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HISTORY ROAD

Author: Travel Alberta

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Standing in front of a shiny 1905 Oldsmobile Curved Dash Runabout, I can imagine the scene as its original owner, Ted Reynolds, bumped along in the driver’s seat beside the golden wheat fields of the Canadian prairies in central Alberta. Originally purchased for $650 and advertised as The Best Thing on Wheels, the partially restored vehicle is a time machine of sorts. It isn’t hard to picture the cows looking up in alarm as the half-car, half-horse-buggy beast roared past at its top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph).

The Olds was built at the dawn of a new age. Motorcars were swiftly leaving horses in the dust. Within a year, the Alberta government required vehicle owners to observe speed limits of 16 km/h (10 mph) in settled areas and hand over two dollars to register their cars. Ted’s son Stan donated the car along with about 1,500 other artefacts to the province of Alberta to form the core collection at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, 70 km (43 mi) south of Edmonton. Reynolds donated the collection of primarily motor vehicle memorabilia between 1982 and 1986, but also continued to donate artefacts regularly from his private collections until his death in 2012.

Transportation and Technology - Automobiles, Tractors and Planes

The museum interprets the impact of technological change in transportation, aviation, agriculture and industry from the 1890s to the present and wandering through the exhibits is like walking through time. You can see, and in some cases, hear vintage cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, tractors and aircraft at cleverly staged interactive exhibits. A special hanger houses and an incredible collection of planes as well as Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame. 

Unique hands-on activities help you understand how transportation technology has changed over the years. Inside the first exhibit is a big cut-out of a red horse, showing how James Watt, a 19th century Scottish inventor, standardized the measurement of power. He found that one good draft horse could pull 75 kg (165 lbs) 61 m (200 ft) in one minute. This came to be known as one horsepower.

As I wander through the museum’s housed artifacts, the exhibit “Follow That Trail” explains how intrepid early drivers travelled with few roads and with little thought for safety, spearheading adventures for those to come. More than 100 years later, the long and winding road leads me out of the museum and into the sunshine where I will travel in a modern vehicle on a paved surface past fields of waving grain at speeds those early drivers could never have imagined.

Weekend Road Show

Once each year, the Reynolds-Alberta Museum stages “History Road: The Ultimate Car Show Weekend.” The largely outdoor event takes place each June and draws car buffs who are eager to display their own collectible vehicles alongside the museum’s unique collection, as well as thousands of visitors. It’s a one-of-a-kind spectacle that features open-bodied roadsters, modern muscle cars and more. There’s a series of decade-themed drives with drivers dressed in the clothing of the period. It’s a unique opportunity to dive into the subculture of the automobile – talk, walk, reminisce, covet, laugh, eat and enjoy the live music.

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