 797f mining truck.
Theater in a truck bed
It’s true! The truck is actually a life-size replica, since the real thing weighs 1,375,000 pounds when it’s empty. The tires alone are fourteen feet tall, and ten percent of the world’s rubber production is used in these tires that must be changed every three to six months. The 797f mining truck is just one vehicle that you’ll learn about during your self-guided tour.
You start your visit in the theater where a guide presents a brief overview of the company. Very likely, your host will be a Caterpillar rehired retiree. Who can better tell you about the company than someone who had a long career in the company? Our host, Jean, worked at Caterpillar for 42 years. She retired and then came back when the Visitors Center opened in 2012. Your host will introduce you to an orientation film. Watching the film, you’ll learn about Caterpillar, its products, and its customers.
The rest of your tour is self-guided. During your visit, you’ll see the first Caterpillar tractor model ever made, built in 1925. It was painted gray, but shortly after that the color changed to yellow for safety reasons.
You can follow the timeline of the company, learn about robotics, or hear how customers all over the world use the equipment in the Voice of the Customer exhibit. In the Product Development Gallery you can design your own equipment and e-mail it to yourself or a loved one. Here’s the truck I designed.
You’ll learn the amount of work that goes into research and development, including using scale model technology called Similitude to recreate applications in the laboratory. You’ll see samples of soil and rock from all over the world, which is studied to find out how it interacts with Caterpillar equipment.
Another piece of the research and development is ergonomics to ensure that customers can operate the equipment in comfort.
The human aspect of Caterpillar is stressed in the Caterpillar Careers area. Caterpillar has over 1,000 job titles, and you can “meet” some of the employees virtually in the interactive Meet Our People exhibit.
When we visited, a special exhibit focused on a Caterpillar basketball team from the 1950s, made up of all Caterpillar employees. The Peoria Cats team won the gold medal in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Seven members of the team donated items to the Caterpillar Visitors Center for the display, including a gold medal and a basketball autographed by all of the team members.
Earth moving equipment isn’t Caterpillar’s only business. Through mergers and acquisitions they have come to own many brands, which you’ll see in the Brand Gallery. Dioramas show a few examples of Caterpillar industries, like railroad and marine.
Climbing into the equipment
Not surprising, the favorite part of the museum for kids of all ages is climbing into the equipment.
I also tried one of the simulators, another popular activity. How did I do? Let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t choose an excavating career.
Take home some Cat merchandise
Before you leave the Visitors Center, stop into the Cat Merchandise Center where you can purchase clothing, toys, and a seemingly endless variety of Caterpillar premium goods.
If you go to the Caterpillar Visitors Center
The Caterpillar Visitors Center is located on the Peoria riverfront at 110 SW Washington Street. Check the web site for hours and admission fees.
Disclosures: The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Caterpillar Visitors Center hosted my visit to the Visitors Center. However, any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
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