An open house Sept. 15 consisted of many interesting exhibits and some invited collectors, covering not only the five-acre site but also several periods of machinery development, from the labour of the horse to the gas motors and diesel engines wherever energy was needed as we developed many farms; a huge variety of trucks, old hand tools; an operating sawmill and a deep mine cage.
I could connect with a plot of the exhibits as I had experience in my early youth with many of them.
We have come a long way from when we started opening the country to now when physical labour is of less value and capital through technology and the computer steer our lives.
Exhibits of note would be:
• a fresno which was pulled by a horse and dumped by the operator. As railway and highway grades were built, small amounts at a time, until unbelievable cuts and fills were made. (see the old PGE grades in Ten Mile Park)
• a Gilcrest Jack – a heavy duty tool when big weights, such as loaded rail cars, had to be lifted
• a Caterpiller 20 – an early small machine with crude controls and unique problems (I drove one at Skutz Falls on the Cowichan River and, winching too hard, lifted the track spring out of its container resulting in the engine rising and tilting backward)
• farm tractors – a huge Godsend when long hours were required – the fuel was gas or diesel, not a bale of hay. No harness to put on and then take off, no wandering either.
• metal technology – when strength that was needed by huge castings – now alloys are a fraction of the weight and very strong
• gun collection – this was an invited display and well worth a visit. Some pieces were a Sten gun (famous for taking your finger tips off as the shell casings ejected – there was a right way to hold them.)
• a Harley Davidson 45 motor bike, 1940 – for dispatch riders before radios came along to transmit messages. (I had one and recall one gas fillup cost 63 cents at Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island)
• a shaft cage from a deep mine – when a small group of men would be closed in to the cage and lowered several 1,000 feet to the workings where the sun never shines. Your life depended on that cable raising you after a day of candlelight or electric torch. (I experienced this at Island Mountain Mine in Wells.)
• Quincy coach, 1880s – it’s hard to imagine bouncing along in one of these, all day until the next roadhouse. We cover 10 times the distance in our cars now with air conditioning.
At the park you can go back into the recent past for a few minutes to see where your kin laboured to make this life easier.
Andy Motherwell is an amateur historian and regular Observer columnist.