Recycling is a good thing, to a point.
As readers of my blog have noted, I've been making the rounds of the local auctions lately. Now I'm not complaining about getting a new door for $10 and a pair of usable car ramps for $3. But seeing restorable 58 Chevies going for barely scrap value and dimension lumber going for firewood prices has me riled a bit. Then I got into a few discussions about auction values of historic trucks over on the American Truck Historical Society's forum. Last night my temper reached a boil watching a documentary detailing the sordid story of the demolition of Coney Island by a developer who has since abandonned his condo fantasy for Coney Island and dumped the bare site of the now demolished landmark on New York City.
As virgin sources become rarer, the prices of basic metals are skyrocketing and will continue to do so. What does that mean.... Well, with even common scrap steel going for almost $200 a ton a classic streamlined locomotive will sell for over $20,000 at the scrap yard. There are maybe 200 of those classic streamlined locomotives left, and at most 50 in operating condition. That's just the "garden variety" streamliners from EMD- The Alco's are so rare that the Smithstonian had to go to Mexico to find one, and there may only be one Baldwin "Sharknose" left, assuming the rumors it was scrapped were (as rumored) started by it's owners to protect it. Beyond the streamliners, Amtrak's early locomotives are rapidly disappearing, and the F40s that were the face of Amtrak through the 80s and 90s are threatened.
Trucks? Ever hear of a Marmon, Hendrickson, Brockway, Western Star cabover, or GMC General? They were all low production models, and today they're threatened with extinction as the scrappers gobble them up. There's lots of aluminum in big trucks, just an aluminum cab is worth a thousand dollars to the scrapper. Recently a couple truck collectors I know outbid the scrappers to buy two classic trucks for about $2500 each at an auction in Fargo. The trucks ran, and they even drove them home to the East Coast. But to the scrappers they had a $2000 bounty on their heads, even though they were operable historic vehicles that deserve a place of honor in a museum.
Historic cars and even motorcycles are threatened too- Fortunately those two '58 Chevies were bought by a collector who outbid the scrappers, but four german Opel engines fell to the scrap dealer for $10. If you've got a classic Opel Coupe (think 4/5ths scale Corvette) with engine problems, the parts you need are now probably melted down and on their way to a chinese sweatshop to return as the latest consumer junk. Same with computers- I rescued a first generation iMac from a scrapper a couple years back... Reinstalled the OS and it works fine. Recycle the desktop PCs, but keep those cool looking Macs around even if they don't work!
Yup, the scrappers are after houses too- They can have those old single wide mobile homes, but Airstreams and anything resembling them deserve preservation. And Lustrons- these steel houses from the 40s will last forever, but of the 2500 built probably half have already been devoured by the scrappers. And even when historic restorable old homes are hauled to the landfill, we pay- for example, Minneapolis is paying about $20,000 a piece to tear down old houses. For that price, the house should at least be taken apart and recycled instead of hauling it straight to the landfill.
Literally, history is passing us by as it's hauled off to the landfill, smelter, or blast furnace.
How can we stop this theft of our history? If your neighbor has an old vehicle that you think is an eyesore, cut them some slack. Talk to them about your concerns before you call the authorities... A little shrubery can go along ways. Got a classic computer? Keep it running and updated as long as possible, then consider it modern art as it decorates your home or office. Does your city want to scrap the old caboose in the park or tear down some century old homes? Lobby for preservation, and use historic designation or whatever other strategy you can find to save them.
Once our history is hauled off to the landfill or scrapyard, it's gone forever. So tomorrow I'm headed over the other side of Aberdeen for an auction- there's a '63 Corvair, a '73 VW, a 250 Yamaha, and a Honda MB5 on the bill. I'd prefer a 2nd generation Corvair, the VW sounds like it's a " squareback" instead of a Beetle, and the Yammy could be a classic YDS two stroke or a lame 250 Virago... But I'll be happy if I'm outbid by new owners that give them good homes, and I'll be happy to outbid the scrapper for any of them!