Cargo steeped in history stops in Keremeos

Late summer traffic through Keremeos has thinned out somewhat, but interesting things are still making their way through the village

Doran Degenstein in front of six carriages bound for his collection in Lethbridge

Doran Degenstein in front of six carriages bound for his collection in Lethbridge

The late summer traffic through Keremeos is somewhat diminished from July and August’s tourist season peaks, but there are still some interesting people and cargoes passing through the village.

Last Monday, September 9, wagon collector Doran Degenstein stopped in Keremeos, trailering an eye-catching cargo of six carriages from the days of the horse and buggy. Shrink wrapped to protect the ancient conveyances from the elements, Degenstein  was on his way back to his home in Lethbridge, Alberta, after acquiring the unusual pieces from a private owner in Duncan, B.C.

The six carriages were once part of Gerry Wellburn’s collection, housed in the B.C. Forestry Museum (now known as the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre). Wellburn collected hundreds of items over the course of his lifetime, including logging and railroad artifacts, many of which are still on display at the B.C. Discovery Centre.

“Gerry Wellburn collected many of these carriages in the ‘30s and ‘40s, “ explained Degenstein. “They were turned over to the museum, but after he died, the museum had a change in direction.”

The original collection contained 25 carriages. Degenstein’s six carriage purchase came with the stipulation that the six could not be sold individually.

“They are to stay together in perpetuity,” Degenstein said.

Although  not  much is known individually about the carriages, Degenstein said that there was a “commonality” to the six.

This is a large concentration of high end buggies,” he explained.  “They are not your typical ‘plain jane’ carriages.”

The collection dates from the 1890s to the early 1900s, to an era just prior to motorized transport. Included in the six is a McLaughlin carriage,  a pre internal combustion version of one of Canada’s  early automobile manufacturers. Some of the buggies have such technological improvements as steel hubs and  rubber coated wheels. None of the rigs look like they were worn out during their useful lifetimes.

“These  carriages are  a reflection of the society that existed in Duncan back in their day,” Degenstein added. He plans minimal restoration on the vehicles. They will be protected from the elements and will join Degenstein’s collection of some 500 carriages.

“I’ve travelled as far as New York collecting carriages,” Degenstien concluded.

“I found out about these in an  unusual way.  A fellow collector in Arlington, Virginia told me about them.

He thought I would be interested, and they were a lot closer to me than they were to him.”

The ardent collector stopped to take a look in Jeff Berg’s Ox Yoke Antique store while in Keremeos.