Part Two of our visit to the museum is where we go off the rails (for the time being, at least) and find ourselves back on the road.
Fans of steam fairs all over the world will immediately recognise what it is - a portable (or it is maybe more correct to say "mobile") steam engine. Its purpose would be to to travel from one location or another to provide motive power for other forms of machinery such as woodworking or harvesting equipment.
The cost of such a machine would be beyond the reach of many small farmers and so it was common practice for the farmers in each local area to form themselves into teams. Each team would own one set of machinery and the team and its members would visit each member's farm in turn to carry out the harvest. It's a practice that was quite common here in France until comparatively recently and even today in rural areas there are harvest fairs - La Fête de la Moisson - where you can see all of the octagenarian farmers giving demonstrations with octagenarian equipment to the public of just how this system worked
This engine, made by Waterous in Bradford, Ontario, looks positively ancient, although it is recorded as having been purchased as recently as 1905. What I first noticed about the machine is that there is no flywheel, something that would ordinarily be essential to balance out the long power stroke. But then the drive pulley is so small, meaning that the pulley would be turning at high speed rendering a flywheel somewhat superfluous but having the effect of driving the powered machinery rather too quickly for my liking.
I would love to see it in action because it is nothing like the set-up of a typical Western European mobile steam engine.
This is a Victorian made by John MacArthur of Hopewell (the Hopewell just a couple of miles away from here, not the Hopewell in New Jersey, famous for the Lindbergh Kidnapping and for which, by the most astonishing of coincidences, the execution of the accused took place in Trenton, also in New Jersey and not the Trenton near here).
Its form of construction is fascinating, to say the least. Its whole physical appearance easily explains why early motor vehicles were called Horseless Carriages. You will hardly see a more classic example than this.
MacArthur is said to have been a furniture manufacturer, and built this prototype motor vehicle in 1899. This would seem to make it the earliest petrol-engined vehicle to have been built anywhere in the Maritime Provinces.
The chassis is said to be made out of iron piping although the bodywork is of wood. No surprise there of course, seeing as the builder was a furniture manufacturer. Steering is, as you can see, by tiller and it features chain drive.
The engine is a flat-twin with a power output of just 2 horsepower, and it that doesn't make driving difficult enough, it has one forward gear and no reverse. Flat out on level ground it is said to have reached the heady speed ofh 5 mph, whereas even the slightest incline, of which there are more than just a few around here before we even begin to bring the mountain roads into consideration, would be enough to make it struggle - as if 5mph isn't enough of a struggle to begin with.
It's hardly any wonder that the design didn't pass beyond the prototype stage. Only this one vehicle was constructed and the vehicle manufacturing business didn't last a year.
I know a little more about this object. It's a very rare, probably the only surviving example, of a make of car - the McKay - made in Nova Scotia by the brothers Jack and Dan McKay, who had previously been carriage builders.
The McKay company was the first, if not the only, major producer of motor vehicles in the province and was in operation between 1910 and 1914. About 225 cars were built, the first 25 at Kentville in Nova Scotia and the other 200-odd "in a new factory at Amherst".
It is said to be based on cars designed by the Penn Company of Pittsburgh USA, for the rather quaint reason that McKay's engineer "had no engineering experience". A fascinating and extremely interesting book, is the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Automobiles
. No serious researcher should be without a copy.
This particular model dates from 1912, has a 4-cylinder 40-horsepower engine (the company also offered a 30-horsepower motor) and cost about $2300, for which price incidentally you could have bought 4 Tin Lizzies.
It's said to be a seven-seater model (a total of 5 different models of vehicle were available), but I would imagine that the seven people concerned would all have to be close friends or otherwise have to be of a gregarious nature. It's quite cramped up there.
Solid rubber tyres of course. We are a long way from any kind of refinement, both in time and distance.
This is a vehicle that thoroughly fascinated me and I spent a good while poking around it. At first glance you might be wondering what it might be, as I was, but a subsequent inspection revealed all.
When we were in Truro this morning we talked a great deal about the rural Nova Scotian one-roomed schoolhouse set-up where our Miss Jones or Miss Smith would go off to take charge of a school in an isolated village and assume almost-total responsibility for education there. That would be fine for the 3 Rs, geography, history, botany, that kind of thing. Anything else such as handicrafts, it would be assumed that the children would absorb that from within their local circle.
However, as mass-production and specialisation began to creep into even the more remote corners of the Province, it was felt that some different kind of arrangement would need to be adopted if the children were to be fitted into the modern industrial world. Techniques developed by fathers and grandfathers were no longer sufficient.
You've heard about mobile shops, mobile libraries, mobile cinemas, mobile hairdressers, all that kind of thing. So how about mobile Technical Colleges?
In 1942 the Province of Nova Scotia fitted out 5 buses as mobile technical colleges and these toured the Province, going from school to school giving the boys up-to-date lessons in woodwork and metalwork, using up-to-date machinery and up-to-date techniques. It's an absolutely fascinating concept.
Of course, it was something not destined to last. As the road network improved after the war and transport became easier, a much-more-complex system of Secondary Education could be created for all of the children in the Province and where all of the facilities would be available. In 1964 the Shopmobiles, as they were known, were taken off the road.
Shopmobile n°3, like all of the others, was withdrawn from service. She was shunted down to the bottom of someone's yard and in this photo, which is a photo of a photograph held copyright by the museum, you can see how she finished up. It was a far cry from the state in which she had been back in the 1940s and 1950s.
Sad as her condition might have been to some, the positive side of her career as a garden shed was that she managed to survive transformation into a couple of baked bean tins. She eventually fell into the hands of the Nova Scotia Technical Education Association, the members of which restored her and donated her to the Museum.