Friday, October 4, 2013

Gasoline Alley – Autos, Trucks & More! (#1)

We’re back at Heritage Park in Calgary… We ended our visit to this very classy historical park with a tour of a spectacular automotive/vehicle museum that is located right near the entrance to the park…

This is one view of Gasoline Alley, a 75,000 square foot facility devoted to  automobiles, trucks and all kinds of automotive ephemera, including unique gasoline pumps and many products and signage from a host of petroleum companies.  A former cowboy and oil man by the name of Ron Carey donated most of the extensive collection that fills the inside of this replica of the Calgary Public Market.  The artifacts displayed at the museum date from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s. 

The exhibit includes many, many old gas pumps… In comparison with today’s gas pumps, these relics of the past were truly works of art.
This part of the exhibit facility is a replica of a 1910 Edwardian commercial style building that originally served as the offices and warehouse of a company that supplied electrical and mechanical equipment to the power industry.  In 1920, the original building was transformed into a large and successful Chevrolet dealership.  

This Husky Gas Station is installed in a replica of a Purity 99 Service Station that was built in the ‘moderne’ style… Its basically a rectangle with a stucco finish, wrap around curves and racing stripes.
Husky Energy Inc. is a large, integrated energy company with interests globally and with its head office in Calgary, Alberta.  Husky Energy is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing who owns the controlling share of 70% of the stock.  The company’s foundation is in Western Canada, where it has extensive conventional oil and natural gas assets, significant heavy oil production and a range of midstream and downstream operations, including refineries, upgrading facilities, and pipelines.  With over $32 Billion in assets and 500 + gas stations, Husky is one of Canada's largest energy companies.

The first of the automobiles that we saw on display were actually in the Husky Gas Station’s garage.  This is a 1929 ‘Roosevelt’.  It was a brand of American automobile that was manufactured by the Marmon Motor Car Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA from 1929 to 1930. (
The ‘Roosevelt’ was named after President Theodore Roosevelt and designed to be priced as an "affordable" automobile.  The Roosevelt was the first automobile in America with a straight-eight engine to be priced under $1,000, with the sedan and coupe selling for $995.  One of the unique features of the ‘29 Roosevelt was the horn button.  It served 3 purposes.  Push down and it would honk, pull up and it was the starter, and turn it, to turn the head lights on and off.  

Right alongside the Roosevelt was this 1915 Cadillac Tow Truck.  This Cadillac was retrofitted in 1922 as a tow truck.  In fact, the very first tow truck was a Cadillac!  In 1916, Ernest Holmes helped to rescue a Model T from a ditch.  It took a whole day and six men to free it.  Holmes thought there must be a better way.  He mounted three poles to the frame of his 1913 Cadillac, added a pulley and ran a chain through it.  Voila!  The tow truck was born.

We didn’t count them but there must have been 100 gas pumps on display in and around Gasoline Alley!  While I’m somewhat familiar with Union 76 and Richfield Gasoline…and Maple Leaf is a significant Canadian brand, B-A, Radio, Violet Ray and Cleveland are definitely new to me…
Keep in mind that these beauties are some of the more ‘modern’ gas pumps on display!

The red convertible shown above is a 1912 “Little” Roadster.   This car is named “Little” after William H. Little, a former Buick manager who pioneered the automobile manufacturer, the Little Company.  The first ‘Little’ car was a 4-cylinder, 20-horsepower, two-seater roadster priced at $650.  It was meant as a rival to the Ford Model-T.
The blue truck in the photo is a 1928 Auburn 6-76.  Like most people, I thought that Auburn only made automobiles.  In a sense, that was correct.  For only one year…1930…Auburn offered to install a truck bed on any 1925 – 1930 Auburn chassis.  The cost was $350.00.   This is the only one of its type known to exist!  To learn more about the history of this Indiana Company, you can go to
The yellow car by the wall is a 1915 Locomobile Touring Car.  The Locomobile was advertised as a car for the “exclusive class accustomed to the best”.  The car boasted numerous features, including “over one hundred refinements that produce even greater comfort and quietness”.  Improved brakes were one of these refinements: “Locomobile Brakes stop the car in an emergency, instead of only slowing it down”!  The Locomobile Company of America was in operation for 23 years.  For more information, go to

More of those old gas pumps… These are quite early and they really were an art form!  We especially like the dual pumps with the Imperial green pump on the left being one of our favorites.  Next to Imperial there is a Blue Crown pump, a spin off from the court ordered break-up of Standard Oil, (with its trademark red crown), into a number of different companies in the early 20th century.  The red pump is also obviously a Standard Oil spin off and the nifty dual white and red pumps were used to dispense White Eagle gasoline.
After looking at dozens of different gas pumps on display at Gasoline Alley, it’s hard to believe, but Ron Carey, the primary donor to the museum, has another 150 in his possession that will eventually find a home here.  To view additional antique gas pumps and other automotive collectables, you can go to

One of the things that Laurie and I found fascinating about the exhibits in Gasoline Alley was the fact that we’d never seen such a large collection of ‘working’ vehicles.  These include pickup trucks, dump trucks, tow trucks, delivery vans and other unusual vehicles such as this 1918 Maxwell Tanker.  This rare little truck saw limited production, as the Maxwell Motor Corporation mostly manufactured automobiles.  Early advertisements for Maxwell bragged that: “One Maxwell Truck will do the work of three horse teams at an operating cost less than the cost of maintaining one team”.  The ads also dispensed advice: “It is advisable not to drive your truck in crowded streets or congested traffic until you have become thoroughly familiar with its operation”.
Factoid: Did you know that the Maxwell Motor Corporation is the predecessor to today’s Chrysler Group?  For more information, go to

Almost everything with wheels at Gasoline Alley had a motor…but not everything.  This is a 1919 Carlyle Dairy Wagon.  These attractive white and gold wagons from The Carlyle Dairy Company were a common sight in Calgary between 1909 and 1919.  Horse-drawn wagons were used to deliver dairy products in Alberta throughout the 1940s.  Horses eventually got used to the sound of automobiles, but sharing the streets still caused conflict…automobile drivers did not like getting stuck behind a slow-moving horse.

Here’s Laurie behind the wheel of a 1917 Stewart light truck.  The company was formed in 1912 to meet the demands of a rapidly growing commercial market. With the development of better roads connecting major cities, there was a growing demand for trucks, vans, and other commercial vehicles.  In 1915, Stewart decided to also build passenger cars.  That only lasted 2 years before the company concentrated once again on its commercial trade.
The Stewart Company was based in Buffalo New York and was best known for their well-built express wagons and delivery vans.  Their lightweight 3/4 to 2 1/2 ton worm-drive chassis and 4-cylinder Continental engines provided an excellent basis for the line of professional vehicles they introduced in 1912. Their famous delivery vans, light express wagons (pick-ups), depot hacks and undertaker’s car all shared Lippard-Stewart's unusual coal-scuttle bonnet.  

One last automobile for my first of three blogs about automotive history on display at Gasoline Alley. (Sorry for the reflection problem in the photo…) This is a 1918 McLaughlin Buick.  It was advertised as “Canada’s Standard Car” and was often used for family road trips.  Alberta’s most famous bootlegger, Emilio Picariello, used a fleet of McLaughlin-Buicks, (‘whisky sixes’), to transport illicit liquor from British Columbia into Alberta and Montana during Prohibition. After “Emperor Pic” and his female partner in crime were convicted of shooting a police officer, the McLaughlin became an icon in Albertan history.
The McLaughlin Automobile Company began life in 1876 as the McLaughlin Carriage Company.  The most successful carriage maker of its time, the company produced more than 25,000 carriages a year.  By 1915, the company was making one carriage every ten minutes.  However, in 1907, the company also began making automobiles…and it eventually merged into and became part of the Buick Motor Company, the predecessor to General Motors.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing our summer trip to Alberta with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I really love these cars dear David, always I think are amazing!! (Here I saw someones)
    Hope ypu and Laurie have a nice weekend.
    I hope to finish a new post later, but dont worry, how is your arm??

  2. I love all these adventures, Dave! Thanks for sharing with all of us. I love all those stylish nowadays all look alike.

    Take care!

  3. Dear Dave, I agree the old pumps were a work of art. It seems that so much more thought and care went into designing things.The thought and design was part of the brand and gave it uniqueness. The cars too.
    I really don't see to much today that one would want to collect. Everything looks the same! Blessings to you and Laurie. Catherine