The hulking old Freightliner rumbled to life one more time and other trucks from a bygone era waited for their turn to be towed away as Bev Davis scanned a cavernous exhibit hall growing more bare by the day.
"Nobody's happy to see this happen, but I believe it's an act of Providence," Davis said beneath his wide-brimmed hat as the 5-ton behemoth chugged away. "This ensures the perpetuity of the collection."
The Hays Antique Truck Museum, with its collection of rare and vintage trucks and farm machinery, is moving to the National Automobile Museum in Reno after 16 years at Woodland's Heidrick Ag History Center. Davis, 84, serves as a Hays docent and museum board treasurer.
National Automobile Museum officials in Reno envision an expanded space as soon as 2016 that will house installations including the Hays trucks. The 100-piece collection, assembled by late trucking industry pioneer A.W. Hays, ranks among the nation's largest and dates back to the earliest days of the automobile.
"It's a very impressive collection. It really tells the story of the trucking industry from the beginning," said Jackie Frady, president and executive director of the National Automobile Museum. "We really hit on the whole story of transportation from its inception. With their collection, it could be a real dynamic story for visitors."
It also closes a chapter in Woodland, and with it, a visible symbol of Yolo County's deep agricultural roots and a living history of the machines that fueled what Davis calls the "relentless evolution and growth of our nation."
"This is what this (museum) is about," Davis said. "How it all ties together."
Hays officials hope to have the full collection in Reno by the end of September, before the first snow, and say the trucks will be stored there until the national museum's expansion is complete.
The deal was too good to pass up, Hays officials say. Donations are the lifeblood of the museum, but costs of maintaining the vintage trucks and keeping them under roof were $100,000 or more a year, said Hays museum board President Jim Dobbas.
Those costs threatened the museum's future, Dobbas said. By early this year, museum leaders had to make a choice.
"It was strictly an economic decision. The economics weren't working for us," Dobbas said. "We knew we had to move."
When the Reno expansion opens, the National Automobile Museum will take over the collection.
Suitors at other museums coveted the trucks, Dobbas said, but Reno ultimately won out. A deal began taking shape earlier this year in Reno as officials of both the Hays and National Automobile museums were mulling over their respective futures.
"We always had a relationship with the Hays museum over the years, and we've respected their work," Frady said. "They were examining their future direction and we were in the middle of plans to expand." She called Hays' officials "very interested."
"We hated to move out of Woodland, but they've got great plans (in Reno)," Dobbas said. "They've got plans to take that museum huge. And it's still close only 130 miles from Woodland."
Officials at the Heidrick Ag History Center, which has housed the Hays Antique Truck Museum since 1997, said they are adjusting to the news. The center will retain a number of other exhibits, including tractors and farm equipment.
"They got an amazing offer," Heidrick executive director Lorili Ostman said. "You can't help but be happy for them."
The soon-to-be vacant 45,000-square-foot space gives the Heidrick center a chance to include more events and new, diverse exhibits, Ostman said.
Davis watched Monday as more of the collection was tugged and towed out of the center in preparation for the 130-mile trip to Nevada.
Davis has an engineer's mind and a huge heart for these machines and how they worked, as well as what they meant to the people who hauled timber and freight, worked the land and battled the elements.
"These things are part of people's lives as opposed to static things on shelves," Davis said. "It ain't just a bunch of old iron."
Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.