New Village program sheds light on old-time cars

Kenji Lam, 6, plugs his ears Tuesday as museum interpreter Russell Collins starts the engine of a Model T Ford delivery truck as part of the new
Kenji Lam, 6, plugs his ears Tuesday as museum interpreter Russell Collins starts the engine of a Model T Ford delivery truck as part of the new 'auto shop apprentice' program at Burnaby Village Museum.
— image credit: Wanda Chow/NewsLeader

If there's a magnet for visitors at Burnaby Village Museum, it appears to be the mere sound of an antique car engine starting.

That was the case Tuesday as museum staff and interpreters prepared to present its new Auto Shop Apprentice program at the Royal Oak Garage building.

For years the museum has offered rides around the village in old Model T Fords, a popular feature that helps bring history to life.

This year, volunteers brainstormed and came up with the auto shop program to teach visitors how cars used to work in the old days, said museum programs coordinator Sanya Pleshakov.

The half-hour presentation includes a brief history of transportation in Burnaby. The garage building was recreated based on an actual Royal Oak Garage located on Kingsway and Marlborough back in the 1920s, Pleshakov said.

There were 16 such repair garages in Burnaby in 1925, putting it at the forefront of the trend toward motor vehicles, said interpreter Russell Collins.

Collins explained to visitors how car wheels started out as metal loops connected by spokes and transitioned to solid rubber tires before moving to pneumatic tires more forgiving of bumps in the road. Here, six-year-old Kenji Lam was recruited as the "apprentice" to demonstrate pumping up an old inner tube.

He then helped demonstrate how an old-style gasoline pump operated.

But it's the Model T delivery truck that's the big draw.

"Model Ts are a totally different thing to drive," said interpreter Ewen Sheard, who's also a licenced mechanic. "People are absolutely amazed at their complexity and the difference."

There's perhaps no starker contrast between then and now than in the Model T's safety features—or lack of them.

Collins pointed out the museum's specimen has no seatbelts, bumpers or turning signals. Heck, it doesn't even have doors. It does, however, have windshield wipers and a horn.

Then comes time to start the engine. Perched on the passenger side of the car's bench, Lam plugs his ears as he learns how loud—and smelly—these old cars are.

The presentation over, another Model T packed with passengers turns heads as it drives by and the crowd disperses, heading over to the museum's version of an amusement ride queue.

Auto Shop Apprentice runs Tuesdays at Burnaby Village Museum during the summer season at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Admission to the museum is free.



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