She is rusty. Her spokes are melted and her gas tank is peppered with holes. Not the typical description of a motorcycle found in Milwaukee’s Harley Davidson Museum. However, this 2004 Harley Night Train is not your typical bike.
In 2011 an earthquake and tsunami caused catastrophic damage to the Northeastern coast of Japan and its communities. The death toll reached nearly twenty thousand and many are still missing. Debris from the event washed into the ocean including a storage container, belonging to Mr. Ikuo Yokoyama.
One and a half years and 4,000 miles later, it was found on the coast of British Columbia, Canada by a beachcomber. In that container was a Harley Davidson motorcycle that is on display in the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.
The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Weathered and distressed, it’s body broken yet it’s spirit undaunted, the Harley known as Night Train patiently waits for the museum to reopen.
At the time this interview was recorded, Natalie Wright was a curatorial fellow at the Chipstone Foundation. She is now a Design History PhD student in The School of Human Ecology’s Design Studies department at UW-Madison.
In this edition on Radio Chipstone, Wright tells contributor gianofer fields the story of this iconic symbol of freedom and its journey across an ocean.
About the Host:
gianofer (JON nah fer) fields is an Art Historian and Material Culture contributor and curates the Radio Chipstone series. The project is hosted by the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and funded by the Chipstone Foundation; a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.
About the Guest:
Natalie Wright is a Design History PhD student in SoHE’s Design Studies department at UW-Madison.
Image: 2004 Harley Night Train at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. Photograph courtesy of gianofer fields.
This segment comes from the Radio Chipstone Archives of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio. See here.