Triple Mountain was honored to be asked to create an exhibit for Skyline Farm's Carriage Museum. To bring a new dimension to the non-profit agricultural center's lovely Carriage House with its amazing collection of horse-drawn vehicles, we brought in model-scale wagons, sleighs and equipment, many of them pulled by Breyer models in harness.
What a fun day we had for its debut! Skyline's 19th annual Sleigh Day featured several teams and individual horses pulling sleighs and offering sleigh rides outside. Below, check out the littlest equine team at the rally: Silver and Buddy! They gave sleigh rides to kids around the yard while a handsome black Shire team took adults out through the snowy fields.
I had the opportunity to talk with the Minis' owner Ben LaPointe while he was harnessing them for the day's festivities, and it's evident how much he cares for this adorable pair! He was assisted by a young man who is going to become quite a horseman, given his focus and eagerness to learn.
[Ben Lapointe harnessing Buddy, who is enjoying a snack from his hay net.]
Also participating in the sleigh rally were sleighs pulled by Clydesdales, Standardbreds, Morgans, and this sweet Icelandic, who looked right at home in the beautiful winter backdrop.
Inside, the museum displayed a multitude of antique sleighs and wagons, of all shapes and sizes. I had to take a photo before the museum opened, because it was so busy that you wouldn't have been able to see how huge it is otherwise! The guys were setting out vintage throw blankets in some of the sleighs to show how folks kept warm on their rides. The museum is just beautiful, and their vehicle display changes seasonally, so there's always more to see.
Every sleigh in the museum was different, and each included a sign giving its history and use.
Around 200 people visited the museum and our exhibit, where we enjoyed telling stories about the different model set-ups and the wagonsmiths that made them.
It was chilly in the Carriage House, but with many layers of warm clothes and the excitement of talking models, we didn't notice much. (People always ask: Yes, I painted my jeans - They're Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, two of my heroes!)
Children and adults alike enjoyed the exhibit, with many remembering that they have a Breyer collection "in the attic" or elsewhere. We met some of our customers during the afternoon, and that was so much fun! The Bridges, the Osgoods, Margaret St. Pierre... It was great to see you all there!
Our exhibit brings to life many of the ways in which horses were vital to the growth of our country, and to the very survival of our ancestors. From transporting people and goods, to helping with the ice harvest and hay collection, if it couldn't be done by a man alone, horses were employed.
For those of you who aren't nearby, here's a little tour for you:
Top (left to right):
Hay rack, Stan Cote - You don't know work until you've done time in a hayfield... That's one of my often-used expressions. It's always hot, sweaty work, and bits of hay cling to the skin, itching and poking. Before balers, hay was collected by pitchfork and tossed into heaps in a hay rack (or rick, as some call them), stomped down and piled evenly by one man who was unlucky enough to be stationed inside it during the process.
Circus Wagon (Stablemate scale), Lindy Pinkham - Even entertainment came on the backs of horses, as the circus paraded into town, bringing exotic beasts and skilled acrobats. This tiny wagon features a tiger pacing inside while two Spotted Drafters, a pair of hand-etched SM Belgians, prance along in their festive red harnesses.
Sporting Wagon, Ron Watson - This intricate Sporting Wagon features wainscotting on the sides, quilted upholstery on the bench seats, and tiny metal work. Ron's pieces have been displayed and sold at galleries and events in the Western US, so Skyline is lucky to have this piece donated to them by him.
Bottom (left to right):
Chuck Wagon, Stan Cote - Working men from the Western Plains to the Northern logging camps needed good food to keep them going, and it was the cook's job to drive the chuck wagon, set up camp and cook for the hungry crew. Everything he needed had to be carried in the wagon, including food, pots and pans, silverware, dishes and cups. In our little exhibit, the cook is peeling potatoes on the tailgate, preparing to fry them up for the crew's breakfast.
Meadowbrook Show Cart, Reuben Kulp - (Better photo below) Seen in driving classes at shows everywhere, the Meadowbrook features one seat that tips up on hinges to allow easy entry by the driver. The Meadowbrook in our display is on loan from Silje J of Norway, and is pulled by a Big Ben owned by Lindy Pinkham, which will be joining the cart in Norway when the exhibit ends.
Our second glass case showcases this neat Ice Harvesting Diorama by Loren Pribbernow. Any place cold enough to have rivers and lakes freeze was utilized for this important resource. Before electric refrigerators and freezers, the ice box was the only way to preserve food, allowing meat and vegetables to be kept more than a few days. To insure ice was available for at least most of the year, teams of men would use large saws to cut rows of blocks out of lakes and rivers, then drag them with a winch up into the body of a sled built for this purpose. The horse(s) would then haul the ice blocks to the local ice house nearby, where they'd be packed in sawdust, insulating them so they'd remain frozen sometimes into July! From there, each day the ice man would load his wagon and deliver to homes across the area. Even more important than the milk man was the ice man, as even the milk wouldn't keep without his valuable delivery.
Below the horses' long-eared cousins get their respect in the exhibit with this farm cart pulled by a pair of Breyer Donkeys. Mr. Riggins loads up the wagon with goods from the local dry goods store as his team of Lonesome and Bonanza waits patiently, knowing they'll be rewarded with something from the feed bags in the back when they get back to the farm.
Next photo, top:
Four-Seater Albany Cutter Sleigh, Loren Pribbernow - Like a scene from a Currier & Ives painting, a pair of energetic Pacers bring the family along for an invigorating drive down the snow-covered roads to visit relatives. Visiting wasn't the simple affair that it is these days: It involved over an hour of preparation: Grooming the team, harnessing, readying the vehicle, hauling out blankets, and dressing everyone in many layers for a trip open to the elements.
Photo above, bottom shelf:
Sleigh Ride Bobsled, Stan Cote - Emblazoned with the name of its home stable, this sled features bench seats in the back, ready to bring tourists for a holiday ride to remember!
Snow Roller, Stan Cote - Apparently these were a New England invention, and rarely seen outside of this region, but they were life-savers here! Before plows were available to remove the deep snow we get regularly, heavy rollers were used to pack it down, enabling sleigh and foot traffic. Each town owned at least one, and often several pair of horses or oxen to pull it. The work was hard, as teams had to pull the heavy roller while trudging through deep snow, so teams were changed frequently. Often the next farmer up the road would have a pair or more of his own animals ready, and would swap his out for the tired team, to let them rest a while. Mixed teams of horses and oxen were even sometimes hitched together, as the need arose. A snow roller always had two wheels. Besides making turning easier, this also provided a little flexibility to the vehicle, so that it could roll roads that were crowned (higher) in the middle.
On the shelves behind our glass display cases we show off some of E.C. Russell's hitches, surrounding a special piece commissioned by Triple Mountain for the exhibit:
Above, left side, top to bottom:
Three-Horse Fair Drag, EC Russell - Three light bay Clydesdale Mares are hitched abreast to the metal drag used at fairs in pulling contests. The drag is stacked with cement blocks with holes through them to allow them to be added and removed easily to adjust the pulling weight. Since the drag would be hitched to team after team, even the evener was made from metal for durability.
Four-Foot Log Skidder, EC Russell - A common sight in the New England woods, this is a true skidder, with skiis up front and drags behind. The drags would have been built from logs themselves, peeled and shaped to attach to the frame and skiis with large brackets. Since 4-foot logs were destined for firewood rather than planks, they were short enough to stack sideways on the sled, reducing the chance of the load shifting and tipping over the vehicle. You may just be able to make out the horseshoe attached to the rear post, holding a water bucket and a log hook. While I had assumed the bucket was strictly for watering man and team, I was informed by Skyline member Gordon C. that it was sometimes also used to splash water in front of the skiis to produce ice, making the sled easier to move in unplowed snow.
Amish Delivery Wagon, EC Russell - Relatively plain, in the style of the Amish, this little black delivery wagon would have had a multitude of uses in the community. This piece is also notable as the only one of Mr. Russell's works where the horse is unshod. He was known for making sure all his working horses had suitable shoes for the job, often including caulks for traction. The Amish horse, however, intentionally works barefoot.
Photo below, bottom left:
This is the special piece we commissioned and kept secret until the exhibit's debut. We promised the museum board we'd bring them a wagon of a type that they don't have, despite their 150+ piece collection, and here it is! Made by Loren Pribbernow, the large barrel denotes this as a Honey Wagon, and if you're looking for a clue to its purpose, it did not smell like honey! Wagons like this would be parked at the lowest level under or behind a hotel before the advent of city sewers. Waste would drain into them from the opening in the top, and then in the wee hours of the morning (no pun intended!), the driver and team would quietly take it away to dump it. A gentleman at the event told us how the teams often suffered from the fumes and so couldn't work more than a few days, and then earned a week's rest to recover, so a Honey driver needed to keep a stable full of horses for the job. Loren was kind enough to add fly strings to the team's harness to keep the pesky biting flies off this hard-working team of Shires.
Remaining hitches above, right side, top to bottom:
Show Delivery Wagon, EC Russell - Hard to see in the sunlight coming through the window, this is the typical wagon you'd see in a draft show today or delivering goods in a city in yesteryear. They were often adorned with a brand's name and colors, and the horses decked out in chrome and brass to associate the brand with quality.
Timber Sled, EC Russell - Often the best time to build, or at least bring in the largest lumber for a new building, was in the winter, before the roads became rutted with mud. This sled is hauling in large timber beams, probably for a barn raising, to be attended by the whole town.
John Deere-style plow, EC Russell - Synonymous with farm life, the v-plow created rows for the seeds that would feed the family or town for the next year. Mr. Russell's plow, all made by hand from metal, features working levers to adjust the plow blades to the depth needed for each type of seed, while the horses work on each side of the new row, careful not to trample the previous row they'd just made. Loren reports this is one of the most boring jobs on the farm, sitting on a plow in the hot sun, staring at slow-moving horses' rumps for hours at a stretch, while trying to remain focused enough to keep the rows straight!
And last, but not least in our exhibit, we have this replica of a Galamander Granite Hauler by EC Russell:
Before poured cement was available, most buildings were built upon granite block foundations. In cities, whole buildings were sometimes made from granite as well: think especially of older banks, where granite proved harder to break into than brick and mortar. Being also a time before gasoline engines, every block had to be moved by real horsepower from the mountain where it was quarried to its new home. Granite weighs around 175 pounds per cubic foot, so a 2-foot thick foundation block, 2 feet tall and 4 feet long, weighed 2800 lbs. A strong team was required, as was a specially designed wagon with rear wheels reinforced by iron bands. The wagon would be backed over the newly quarried block, a chain run underneath it, and a winch built into the wagon attached to a hand crank at the driver's right hand would slowly lift the monstrous block up until it wedged itself up against the underside of the wagon body, where it would remain for the journey.
June and I had a great time talking horses and wagons all afternoon (and enjoying the Skyline Food Committee's delicious soups and snacks!). The highlight of the day for me was meeting EC Russell's son, grandson, and great-grandson, who enjoyed seeing his works be displayed publicly again, as he had always loved that so much.
[Evan "Junior", Ryan and Reid Russell at our exhibit]
Skyline Farm is open some Sunday afternoons by appointment and on event days. There is no admission fee, although donations are appreciated to help with the upkeep of buildings and carriages. Right now you can also see the Storyland Pumpkin Coach that used to carry Cinderella to her castle at the amusement park. Call (207) 829-9203 for information and appointments, or visit their Facebook page for information on upcoming events. Our exhibit will remain into the spring, with no end date set at this time.