Western Development Museum steps back in time with heritage farm, village
Rising into the blue sky, the grain elevator seems to keep watch over the sprawling Prairie. The red wooden structure is at home at the Western Development Museum (WDM) in North Battleford, Sask., surrounded by a heritage farm and village that tell the story of settling the province.
The elevator, originally built in Keatley, Sask., in 1928, was moved to the village in 1983.
Museum manager Joyce Smith says it’s probably her favourite part of the Western Development Museum.
“I mean, that says Saskatchewan and you don’t see them anymore because they’re all being torn down,” Smith said.
Nearby is a vintage railway station that operated for 40 years in Prince, Sask. And next to the station, appearing ready to roll down the tracks, is a steam train, built in 1913.
The village, covering 40 hectares with more than 30 buildings, could delight history buffs, tractor or train enthusiasts, and children.
There’s a farm, a dairy and a North West Mounted Police outpost building from 1895, to name a few. All the buildings are open from May to September.
“Some of the buildings still retain their smells,” said Smith.
“For example, the harness shop, because it’s all old leather, so when you go into that building you know that this building was used for that purpose.”
Smith says during the summer there are animals in the corral by the barn.
There are also three steam tractors, which she says “is pretty much unheard of for a museum.”
At the auto garage, the gas pumps still work and are used to fill up vintage vehicles that cruise the village for special events, such as the Those Were the Days Festival, on Aug. 12 and 13.
“We have a fire truck, a 1929 fire truck, that we give rides on, so you crawl up into the back where the firemen would have sat and driven around the village. We also have Ford Model As, Ford Model Ts, we have some coupes and stuff that we give rides on,” Smith said.
There are blacksmithing, sawmill and ice-cream-making demonstrations on occasion too.
Not to be outdone by the outdoor village, the main building at the museum — which is open year-round — is a treasure trove of artifacts and facts.
Saskatchewan’s crocodile, “Big Bert,” is calling the museum home until the end of April. Bert is believed to be the world’s most complete Terminonaris robusta crocodile skeleton measuring about 5.6 metres long.
On the walls, a timeline covers Saskatchewan’s history from 1905 to 2005.
Did you know that Girl Guide cookies started in Regina in 1927, or that the first ATM was developed in Saskatchewan too?
“It’s definitely eye-opening,” Smith said.
“And people think agriculture, which I mean of course we are, we’re huge. We have agriculture, but yeah, there’s a lot more.”
Smith says it takes at least two hours to see the museum.
But there’s so much to see that admission passes are also good for the next day.
“If you’re going to take the time to go into all the buildings and look at all the artifacts, read the timeline … it all takes time.”
If You Go…
The Western Development Museum in North Battleford is located at the junction of Highways 16 and 40.
Admission and hours for all four Western Development Museums in Saskatchewan can be found at www.wdm.ca.
© 2017 The Canadian Press