A Visit to a Private Car Museum

A couple that were on my 2015 Yukon Quest tour have a large collection of cars, trucks, toy cars and other stuff in De Winton, just south of Calgary. I’ve had a standing invitation to come for a visit and to see their car museum, and finally made time to do that, on our last full day in Cochrane. Cathy wanted a quiet day, so it was also a good opportunity for my daughter and I to have some time together just by ourselves.

Andrea drove to Cochrane to pick me up, and we took her new Honda, a car that I helped her buy but hadn’t had a ride in yet. She correctly assumed that I wanted to head south on Highway 22 rather than the freeway, Highway 2 – much more interesting.

Highway 22 south of Cochrane, Alberta
I had expected a farmyard out in the country, with vehicles in all states of repair and ruin around it, but was completely wrong. Curly and Marj have a beautiful acreage overlooking the Bow River, and you’d never know what’s in those buildings, although the old highway signs along the driveway hint at it. Curly built the house out in the country in 1970, but Calgary has grown and he’s now surrounded (at a respectable distance) by very expensive homes.

Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
After catching up for a while around the kitchen table, we began the tour in the single-car garage, where an immaculate 1937 Packard 120 convertible sits, with every other square inch of the garage filled with collector plates. All of their vehicles run, and get taken out occasionally.

1937 Packard convertible Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
I told Andrea that Curly had 4,000 curling club pins, but he corrected me – he has 40,000 of them! For some reason I noticed this one, which he didn’t have any information about. It’s from the North West Highway System, which took over control of the Alaska Highway from the U.S. Army after World War II. A very rare pin, I’m sure. He also showed me his pin from Carcross – they had 2, but the early one (1950s perhaps) has been elusive so far.

NWHS curling pin at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
From the house, we went out to the main garage, and the sight when we walked in the door stunned me – it’s by far the best collection of kid’s pedal cars I’ve ever seen. Among the 100 or so is this dual-cowl phaeton, with pedals for both kids. Most of the cars have been restored, but a few are in exceptionally good original condition.

Kid's pedal car at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
In his 80s, Curly is quite a character – I enjoyed travelling with him and Marj, and this visit was wonderful. The beer cooler that Curly is riding around the garage on will go 12 mph! 🙂

Rideable beer cooler at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
I love Bantams from the 1930s, and Curly has 6 of them.

Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
One of the most impressive cars in the collection is this massive Stutz Black Hawk – a 1929, I believe.

Stutz Black Hawk at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
The hood ornament on the Stutz is a bust of Ra, the Egyptian sun god.

Stutz Black Hawk at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
Here’s a before-and-after pair of photos of one of his more unique tractors, a 1920s Toro.

1920s Toro tractor at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta

1920s Toro tractor at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
This is an ice-cream maker that they fire up when car clubs come to visit 🙂

Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
This is an Ottawa Mule Team Tractor, built in Ottawa, Kansas. Ottawa built about 250 tractors between early 1949 and July 1951 when a flood destroyed the factory. The hoods on this model were made from fuel drop-tanks from P-51 Mustang aircraft.

Ottawa Mule Team Tractor at Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
There was a lot to see, and the tour could have gone on for hours, but our time was limited, so after an hour we went back to the house for a beer and more chatting. I was pleased to hear that Marj considers our Yukon Quest tour to be the best she’s ever been on, and friends have already signed up for the 2017 tour. This is the view from their back deck. The large building is the new Calgary hospital, and below it is a 10,000-acre ranch owned by the Burns meat-packing family.

The view from Curly's Museum in De Winton, Alberta
By 3:30, we were back in the city, having taken the freeway for the return trip.

That evening, Cathy and I attended my grand-daughter Kylie’s softball game, at a field close to the Calgary airport. The game was the reason that we’d added a day to our planned stay, and we were both very glad that we’d made that decision – it turned out to be an extremely good day from start to finish.

The next day, May 31st, Cathy and I would head into the Rockies for a few days.

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