Discover Alberta's horse-drawn past at Remington Carriage Museum
“We like to say that Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump and the Royal Tyrrell Museum are the battleships, and we are the Royal Yacht,” says Howard Snyder, manager of the Remington Carriage Museum with a twinkle in his eye. There is indeed a regal feeling about this grand building – at 64,000 square feet – full of carriages that have transported dignitaries such Queen Elizabeth II, Pierre Trudeau, and Ulysses S. Grant.
Since 1993, the museum in the foothills has been expanding its collection and mixing things up to keep visitors coming back. For Canada’s 150 celebrations, a new exhibit opened in May 2017 telling the tale of the largest carriage manufacturing company in the British Empire, founded by Robert McLaughlin in 1867. The first vehicle he built, a beautiful sleigh, is on display out front. It’s a work of art and I wouldn’t mind having one myself if I had land and horses. Snyder agrees, “[McLaughlin] had not only mechanical ability to build things, but artistic ability which shows in this vehicle.”
The McLaughlin Story: 150 Years of Carriages, Cars, and Canada
“At first, the automobile was the enemy… they were going to put carriage makers out of business,” Snyder says. Eventually, however, the McLaughlins came around, partnered with General Motors, and became the largest car manufacturer in Canada. If you’ve ever wondered why General Motors Canada is in Oshawa, you can thank the McLaughlins. And next time you have a Canada Dry Ginger Ale, raise a glass to its founder, John J. McLaughlin, Robert’s oldest son.
“Every vehicle has a story,” says Snyder. After working with the collection for 36 years, he knows them all – where each carriage came from, who owned it, what notable people have ridden in it, and what restorations have been made. “The Queen rode in this one,” Snyder says of an elegant carriage while lowering the steps, “and this is how she got in.” Unless you’re royalty, you’re not getting in, but you can get your photo taken in the stagecoach used in Shanghai Noon by Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu. Incidentally, the stagecoach is a fibreglass replica made by Don Remington, the museum’s namesake.