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Parkersburg museum features Borg Warner plant

 

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Michael Erb  Volunteer Bruce Hissam, left, and historian Patrick Wentzel, right, stand next to a recreated research lab from Borg Warner Chemicals in a display about the company located on the second floor of the Oil and Gas Museum in downtown Parkersburg.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo by Michael Erb
Volunteer Bruce Hissam, left, and historian Patrick Wentzel, right, stand next to a recreated research lab from Borg Warner Chemicals in a display about the company located on the second floor of the Oil and Gas Museum in downtown Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Local historians will unveil a new display at the Oil and Gas Museum Saturday dedicated to the history and legacy of Borg Warner Chemicals.

The official kickoff will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of the museum and will feature numerous speakers, including U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. Officials also will hold a Borg Warner company picnic at 11 a.m. at City Park in Parkersburg.

A company reunion will be held at 1:30 Saturday afternoon at Woodridge Golf Club in Mineral Wells.

The display on the second floor of the museum, located on 3rd Street in downtown Parkersburg, features a recreated small lab from the factory, various technical items, a DVD presentation and a photo book of advertisements on Borg Warner Chemicals.

Borg Warner Chemicals, or BWC, was located at the Woodmar Plant in Washington and produced Cycolac ABS, a hard molded plastic that was used in products ranging from helmets to water bottles to the CRV- 5, a car made primarily of plastics.

The plant employed 1,850 in 1989 when it was sold to General Electric. In 2007, GE was sold to SABIC which two years ago announced it would close the local plant as the company consolidated its operations. The Woodmar plant is now being looked at as the site of a new ethane cracker plant.

Ralph Chambers, president of the Borg Warner Chemicals Museum group, said BWC was a vital piece of the Mid-Ohio Valley and many residents still remember it fondly. Chambers worked at the plant from 1959 until he retired in 1999, just shy of 40 years of service.

“It was kind of a magical time for us, those that worked there,” he said. “A bunch of us got together several months ago and asked ‘How do you recapture some of that magical time?’ That’s really what this is all about.”

Chambers said the display at the Oil and Gas Museum represents only a fraction of the artifacts the group was given by SABIC. The remaining pieces are in storage and will remain there until the group is able to secure a larger, dedicated museum area, he said.

Tom Wiseman, who has helped advise the group, said members have been working with Syracuse University in New York, which has the country’s largest collection of plastic memorabilia. Wiseman said if officials can establish a larger Borg Warner museum in the Parkersburg area, they likely would be able to display some of the university’s collection as well.

Wiseman said the group may be able to secure one of the CRV-5 cars for display.

John Ranson, former vice president of manufacturing for BWC, will be among the speakers Saturday.

“There is a story here that’s always impressed me,” Ranson said of BWC. “It was originally established by just a small group of engineers. The company became almost a child of the community.”

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