Alberta family auctioning off over 2 dozen carriages and sleighs

·3 min read
Sleighs and carriages will be auctioned off as part of the estate sale of a collector from Penhold, Alta.  (Prairie Auctions - image credit)
Sleighs and carriages will be auctioned off as part of the estate sale of a collector from Penhold, Alta. (Prairie Auctions - image credit)

A Calgary auction starting Saturday will feature a variety of rare items that were part of Canada's early transportation history.

A collection of 27 carriages and sleighs will go up for auction as part of the estate sale of Lee Bowie, a collector from Penhold, Alta., located 120 kilometres north of Calgary.

His daughter, Kim Bowie, says her dad gathered the sleighs and carriages for more than five decades and that some are from the late 1800s.

"Dad always had a love of horses, all animals really, but he was interested in horse-drawn vehicles. He started buying old ones that somebody had stored behind their barn and fixing them up and bringing them back to their original glory," she told The Homestretch.

From there, her dad created a rare collection of vehicles that are in incredible shape, she says.

"He built a building for them and they've always been stored inside," she said. "We will usually have family get-togethers to polish them all up every couple of years, get the dust off them."

She adds that the carriages were predecessors of the automobile industry, so each has some interesting innovations attached to it.

"These were the original cars," she said. "And a lot of the manufacturers of carriages went on to move into the motor car industry."

For example, one of the carriages up for sale is an original McLaughlin carriage. The company was the largest manufacturer of horse-drawn buggies and sleighs in the British Empire.

The company later went into automobiles and became McLaughlin Motor Car Company, and then subsequently General Motors of Canada.

The one that Bowie's dad purchased is what she calls a "one-horse open sleigh."

Pictured above is an original McLaughlin cutter from McLaughlin Carriage Co., produced in 1869. Kim Bowie says the cutter was the race car of its time.
Pictured above is an original McLaughlin cutter from McLaughlin Carriage Co., produced in 1869. Kim Bowie says the cutter was the race car of its time. (Prairie Auctions)

"It's got an upholstered seat in it," she said. "So really Christmassy. And the one that dad has is one of the original ones. It was built in 1869."

Another vehicle for sale is a Newfoundland Taxi Sleigh, which was built in 1890 in St. John's, she said.

"It sort of looks like a couch on wheels," she said. "They were only used in that province, and very few of them have survived."

She says buggies can range from $300 to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how rare they are.

Growing up, she says, they used the carriages for all sorts of things — like sleigh and wagon rides.

"Mum and dad used to go for rides out on the country roads around their place. All the neighbours thought he was a big romantic guy," she said.

Despite the family needing to auction off the pieces, Bowie says it will be a good feeling to know they'll go to people interested in preserving the history.

"I think (my dad) would have liked his collection to stay together and go to a collector that could manage to house and look after the whole thing," she said.

You can check out the family's collection online. The auction will run from June 12 to 21.

With files from The Homestretch.