Harley-Davidson Factory Tour – Pictorial
A pictorial look at the factory tours available at Harley-Davidson’s York, Pennsylvania facility.
Harley-Davidson Factory Tour – York , Pennsylvania.
Harley-Davidson run free tours of their factories. On a recent trip we visited the York, Pennsylvania plant and took the tour. Here’s our story:
The tours are run on a first come first served basis, starting at 9am, so we advise an early start. Before we get going, we need a good breakfast, so you could have a nutritious and healthy White Castle burger selection.
The USA is literally blanketed with places to buy a breakfast, if all else fails, a few donuts and a coffee from the nearest 7-11 is good value.
Nope, don’t want to get caught there too long – keep going.
This looks more interesting, but we are heading for York, Pennsylvania, not here. Nearby is a town called Blue Ball. ( I know you don’t believe me, Google it).
Here we are, the York, Pennsylvania Harley Davidson plant.
3000 employees make the Softail, Touring, CVO and Trike models here. York has been in operation since 1973, although most of this plant is newly built. Harley’s largest plant, York covers 230 acres, and has 150,000 square metres under cover. They also used to make bomb casings here during the Gulf War. Really.
At the front of the plant you will find the Vaughn L. Beals tour centre. Note how they spelt it wrong? Mr Beals was H-D’s Chairman of the Board from 1981 to 1996, and CEO from 1981 to 1989.
This centre is named after him, obviously.
Once inside you will find the friendly staff waiting to sign you in for a tour, be early, or you may have to wait a while in the busier summer months. You do need to fill out a waiver with some basic personal details.
The visitor centre has a display of current Harley-Davidson models, you can sit on them and make noises if you wish.
The visitor centre also has a number of interesting static displays related to manufacturing of the various components, this display of tanks at the end of a series of displays showing tank manufacture from a flat panel of metal.
Here’s one of the tank halves after stamping, and before cutting and welding etc.
There is also a set of displays showing the various assembly stages, quite rightly starting with the bare frame.
That bare frame ends up getting to this stage, as the entire front is bolted in. After you’ve spent some time absorbing all this, it’s out to the factory to see it done for real. Remember no sneaky pics allowed, cameras are banned in the factory. Time to put on your goofy safety glasses and fluoro vest, just in case a huge steel weight crashes down on you.
You really need to see for yourself, words can’t really describe the scale of the operation, needless to say the place is immaculate, and highly automated. Having said that, the amount of people working here on the various manufacturing tasks really brings home how much of hand building is involved.
Each bike goes down the line according to the orders, so there will different options and colours all in a row, they don’t just make a big batch of black ones, then a batch of red for example. Depending on when you visit, if there is a new model that hasn’t been released on a production line, your tour may be shortened or diverted so as to not give any secrets away.
The factory part of the tour takes less than an hour, but is fairly comprehensive, you get to see most parts of the assembly and manufacturing sections. You won’t get to see the engines being made, they are all shipped in as complete units from the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin plant, about 1200 kms away.
On the way out, don’t forget to check out the store for some clothing, plenty of designs not seen here in Australia. I bought the “I visited H-D at York PA and all I got was.. etc” one.
Actually I didn’t.
In addition to clothing, the store carries every known Harley-Davidson branded item known to mankind.
If you’re in the mood for more tours, or just want to bulk up, you can head over to neighbouring Hershey, home of the world’s largest chocolate factory.
Overall, the tour was an exceptionally enjoyable and interesting experience. It would be even more so if you had a motorcycle built there. Whether or not you are a Harley fan or owner, the experience was well worth it if you are in the area. The hours of operation, and types of tours vary, so rather than mislead future readers with today’s schedule, I recommend you visit Harley-Davidson’s website for the latest information.
The facility we visited was located at 1425 Eden Road York, Pennsylvania. York PA is around 300 kms from New York.
For tour information from Harley-Davidson CLICK HERE