County Road Department to Restore Historic Piece of Equipment

Historic 1925 road grader will be on display outside road department shop

By Justin Franz

It’s been sitting and sinking into the pavement for nearly a decade. Now an historic road grader built in 1925 will be getting a second lease on life at the Flathead County Road Department in Kalispell.

The historic piece of equipment was once part of the Flathead County Museum collection south of Kalispell, but when the museum closed, it and some other local artifacts were moved to the road department shop. A few years ago, the machine, built by the Austin Manufacturing Co. in Chicago, caught the eye of shop supervisor Corey Pilsch, who thought it would be a fun restoration project for his crew.

“It’s just too cool of an old machine to let it go to scrap,” Pilsch said.

Before Pilsch could move it from the back lot into the shop, he and public works director David Prunty decided to look into having the grader donated to the road department. The county commission welcomed the idea and the machine will be formally donated to the department soon.

Once the deed is in the road department’s hands, the grader will be moved into the shop and the restoration will begin in between other projects. Pilsch said he expects it to take about a year to restore. The machine will be sandblasted and repainted. Pilsch said some metal work would also be completed, specifically to fix the mangled steps on the back of it.

Once it is repaired, some pexiglass windows will be installed to protect the interior from the elements and then it will be displayed out in front of the road department shop. Currently, an old horse-pulled road grader is on display.

“It’ll be pretty neat to have a little piece of history to put on display out front,” Prunty said.

Pilsch said the department would spend about $2,500 to fix it up. He said while it would be interesting to restore it to operating condition, it would probably break the project’s budget.

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