The Reynolds-Alberta Museum outside Wetaskiwin, Alberta, claims it celebrates the spirit of the machine—and it truly does! With over 350 vintage cars, 600 pieces of agricultural equipment, and 70 vintage aircraft, not to mention early snowmobiles, motorcycles, and buggies, my morning barely gave me time to see everything.
Museum employees, including a woodworker, a conservator, a precision machinist and welder, and a bare metal finish body repairer and painter, do all of the restoration work on the vintage machines. The team strives for historical accuracy, not perfection. They utilize the same processes and materials used in the original piece of equipment, rather than upgrading to more modern technologies. That’s one of the things that makes this spirit of the machine museum so fascinating. As well, they offer educational programs ranging from actual vehicle restoration, to interpreter-led programs that relate to the social studies and science curricula.
The first Theme area, transportation, begins with the horse-drawn buggies my ancestors used for transportation a century and a half ago, then works through a variety of automobiles and trucks. Of course I had to climb into the vintage car supplied for picture taking—just gripping that steering wheel made me think how different it would have been to drive. The vintage car collection includes some rare machines, including the 1913 Chevrolet Classic Six, the oldest known production Chevrolet in the world. The oldest car in the collection is an 1898 Innes.
I have to confess, however, that being a sports enthusiast, my favorite pieces in this collection were the off-road vehicles. I’ve always enjoyed a summer motorcycle drive around the lakes, and have taken holidays with our motorbike in the past, so it was great to see how they looked more than sixty years ago. The first snowmobiles were even more fascinating. The museum had a 1929 Snow Flier conversion kit mounted on a 1915 Ford Model T Runabout. The Snow Flier kit contained a pair of skis, and two all-steel traction belts used to replace the vehicles front wheels.
Theme #2 is Aviation, and includes the second-largest collection of vintage aircraft in Canada. It is also the home of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. Some of the rarest of the collection include a 1928 American Eagle biplane, which is the only surviving Canadian example of this model. It also has a rare 1937 Arrowsport and the last surviving 1929 Kari-Keen Coupe Model 60, of which there were only 30 built.
Agricultural machines comprises the third Theme. The immense 1922 Bates Steel Mule was my favorite in that display. I could imagine the giant tractor roaring across the plains, turning prairie into farmland. The size and diversity of the Reynolds-Alberta Museum’s agricultural collection makes it one of the most comprehensive ones in North America. It includes the most extensive collection of Sawyer Massey equipment in Western Canada, ranging from steam engine tractors through combines and plows.
Finally, the Museum’s fourth Theme is Industry. This collection contains implements from Alberta’s primary resource industries as well as road building and heavy construction. The oldest dragline, built in 1917, called the Bucyrus Class-24 is one of the prize pieces in the collection. An Adams Motor Grader, one of three purchased by the province of Alberta in 1928, is also part of the Museum. It was used first in the Calgary area, then later, Edmonton.
During the summer season visitors may enjoy a ride in a vintage vehicle or open cockpit biplane. There are also special events, including a History Road, which lines up more than 400 vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles; a Salute to Aviation, with a classic wings fly-in featuring warbirds and pre-1953 aircraft; and a Harvest Festival with plowing and threshing demonstrations by more than 35 pieces of vintage agricultural machinery operating and on display.
If you visit:
The Reynolds-Alberta Museum is 2 km or 1 mile west of Wetaskiwin on Highway 13. It is about 28 miles southeast of Edmonton and 144 miles northeast of Calgary. It is open year-round, including statutory holiday Mondays.
Visit online at http://reynoldsalbertamuseumfriends.com/.net/
Published October 1, 2006 by Linda Aksomitis. First published in Country Discoveries Magazine 2004. All Rights Reserved.