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Rahmi M. Koç Museum


The Liman 2 chugs along, its pistons going up and down noisily but efficiently as the engineer charged with the old steam engine looks on. A cool fog envelops minarets of the cityscape as she cruises along, occasionally blowing her steam whistle. Never mind her many years of service, this 1935 Dutch-built tugboat, which was retired from official duty for the Port of Istanbul in 1990, now resides at the restored Hasköy Dockyard and still happily cruises Istanbul’s Golden Horn for museum visitors. This is a lucky turn of events for the old tug. The museum’s senior residents receive the best of care—lovingly restored, painted, polished and displayed in a historic setting at the heart of an increasingly fashionable Istanbul neighborhood. The Liman 2 is part of an amazing and diverse collection at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum, founded by businessman and philanthropist Rahmi Koç. The museum literature says that his interest in transportation began at an early age when his father, Vehbi Koç, gave him a toy train he brought back from a business trip in Germany. Vehbi, who started as a grocery-store owner in Ankara, founded a company that bloomed into an industrial and financial empire. Rahmi Koç who succeeded his father, presided over the fortunes of Koç Holding, for two decades. While growing the business, now in the hands of his own son, Rahmi pursued his passion for collecting objects that illustrate the history of industrialization and transportation.

In 1994, he founded this museum in an 18th century Ottoman anchor house. As his collection—which also includes planes, trains and automobiles—grew, the museum spilled across the street into an old dockyard on the banks of a tributary of the Bosphorus. At a time when no bridges spanned the banks of the strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, colorful boats took passengers across the one- to two-mile stretch. Examples of the elegant wooden Bosphorus boats are part of the museum’s permanent marine collection. As a true collector, Rahmi Koç has a keen eye for the exceptional and objects that best illustrate history in any of the museum’s area of interests: automobile, aviation, marine, engineering, communications and more. The marine gallery features one of Riva’s most beloved models, a beautiful Aquarama, powered by two Chris-Craft V8 engines. Preceding the Aquarama by just a year is an early example of an amphibian vehicle, a German-built Amphicar. A single Triumph Herald rear engine powered what is a rare example of an amphibian vehicle designed for fun rather than military use. The quirky Amphicar met great success in the car-crazy United States, where it has its own Owners’ Club. From engines to full-size vessels, including a US-built submarine, to a fantastic collection of ship models, which includes a detailed scale model of JP Morgan’s Corsair, marine buffs can occupy several fun-filled hours. But there is much more to see in 124,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits on cobblestoned streets, which host special events. Two hours spent browsing the permanent collection and a visiting exhibit on mechanical musical instruments did not allow us to see the museum’s extensive collection of scientific instruments, which includes a two-day marine chronometer attributed to Scottish marine instrument-maker David Stalker.

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