Cool down at the Remington Carriage Museum

 
Photographer
Andrew Penner

Cool down at the Remington Carriage Museum

This article is part of our #BucketlistAB campaign – allowing you to string together an assortment of destinations across Alberta’s south for a road trip you won’t soon forget. Start here www.BucketlistAB.ca and be sure to use the tag #BucketlistAB and let us know how the travels are going!

By ANDREW PENNER for #BucketListAB

Cardston, AB – It's tempting to hit a local apres hotspot after a day on the slopes or on the trails, but have you ever considered a visit to a museum? Not only do you keep your muscles loose while walking around, but you can learn some pretty cool things. Like travel wasn't always so easy back in the day.

Until about 1910 or so, getting from A to B required a bit of horse power – literally. In fact, for hundreds of years, even centuries, travelling via a horse-drawn vehicle was the preferred way to travel significant distances on land. (A wooden ship might work if you lived near a major river or sea port.) So not surprisingly, there is a treasure trove of ancient carriages that still exist. The place to see them? Witness one being restored? Even ride in one? The Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston, Alberta.

This impressive facility – which houses more than 300 carriages, coaches, buggies, sleighs, wagons, and so forth – is the world's finest museum of horse-drawn vehicles. Most of the carriages are well over one hundred years old and have been lovingly restored. Some, obviously, show the authentic, weather-worn realities of time. But, not surprisingly, each has a story to tell.

Check out the Remington Carriage Museum to start planning your trip.

“To read all the signs, the stories and go through every exhibit in the museum takes approximately eight hours,” says Robert Mein, the Head of Interpretation at the Museum. “It's an amazing collection, one of a kind. We have many specialized vehicles, including an ornately-crafted hearse, a stunning carriage that has been ridden by nearly every member of the royal family that has visited Canada, vintage stagecoaches from Hollywood movies and much more. There are 100-year-old school buses, covered wagons from the Wild West and luxury carriages that, in today's dollars, would have cost the owners nearly a quarter million dollars. You really need a full day to do this museum justice.”

Not surprisingly, one of the highlights of the museum is the working restoration shop. This is the place where visitors can interact with the talented craftsmen who restore and refurbish many of the ancient vehicles that find their way to the museum. And, depending on the day and time of your visit to the shop, expect the unexpected! This is a place where centuries-old building techniques are still being used.

Remington Museum
Photographer
Andrew Penner

Restoring the carriages takes a team of wood carvers, wainwrights, wheelwrights, painters and blacksmiths.

“One of the most exciting things to witness is the blacksmithing,” says Verne Cook, one of the talented craftsmen at the Remington Carriage Museum. “There's smoke, there's fire, there's red-hot metal and there's a lot of noise. People love it. But we do a lot more than work with metal. We're wood carvers, wainwrights, wheelwrights, and painters. And we use a lot of tools and machines that are well over 100 years old. And to be honest, we use these ancient, hand-powered machines because they actually do the job better than modern tools. Modern machines are often not designed or even capable of doing the type of work that's necessary.”

On my recent visit, they were working on constructing replica wooden Red River Carts, which were instrumental in settling the west. “These carts carried all the supplies necessary for homesteading on the plains,” says Jeremy Masterson, the shop supervisor. “Without them, the journey and the prospect of settling in the west wouldn't have been possible. Railways didn't exist. It was a long, arduous journey that took weeks. These carts had to be extremely durable.”

Remington Carriage Museum
Photographer
Andrew Penner

From expensive carriages to practical wagons and stagecoaches, you'll find them all at the Remington Carriage Museum.

While the restoration shop is always a hub of activity at the museum, visiting the main galleries really gives people a true sense of the depth and breadth of the carriage era. Life centered around horses, hay and hopping on board a horse-drawn vehicle. It's a trip back in time.

And during the summer, you can hop on a carriage and get a real-life taste of what it was like. “Experiencing a carriage ride through our 16-acre property or through the town of Cardston is definitely a highlight for many people who visit the museum,” says Mein. “When engine-powered automobiles were invented, the carriage industry basically disintegrated overnight. But here, this historic era is being preserved.”

When You Go

Cardston is about a 2.5-hour drive south of Calgary.

Need some travel inspiration? Follow along with this awesome itinerary.

Hit the road to explore Alberta's South along Highway 3 this month and be sure to share your discoveries on social media with the hashtag #BucketlistAB and #ExploreAlberta - you could be featured on our social media channels.  Check out www.BucketlistAB.ca for itineraries, stories and lots more video on Southern Albertan experiences.

Check out the Remington Carriage Museum to get planning your trip.

Travel Alberta also has lots of great information about things to do and places to see in Southern Alberta.

Region
Interior Alberta
Province
Alberta