Experience Progress: At the Caterpillar Visitors Center

There is plenty for children and adults to see and do at the Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center.

by Jolie Alois, Caterpillar Inc.
Caterpillar Visitors Center
A student tests her operator skills on a simulator.

Wide-eyed and energetic, a stream of local school children pours into the Caterpillar Visitors Center. Their first stop is a movie where they get to learn about Caterpillar customers all over the world. “Watching the excitement on their faces when they find out the movie theater is actually in the bed of a Cat® 797 Mining Truck is priceless,” says Susan Morton, Caterpillar Visitors Center manager. That excitement goes up another notch or two when they realize the theater seats rumble as the truck takes them on a journey to places like China, Australia and even Siberia.

“It’s not just the kids who love the experience,” Morton remarks. “The adults all love it, too. Whether it’s a retiree, current employee or one of the thousands of customers and dealers who visit each year, they all get that child-like look of excitement when they step inside that machine.”

Past, Present and Future
Next up, guests head downstairs for a photo op with the 14-foot tall mining truck tires before stepping into the Heritage Gallery, where more than a century of history is laid out, explaining how the iconic Caterpillar brand was built from the ground up. Here, you can also try your hand at operating the manual controls of an antique D8 tractor.

From there, you will weave your way through gallery after gallery showcasing everything from how Caterpillar machines are designed with every last detail of the customer in mind, to how machines are tested for the most intense terrains and climates. You can watch a time-lapse of several machines being built from start to finish. You can see how robotics is changing the game when it comes to workforce safety.

Posing in front of the 14-foot tall Cat® 797 Mining Truck tires.
Posing in front of the 14-foot tall Cat® 797 Mining Truck tires

A Real Eye-Opener
The brand gallery is a real eye-opener for most guests, showcasing the wide range of industries the Caterpillar brand covers around the world. “We are actually working right now on an upgrade to this gallery that will showcase the evolution of the Caterpillar brand through the years, offering a truly hands-on experience,” adds Morton. (Keep an eye out for that addition coming this fall.)

In the People at Work Gallery, visitors can learn about more than 1,000 career opportunities available at Caterpillar, before walking through a true-to-scale mural of one of the largest diesel engines ever produced. Just on the other side, you can see and touch the smallest engine, and see what the inside of one of Caterpillar’s most popular engine models looks like. All of this leads out to the Dealer Bay, where you can see just how far and wide the impressive Cat Dealer Network reaches.

Drive the Machines
Everyone’s favorite part of their self-guided tour is the chance to explore the product floor, where you can climb into the cabs of an excavator, wheel loader, track-type tractor and even one of the utility vehicles. “We have had visitors from every state and over 50 countries, and one thing that is consistent no matter where our guests are from, no matter their age or occupation: they all love sitting in the driver’s seat of a Caterpillar machine,” Morton says. “We work hard to keep this experience fresh for the general public and relevant for our customers and dealers, so we regularly switch out machines and exhibits.” And no visit is complete without testing your operator skills using the track-type tractor or excavator simulators.

Come See for Yourself
The Caterpillar Visitors Center is open 10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday. (Last entry is at 3:30pm.) Come learn the history of Caterpillar, see projects the equipment helped complete throughout the world, watch a movie in the bed of a two-and-a-half story Cat® 797 MiningTruck, and test your operator skills using our simulators. PM

For more information, go to visitcaterpillar.com.