Friday, June 24, 2022

Horses to Horsepower (and My Fall) - Friday, June 24, 2022

Well, today's a rainy day which is fine with us. The Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston, Alberta is calling our names. Who knew that we would find a world-class museum out here in the high plains of Alberta? Hands raised. We did. This is another bucket-list item. And, it's within easy walking distance of the Lee Creek Campground. If you're driving to it, it's on on Main Street in Cardston, behind the Visitor Information Centre.

Enter, if you will, a place filled with stories of horses, carriages, sulkies, park drags, pony road coaches, coupe rockaways, Double Victorias, steam fire engines, half-platform Democrats, "Menard" auto buggies, lumber wagons, chuck wagons, Stanhope buggies, cabooses, Albany cutters, Doctor's buggies, piano box buggies, reversible-seat trap buggies, bucket seat pony Phaetons, bull wagons, panel boot Victoria sleighs, bob-sleighs, buckboards, Western passenger wagons, Yellowstone wagons, hotel coaches, Landaus, Caleches or Barouches, Hansom cabs, light roof seat breaks, British Columbia "Mountain Wagons," dump wagons, runabouts, Red River carts, Omnibuses or School Vans, hearses, drop-front Phaetons, and more. You are entering an educational facility that will expose you not only to all those conveyances but also to the businesses and etiquette associated with them. This is the one and only Remington Carriage Museum. 

This museum is in Cardston,
Alberta, Canada.

You have Don Remington to thank for creating this fascinating museum! A sign in the entrance hall of the museum gives the history of how it all came about. For all of you Rotarians out there, Don Remington was a Rotarian, and here's his story. "This hobby can drive you buggy!"

The museum staff made us feel like honored guests. As soon as we arrived, we were notified that there was a movie to watch which they would start for us as soon as the current movie playing ended. Normally, the movie is shown only "on the hour." Since the day was pretty slow with visitors, they showed us the movie and started a complimentary tour as soon as the movie was over. The tour lasted 45 minutes and then we were free to go back and take as many photos as we wanted, read the displays, and look at parts of the museum not covered during the tour.

After the movie, I stopped to take a photo of the buggy display in the lobby, and then we were headed out on the tour. 

Buggy and wagon display case.

In order to start a carriage museum, first, someone had to make the carriages. Enter Robert McLaughlin and his sons Sam and George. Dad, Robert, built the largest carriage manufacturing company in the British Empire. His sons, Sam and George, transformed it into McLaughlin-Buick, and then General Motors of Canada. 

His other son, John James ("J.J.") had a better idea for putting bubbles into the water, and started a company he called "Canada Dry." You may have heard of it. Yes, that Canada Dry.

Robert McLaughlin invented the Albany Cutter in 1867 in Tyrone County, Ontario, Canada. The light, two-passenger sleigh had graceful curves of wood and metal on which he painted artistic flourishes. This creation was made by a farmer who had just decided his life's work was to be in the production of horse-drawn carriages. Enter, the Albany Cutter.

The timing was right and this industry took off. It was not only a transportation phenomenon but a social one as well! 

Before the invention of the lightweight cutters, sleighs, and carriages, wheeled wagons were huge and designed to get settlers west during Manifest Destiny or transport heavy goods from place to place. We're talking Conestoga wagons, chuckwagons, wagons for hauling hay, etc. Roads were mostly dirt, mud, or plank, so new types of roads had to be invented, such as macadam.

During this time period in North America, the Second Industrial Revolution was getting started. Canals and railroads were being built to ship goods and move people.

It dawned on me after I started writing my blog that this particular museum did not delve into carriages in relation to the Industrial Revolution. It was strictly about the invention and development of carriages and how they evolved into automobiles. The relationship of how carriages changed the transportation and social norms of our country is also addressed.

The museum is set up with lots of exhibits showing the different types of carriages and what they were used for. For example, at the entrance, you see an example of wagons used in construction.

Hauling the goods.

Lumber wagon.

Dump wagon.

The dump wagon.

Dump wagon.

Here are some of the larger horse-drawn wagons: the sheep wagon, the chuck wagon, and the bull wagon.

Sheep wagon, chuck wagon, and
bull wagon.

The sheep wagon is an enclosed covered wagon with living accommodations for a sheepherder on the range.

Now let's take a look at some elegant, horse-drawn carriages and sleighs. Sleighs have runners or bob-sleds for use in winter. 

"Menard" auto buggy.

Basket seat pony Phaeton.

Panel boot Victoria sleigh.


Caleche or barouche.

Light roof seat break.


Trap sleigh.

Coupe Rockaway.

Bob in front of a surrey with 
a fringe on top.

And then there are specific-use horse-drawn carriages.

Hotel coach.

Western passenger wagon.

Fire wagon.

Western passenger wagon with some
familiar faces.

A hearse
Hansom cab.

Background: caboose.
Foreground: Bob-sleigh.

There is so much to digest in reading all the exhibits! There are write-ups on:
  • Fire fighting  
  • Veterinarians for the horses 
  • Where and how to purchase carriages 
  • Driving skill competitions 
  • Construction site information 
  • The 1899 McLaughlin Factory fire 
  • McLaughlin family history 
  • The invention of the fifth wheel (wait, what?)
  • The McLaughlin Motor Car Company
  • Freighting
  • Homebuilts (you know, McGuyvered vehicles).
  • School days
  • Stopping houses (for weary travelers)
  • At leisure (adventure travel, picnics in the park, stuff like that)
  • Funerals
  • A drive in the park, including Coaching Club Parade, etiquette about taking a ride in the park, and "strutting your stuff"
  • The pedlar, i.e., Watkins dealers
  • Fuel delivery
  • Home delivery
  • Laundry delivery
  • Transfers (movers)
  • Horse biscuits, i.e., cleaning up after the horses
  • The livery stable
  • The tack room.
Since we have a fifth-wheel trailer, I think it's only fair to give you information about the invention of the fifth wheel. Bob and I were surprised to find this here!

The patent for fifth wheels.

Early fifth-wheel design.

The "fifth wheel" on early cars.

A few more photos show how large this collection of 600 carriages is. 

This is three stories high!

Look at all these sleighs! Wow.

But, wait, there are more!

Our last room was the Tack Room. In here, there were harnesses and bits, etc. There was also a video to watch. I don't remember what it was about because it was in the Tack Room that I was attacked by the floor, platform, and wall. 

The Tack Room.

We had just finished watching the video and I stood up to take a photo of the restoration workspace on the other side of the glass. Unbeknownst to me, I was on a platform that did not go all the way to the window. They had built it to make it easier to sit on the high bench that was there to watch the video.

I had my camera up and stepped closer to the window to take my photo. I had to bend down a little because the platform made me taller than the top of the window. So I did not see the drop-off between the platform and the wall. This is when I fell. My foot slid off the edge of the platform and I could not catch myself. I spun sideways and backward. My hip/pelvis hit the edge of the platform, and the back of my head and right shoulder slammed into the wall. My left elbow hit the floor hard. I made a big impression. Bob says it's good the wall wasn't concrete, brick or rock!

This is where I was trying to take a 
photo when I fell. You can see where
I hit the wall!

The wood is the platform, 
the dark green is the floor.

The round area is where my
head hit. The rest is from 
my right shoulder and arm.

I lay there for a couple of minutes because I was stunned and in shock. Bob wanted to help me up, but I wanted to make sure nothing felt broken. He finally pulled me to my feet. 

Bob had me sit on the bench while he went to let the museum staff know what happened. I was breathing deeply to calm myself. 

When the staff came, they were so nice. They made sure I was okay. I was in tears because I felt humiliated and stupid for not seeing the drop-off. Plus, I was in shock. They brought paper towels for my tears, made sure I could walk, recommended the emergency room, and told us where a pharmacy was for pain pills.

After I sat there for about ten minutes, Bob went to get the truck. I decided not to go to the emergency room because I wasn't bleeding and I didn't think there was much they could do for me.

My hip or pelvis hurt when I climbed up into the truck and my head and shoulder hurt, which was to be expected. My left elbow had a huge bruise. I just wanted to go back to the 5th wheel, relax, and get some sleep. Bob went out and got Extra Strength Tylenol which helped with the pain.

We'll see how I do tomorrow. That's all for now.

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