Wheelwright in Alberta…
With the good fortune that had followed my journey through the USA I was lucky enough to be within my budget and had time on my hands. During my visit to the North West Carriage museum I was informed about a fascinating museum in Alberta, Canada. It was fortunate that the museum in question was only a couple of hours from where I would be staying near Calgary on my journey home and had a lot of history on the wheelwright and their trade.
The museum was the Remington Carriage museum in Cardston. Upon arrival at the Remington I was greeted by a stunning bronze statue of the museums namesake Don Remington.
Don had been a keen collector of carriages and had donated his collection before his death to the people of Cardston. The museum itself was purpose built and is massive. Not only does this place have a massively impressive collection of coaches, Carriages, wagons and carts but it also houses it’s own restoration shop!
Within the vast collection there are some beautiful vehicles built for the wealthiest of clients through to every day working vehicles. It’s always good to see such a mixed collection, to see how important horse drawn vehicles once where for every walk of life not just the elite.
There are several claims to fame in the museum. Two of the carriages in the collection have been used by the Queen during previous visits to Alberta for various engagements like visiting the Calgary stampede. One of the coaches in the collection was recently used in the film Shanghai noon starring Jackie Chan. The founder of the museum Don Remington drove the Queen in his own carriage at the Calgary stampede. There are countless interesting histories behind vehicles in the collection and the tour was fascinating!
The town of Cardston has a community mostly made up of Mormons and as a result has links to the founding families of salt lake city. There are two reproduction Contestoga style covered wagons within the collection that Where driven all the way from Utah in a recent reproduction of the original journey by the towns forefathers. A journey like that would be phenomenal and difficult to undertake today never mind back in the 1800’s.
I managed to arrange a meeting with Jeremy Masterson, the restoration shop supervisor at the Remington. He was good enough to show me around the restoration shop. This workshop was interesting and quite well equipped, modern machinery alongside antique tools and equipment. They had stood in the shop (not currently in working order) a monstrous mechanical cold tyre setter. A cold setter would be used to crush the metal tyre up tighter whilst still on the wheel without removing the tyre, cutting and welding it smaller almost like a drive in – drive out wheel repair!
The focus on restoration and preservation here is great to see, there is an impressive motivation towards preserving not only the artefacts in the collection and the stories behind them but they also see a great importance in preserving skills and knowledge that goes along with the trade.
I was very lucky to have the chance to visit the Remington and was made very welcome by the staff there. I hope to return one day to find the museum still flourishing and its restoration shop a hive of activity.
Words can not express how much I have learned and experienced from this project, as time passes I hope my research makes a real difference not only for myself but for others in the trade.
Who knows where I will end up next? maybe a tour of Europe? or Asia? the learning will never cease!
Thanks for following my journey so far!
Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights,
2014 Churchill Fellow