Photos by Becky DeWitt

Wheels Through Time Museum 1909 Reading Standard
Matt Walksler, curator for the Wheels Through Time Museum, next to a 1909 Reading Standard.

If you think time travel doesn’t exist, I’d have to argue with you. I’ve twice had the good fortune to take a ride on a straight-up bad-ass time machine.

Wheels Through Time Museum Harley RL
This Harley RL is a flat-track veteran. The model made its racing debut in 1932 and ruled those tracks until 1936.

Since 2002, that time machine has sat at 62 Vintage Lane in scenic Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The Wheels Through Time Museum was founded by vintage bike restoration legend Dale Walksler, and inside is a treasure trove of American-made motorcycles, with 24 different brands represented in curated displays. The lion’s share of them are Harleys, plus many Indians, but you’ll also find more obscure brands like Henderson, Flescher, Yale, Reading-Standard, Crocker, Sears, and a one-of-a-kind Traub, just to name a few.

Wheels Through Time Museum 1937 Indian Four
After a run of about 33 years, American 4-cylinder motorcycles went the way of the dodo bird, with the last model being produced in 1942. Pictured here is a 1937 Indian Four.

Maggie Valley is situated just 5 miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter what way you come at her, you are bound to have a wonderful ride, with a boatload of wondrous natural beauty to point your camera at and click the shutter.

Wheels Through Time Museum 1913 Harley
A 1913 F-Head single-cylinder Harley tucked safely away in a 1914 Kelm and Burbach portable steel “Bike House.”

Related: Wheels Through Time Raffle: 1937 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead

Dale Walksler found this site while returning to his Chicago home after a trip to Amelia Island in Florida. Running low on fuel, he took the Maggie Valley exit to get some gas. After a look around the area, Dale knew this was the right place to move his museum from its location adjacent to his Harley shop in Illinois.

Wheels Through Time Museum 1911 Indian
An array of motorcycles from the 1910s in a period-correct setting. A 1911 single-cylinder Indian sits front and center.

Maggie Valley was already a big tourist destination due to its proximity to the spectacular Blue Ridge Parkway and the expansive 522,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as the now-shuttered Ghost Town Amusement Park. As such, the town has more than its fair share of hotels, motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other amenities close to the museum for visitors’ convenience.

Wheels Through Time Museum Harley Pea Shooters
Harley Pea Shooters were lightweight (slightly over 200 lb), small-displacement (350cc) machines available in race and general-purpose versions made from 1926-1934. The race version, and some modified general-use versions, were commonly raced on board tracks and flat tracks.

The goal of Wheels Through Time is to preserve, teach, and celebrate motorcycling’s rich history, as well as to entertain. Matt Walksler, Dale’s son, has run the museum since his father’s passing in 2021. 

Wheels Through Time Museum Harley Shop
This period-correct set (aside from the television that plays loops of the American Restoration and What’s In The Barn television shows) appears to be a Harley shop with an Excelsior-Henderson in the mix.
Wheels Through Time Museum 1950 Model WR Harley
This beautiful 1950 Model WR Harley was restored by Wheels Through Time’s founder, the late Dale Walksler. This model was the premier bike used on the flat-track circuit from 1950 to 1955.

A variety of motorcycle history is on display, like Lez Myer’s extremely modified Harley Panhead dragbike. In 1958, this 80ci machine clocked 117.18 mph at the Red River Drag Strip in Wichita Falls, Texas, thus becoming Top Eliminator for the Rocky Mountain and Southwest that year.

Wheels Through Time Museum Panhead
Lez Myer’s highly modified 80ci Panhead dragbike.
Wheels Through Time Museum WWII Harley-Davidson XA
This is a very rare, civilianized WWll Harley-Davidson XA, which used a horizontally opposed flat-Twin powerplant. There were only 1,000 of these bikes made, and you seldom see one that has been civilianized

Another unique piece of history is the 1977 Shovelhead ridden around the world by USMC Captain Stanley Sieja. The hardest part of that journey must have been holding his breath the entire time he crossed the Atlantic and Pacific! Seriously though, Sieja’s trip took two years and subjected him to many dangers and hardships. He might have some words of rebuke for those who claim Shovelheads are unreliable.

Wheels Through Time Museum Shovelhead Harley
This Shovelhead Harley was ridden around the world by USMC Captain Stanley Sieja. It took him two years to complete this self-assigned mission.

I couldn’t resist wrapping my hand around the throttle grip of another piece of motorcycle history: the “Duck Bike,” which was given its moniker because of the mallard painted on its tank. It was made famous by four-time AMA Grand National Champion and Motorcycle Hall of Famer Carroll Resweber. I had a real hankering to fire her up and see just how fast I could whip it around the spacious facility. Since the museum is known as “The Museum That Runs,” I figured it might also be the “Museum That Allows Test Rides.” Andy, an employee there, let me know that was not the case. Thanks for raining on my parade, Andy.

Wheels Through Time Museum Carrol Resweber Duck Bike
Carrol Resweber won four straight national championships aboard Harley KRs from 1956 to 1961. His “Duck Bike” was raced in 1962, and the story goes that one of the Davidsons saw the bike in the pits and said, “As long as we’re paying you to race, it had better say ‘Harley-Davidson’ on the tank,” so the original graphic was short-lived.
Wheels Through Time Museum Servi-Cycle
Cool little 125cc Simplex Servi-Cycle. They were produced from 1935 to 1960 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

A collection of historic American bikes wouldn’t be complete without a Crocker, one of the rarest and most expensive motorcycles in the world. Built from 1936 until 1941, only about 75 Crockers were produced, and they were the most powerful bikes on the road, humbling even the Knuckleheads of the day. The 1937 Hemi-head Crocker at the museum is stunning. 

Wheels Through Time Museum 1937 Crocker
In 1936, Crocker unveiled its mind-blowing 61ci V-Twin Small Tank model, originally equipped with hemi-heads as seen on this 1937 model. Expensive and rare, the Crockers made mincemeat out of Harleys and Indians of the era. Today, this bike is probably worth at least $500,000.

Related: Precious Crockers: The Million-Dollar Motorcycle?

Along with the many cool and interesting machines, you can also view a lot of vintage motorcycle clothing, tools, signs, old advertisements, and even some prosthetic limbs. The prosthetic hook arms were apparently once owned by Thomas Leroy “Hooks” Norton, according to the name written on a gas tank that was hanging right beside the prosthetic arms. I have no idea who the previous owner of the leg was.

Wheels Through Time Museum Thomas Leroy Hooks Norton Tank Halves
Tank halves and prosthetic arms formerly owned by Thomas Leroy “Hooks” Norton.

One of the things that sets the museum apart from others is the manner in which the machines are shown. Period-correct bike shops and service stations have been created to display the bikes inside the building that houses this wonderful collection. There is even a hill built in the middle of the joint to exhibit cool hillclimb bikes. Neat stuff.

Wheels Through Time Museum
Inspiring display of motorcycle hillclimbers, complete with a manmade hill.
Wheels Through Time Museum
This display shows what a typical motorcycle shop looked like in the early 20th century.

But Wheels Through Time isn’t just a motorcycle museum. You will also see old cars, mining machinery, Harley-powered farm equipment, an Indian outboard motor, a motorcycle-engined snow toboggan, and even an airplane powered by a Harley motor.

Wheels Through Time Museum 1927 Wilson Miller Airplane
This airplane, powered by a 1920 Harley Model J engine, was built by 20-year-old Wilson Miller in 1927. Miller designed and built a reverse reduction rear attachment for the powerplant so that the propeller spins faster than the engine.

Do yourself a favor and get to the Wheels Through Time Museum to see it for yourself. It’s a fascinating collection of American motorcycle history with a top-notch staff. Surveys show that 100% of really cool people love it.

Wheels Through Time Museum Harley B Model Flathead
This contraption, powered by a single-cylinder Harley-Davidson B Model Flathead, was used in the Davis Mine in Sierra County, California.

Tickets are $15 for folks between the ages of 15 and 65, while those over 65 pay $12. Rugrats from 6 to 15 pay $7, and crumb chewers under 6 are free. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Monday. Visit Wheel Through Time’s website for more information.

Wheels Through Time Museum Harley Flathead and Knucklehead
At first glance, these two bikes look like identical twins, but their engines are very different. The Harley Flathead at the bottom was supplanted in 1936 by the overhead-valve Knucklehead engine on top, which had a good bit more horsepower. The U.S. military used the Flatheads during WWII, as they trusted their reliability more and they were easier to start and repair in the field. Even after the war, the 45ci Flatheads continued to be made by Harley for three-wheeled Servi-Car use until 1973.

The Mysterious Traub Motorcycle: Hidden for Decades in a Brick Wall

The Traub motorcycle is one of motorcycling’s most enigmatic stories. Built around 1916 by a self-described “self-employed experimental machinist” named Richard Traub, it features a bespoke 78ci side-valve V-Twin engine, which was quite big for the era. 

Wheels Through Time Museum Traub
Matt Walksler and associates working on the one-of-a-kind Traub motorcycle found in the wall of a house earmarked for demolition in the late 1960s.

But the most amazing part of the Traub’s story is that it was lost to history until being discovered in a brick wall of a suburban Chicago house back in the late 1960s. At that time, nothing was known about the machine’s history or its creator. Further research by the Walkslers revealed that Mr. Traub ran a motorcycle repair shop in a building behind the house where the bike was found. Why the beautifully constructed and ahead-of-its-time bike was bricked up in the wall is a mystery.

Wheels Through Time Museum Harley J Model
The two gray fellows in the foreground are J Model Harleys manufactured from 1915 until 1929. Unlike the single-cylinder Silent Gray Fellows, these twin-cylinder J models with exposed pushrods are not so silent.

While we were at the museum, Matt and his crew were working on the Traubs’ broken kickstart assembly. Though Traub built most of his beautiful machine from scratch, including casting his own engine cases, the kickstart assembly was sourced from a Henderson. Maybe if Mr. Traub wouldn’t have been such a slacker, he’d have made his own higher-grade kicker assembly, and the damned thing wouldn’t have broken during our visit.

Wheels Through Time Museum Flathead Harley
This gorgeous 750cc side-valve Flathead Harley was a flat-track racer, evidenced by the lack of a front brake.

Lesson to the kiddies out there: The easy way isn’t always the best way. Lesson 2: Don’t hide your motorcycles in brick walls. Of course, I’m joking about the slacker thing, but trying to figure out why he hid his motorcycle behind a brick wall is driving me insane. Oh well, those who know me are acutely aware that my road to insanity is a short one.

Wheels Through Time Museum
The Wheels Through Time Museum encompasses 38,000 square feet of a bi-level structure.


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