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3 In Your Town: International Towing Museum (TN)

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The history of the tow truck begins in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.


"The friend of the guy who invented the tow truck, Ernest Holmes Sr., he had flipped his car over in the Chickamauga Creek, explains Nyle Vincent of the International Towing Museum. “He had to call up about 12 friends of his to help pull the car out. There was very little equipment available to go recover a vehicle. So they spent the entire day out there. So by the time he got back to the shop, he was like, there's got to be an easier way. There's got to be an easier way."

Ernest Holmes Sr. spent months at the drawing board, developing plans for the world's first tow truck. By 1919, the Holmes 485 was born. A chassis that sported a metal tube framework, pulleys, wires, outriggers and hooks. It was an invention that would change everything automotive. And it is that invention that is celebrated here at The International Towing Museum on Chattanooga’s south side.


"We house antique tow trucks, says Vincent. “We display the history of the tow truck, and how it's impacted the world."


In this museum, you'll find tow trucks of every size and every speed. You can explore the uniqueness of the designs and get an insight into the engineering that has evolved over the past one hundred years.


Each truck here has a story.


One of the museum’s more popular attractions is a tow truck used on the beaches of Normandy, France.

"It was part of the Red Ball Express, which was the supply chain during the War. This particular truck was in Normandy and had suffered some damage as the War went on, and it was left in France. Eventually, it was recovered, restored and then brought back over here. It's the only truck in our collection that currently does not run because it still has some of the original battle damage, which is pretty neat."


Nyle says since his time working at the museum, many drivers in the industry have come by to show their appreciation for this unique museum.

"I've gotten to meet a lot of towers that have come in on a regular basis. First of all, they are very appreciative that we have this museum here because it's honoring their industry. We have the wall of the fallen out front that commemorates the drivers that pass away each year. The current stat is that it's one tow truck driver that is lost every 6 to 10 days. Because it's extremely dangerous, issues with cell phones, etc. So it just takes a hard-working, determined individual handling that type of thing because it's extremely dangerous."


To plan a visit and find out about times of operation and admission, visit their website.




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