Moose Jaw Western Development Museum

December 11, 2022
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Horse-drawn carriages and a an airplane in entrance to Western Development museum
Saskatchewan history with a focus on transportation at the Western Development Museum in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

The Western Development Museum (WDM) is the largest human history museum in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It was four locations: Saskatoon, North Battleford, Yorkton, and Moose Jaw. Each focuses on a different aspect of Saskatchewan history. The focus of the Moose Jaw location is transportation. One gallery in that museum covers the overall history of Saskatchewan as a province. All remaining galleries feature transportation.

100 Years of Saskatchewan History

Saskatchewan became a province of Canada in 1905. The 100 Years of Saskatchewan History gallery chronicles the first 100 years of the province. This gallery was my personal favourite in the museum. I found the combination of political and social history very interesting.

A museum diorama showing a First Nations and Métis couple at one end and European settlers at the other

Of course, the land existed and was inhabited long before the province of Saskatchewan was created. A diorama at the entrance to the gallery speaks to life before provincehood. Mannequins on the left represent First Nations and Métis people; on the right European settlers.

Timeline display on wall of museum contains text, photos, and exhibits

The walls of the gallery are a timeline featuring events throughout the 100 years. The variety of events include elections, other political items, creation and expansion of cities, festivals, sports history, and business history items such as the creation of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool for farmers to cooperatively market their grain.

Three special stories are explored in details: Saskatchewan weather, the road to Medicare (Canada’s publicly funded health care system has its roots in Saskatchewan), and Saskatchewan transportation beyond the grid.

You’ll also find out about the lives and times of residents over the ages with information about fashion, entertainment, games, and technology. Display cases interspersed amid the timeline showcase artifacts from different eras.

Museum display featuring three types of transportation to remote areas: boat, Piper Cub aircraft,  snowmobile
Display featuring three types of transportation to remote areas: boat, Piper Cub aircraft, snowmobile

Snowbird Gallery

A couple of Canadian Snowbirds plane in the Snowbird Gallery of the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum

The Snowbirds gallery tells the story of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, a Canadian icon comprised of Canadian Armed Forces members and National Defence Public Service employees. Based at 15 Wing in Moose Jaw, the Snowbirds aerobatics flight demonstration team thrill the Canadian public with their performances.

G11C Operational Flight Trainer in the Snowbirds Gallery at Moose Jaw Western Development Museum
G11C Operational Flight Trainer

Aviation Gallery

Glider type planes in the aviation section of a museum

The Aviation Gallery contains a collection of planes, gliders, and aircraft engines. Planes on display include ones that flew as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during the Second World War, and a replica of the Vickers Vedette used by the Royal Canadian Air Force for aerial mapping and forest fire patrols in Canada’s north, as well as several other aircraft.

Actual size replica of a 1920 aircraft hangar on display in the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum
Western Aeroplan Co. Hangar replica

The gallery contains an actual size replica of the Western Aeroplane Co. Hangar, the first hangar in Moose Jaw, built in 1920 but forced to close during the 1930s depression. It was originally located at what is presently the sixth hole of the Lynbrook Golf Course.

Aircraft engines on display in a museum
Aircraft engines

Land Gallery

Collection of cars of varying vintage on display in the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum.

The Land Gallery, which contains over 40 cars and another 16 trucks, showcases the highs and lows of Saskatchewan land travel transportation. Information about the vehicles is posted alongside the vehicles.

Old cars on display in Moose Jaw Western Development Museum
Wagon train on display at Moose Jaw Western Development Museum

The Cheshire View Trailer was built in Manchester, England between 1946 and 1948 from materials salvaged from buildings bombed during Word War II. The Thane family brought the trailer with them to Canada in 1952.

Life size mechanical horse on display at Moose Jaw Western Development Museum
Blowtorch

Blowtorch, a life size mechanical horse, was the pet project and creation of W.J. McIntyre, a Swift Current, Saskatchewan investor. With a body fashioned from sheet metal, a nine horsepower gasoline engine provided the horsepower. The hooves hid small wheels.

Observatory

Observatory located inside a museum
Observatory

You’ll find an observatory in the middle of the vehicles. Observatories house equipment to view the stars. The observatory on display was originally built in 1913 by a group of amateur astronomers in Regina, Saskatchewan who had formed the Saskatchewan Astronomical Society. They built it on the roof of Regina Collegiate, later called Central Collegiate. It was Regina’s first high school and operated from 1908 to 1985.

Classy Cars

You pass through the Classy Car Exhibit to enter the Land Gallery. Here, the museum presents 11 of its “classy” vintage cars spanning 70 years from a 1907 Russell to a 1979 Lincoln.

Winter Travel

During the 1930s and 1940, hazardous conditions and impassable winter roads led to the development of vehicles able to travel across snow-covered fields. The museum contains a collection of winter travel vehicles.

 A museum collection of vehicles adapted for travel across snow fields

Watercraft Gallery

Several boats on display in a museum

Saskatchewan’s rivers brought explorers and adventurers to the West. Canoes, York boats, and steamboats plied Saskatchewan waters. Ferries took people and belongings across rivers, usually at narrow points with gentle sloping banks. A collection of watercraft along with stories about river travel and river crossings are found in the Watercraft Gallery.

Canoe in a museum

Railway Gallery

CP Rail engine in the Moose Jaw Western Development Museum

Travel to and on the Canadian prairies changed with the coming of the railroads in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The rails linked prairie communities with the outside world. Steam locomotives brought settlers and goods and shipped grain on the first part of its journey to markets around the world. The Railway Gallery showcases the history of rail transportation.

Museum display of old car equipped with rail wheels on a rail track in front of a rail station

Visiting the Museum

The Moose Jaw Western Development Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm with the exception of some holiday dates. Check the museum website for those dates and admission prices. Note that the museum covers a fair bit of space. Wear good walking shoes. The museum is on one level and wheelchair-accessible. The museum also has sensory backpacks available for children and youth who have sensory processing disabilities such as autism.

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  • Reply
    Ken Dowell
    December 11, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    Everything there has been so beautifully restored. I especially noticed it in your photos from the land gallery. When I think of the history of the west in the U.S., I probably wouldn’t think so much of planes, more about trains.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2022 at 12:32 pm

      Ken, trains were definitely a big part of western Canada’s transportation history, but so were planes. Bush planes gave new access to remote areas.

  • Reply
    Arial
    December 16, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    It looks like a fascinating museum. They’ve done a great job in the restoration of the exhibition items.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      December 18, 2022 at 12:33 pm

      Arial, the restoration is good. The exhibition space is well laid out. The museum was much larger than I had anticipated.

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