Elkhart, Indiana – RV Capital of the World

Hideout Trailer Factory

When planning our visit to the State of Indiana, we knew we wanted to stay in the Northeastern part of the State, in the area of Elkhart known as the “RV Capital of the World.” But it wasn’t because of this designation that we wanted to come here. We were coming for the Amish Country. We had already visited the Pennsylvania and Ohio Amish areas and really enjoyed them, so of course Indiana with an Amish population as well was also on our to do list. More will be coming in future blogs about our stay here in Amish Country, but this blog will be about RVing.

Inside the factory – one of the first steps is laying the floor

The Elkhart area has a number of RV manufacturers including Thor, Forest River, Winnebago, Jayco, Dutchman and Keystone, to name some of them. We had heard that sometimes the companies give tours of their facilities, so I checked the Keystone website as that is the company that makes our trailer. The website listed days and times of the week when certain RV models are being made and the plant can be toured. On Thursday afternoons a Hideout trailer tour was offered, so after confirming Mark and I headed over to see how they made the trailer we have been living in full time for almost two years. Since no one else showed up, Mark and I had a private tour with a Keystone Company representative.

Hideout trailer build – Holding my safety glasses as they were about to fall off
The walls are up!

We were able to walk down the factory floor and see the different stages of putting a Hideout trailer together. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of every stage of building (trade secrets you know), but at a few different points we got to. This factory makes 24 Hideouts every day and each worker is paid by the piece or trailer completed. The main thing I noticed was how on task all the workers were. There was no one standing around, relaxing, talking or contemplating. They were working hard and fast. This makes sense if you are being paid for each RV completed. Most everything is made on site or nearby except the appliances and furnishings, such as the mattress and cushions.

Attaching the siding

Each worker is responsible for a small section or task, for example in the photos above, the workers are finishing up the aluminum siding and trim. I bet it would be monotonous to put on siding every day over and over. The final task is quality control. The red tape on the trailer shows areas that need to be fixed, like a messy caulk job.

We also checked out the RV Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart. This museum displays a few RV’s from the earliest days of the 1920’s and 1930’s to the present.

Much of the building houses hall of fame photos and information regarding leaders in the RV industry. There is also a library for research. Downstairs in one big room is the collection of RV’s from across the years which is what we were interested in seeing. Part of it is set up along a “street” so when you stand on the top landing and look down, you see the RV’s lined along side.

Mark checks out a historic RV on the Museum street

We enjoyed the Museum but the RV’s were a little crowded together which made viewing them difficult. Since the building seemed to have empty space and rooms elsewhere, I wish they would have spread the exhibit out more. Some of the old trailers were open for viewing and it was fun to see what it would have been like to camp in one from so many years ago.

Below is a photo of the interior of a 1939 house trailer and then even a covered wagon model.

In the photo below is purported to be the oldest travel trailer in the world. It was built in 1913 by a Los Angeles carriage maker for a Cal Tech professor and pulled by a Model T Ford.

1913 Travel Trailer

This 1931 Model AA Ford Housecar was named the Tennessee Traveler after it was discovered and restored. Much of the wood and all the hardware are original. The engine even ran the first day after being stored for over 40 years.

Tennessee Traveler – 1931

Mark checks out the tiny Airstream called “Der Kleine Prinz” (smallest prince) as the body is only ten feet long. Built in 1958, it is considered the smallest Airstream ever made and has a shower, refrigerator and heater.

Der Kleine Prinz

A few of the RV’s once belonged to famous people, including pilot Charles Lindbergh and the actress Mae West. Mae’s 1931 Housecar was offered to her by Paramount Studios to get her to leave the Vaudeville circuit and begin to make movies for them. It was used for several years to transport Miss West from her home or hotel to shooting locations.

Mae West’s Housecar
1929 Wiedman Housecar had a fold down bed with a canvas cover

The 1967 Winnebago in the photo below is an example of the first popular assembly line built motor home. It was priced around $5,000 and started the rush for affordable motor home production. Who would have thought that we now park next to models that sell for $200,000 or more on a regular basis.

1967 Winnebago Motor Home

I hope you enjoyed this look at the RV capital of the world – until next time!

3 thoughts on “Elkhart, Indiana – RV Capital of the World

  1. Ilona Rouda

    Totally new info for me. We bought our Class B Pleasure Way Traverse in 2002. 176,000 miles. First in Mn to buy it. New RV info for me. Why is that area such an RV manufacturing place.

    Reply
    1. Beth Morrison Post author

      Thanks for your comment Ilona! Apparently Elkhart became the RV center because of the work of three men who were interested in RV’s and launched businesses there. Elkhart is also in a good location for manufacturing as it is not too far from major population centers. The work force was there to build them and apparently it just took off. I do find it interesting that it became the RV center as Elkhart is not a big city and is in a rural area surrounded by very small towns. Some how though, there was the right mix to get it going.

      Reply
  2. Matt

    so fun!! Always love seeing RV paraphernalia, old trailers. Would be very cool to see how they are built. Missing my RV looking at this

    Reply

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