Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - January 14, 1975, Lethbridge, Alberta
8 LETHBRIDGE HERALD Tuesday, January 14, 1975 Coach collector restores memory of a gentle era By RIC SWIHART, Herald Staff Writer CARDSTON The Cardston Rotary Club and Santa Claus are credited with the largest private collection of antique carriages and sleighs in this part of the country. Don Remington, when he isn't busy building bridges with his construction firm, fattening cattle in his feedlot or growing grain on his farm, buys old carriages and sleighs in varying degrees of decay and as a hobby restores them. It's for the preservation of history and to have fun. Mr! Remington got involved in his hobby 16 years ago when he was named chairman of the Santa Claus committee for the Cardston Rotary Club. It had been the tradition for the club to bring Santa to the town square in a car where the jolly old fellow would dole out gifts to the children under the shadow of a huge Christmas tree. New at the job and relatively new in AFTON REMINGTON CHECKS A LAMP the club, Mr. Remington proposed to a neighbor, who antique car collec- tor, that Santa should arrive dressed to the hilt riding in a horse drawn sleigh. The idea hit and telephone calls located a cutter in British Columbia. A quick trip retrieved the cutter and after months of part time work it was restored good as new. In the meantime, the Remingtons broke the family horse for pulling duty. While the Santa Claus parade was a success, restoration and collection of carriages and sleighs became firmly entrenched in Mr. Remington's blood. Sixteen years later he boasts a carriage house behind his home in Cardston with 20 restored units, and six matched horse teams of different sizes, a wall full of brass-covered harness and a guest book indicating visitors from most places in North America. The first few years of his hobby were spent gathering various carriages and sleighs of the district, restoring them and using them for both driving and dis- play. One day he was reading a copy of the Morgan horse magazine when he saw an advertisement to join the Carriage Association of America. He now holds one of the directors positions. "I really found out about carriages and sleighs once I got involved in the says Mr. Remington. "I found out there 'were more than just plain cutters. That's when I became interested in the elegant carriages used in Eastern Canada, the United States and Europe before the turn of the century." Once informed about the "Cadillacs" of the carriage industry, Mr. Remington started making trips to the Toronto Royal Winter Fair which features carriage competition and to any corner of the country where tips of possible purchases led him. During a holiday in England, he found a carriage, had it shipped to Cardston and spent the next winter restoring it. Once he has an aging carriage back at his workshop in Cardston, the first job is to completely dismantle the rig. This includes separating all wood and metal parts. Cleaning the metal is a simple job of sandblasting it to remove all rust and dirt. The wood parts are then cleaned with paint remover and sandpaper. Any rotton or broken parts are replaced and damaged pieces repaired. Once the main body of the unit is rebuilt, the job of painting begins. This is one of the more time consuming operations. Depending on the condition of the wood, coat after coat of filler is applied with a sandpaper operation between each coat. Some of the units have as many as 20 coats each. He then sprays the paint on the units in a special area -of his workshop. The gleaming units are then given the final decorative touches with fine lines painted in all the right places with the use of a small paint wheel. While he still considers the restoration a hobby, one carriage in his collection took hours to finish. And price is dictated by demand although he carries insurance for for one carriage. Primarily a winter project when the construction business is slow, he finds time mornings and times when he should be around the office at the front of the workshop good periods to accomplish a lot. The cost to restore a carriage depends on how much material must be used. In some cases, complete reupholstering is needed at a cost of more than just for labor. Besides1 filler and paint, materials include patent leather, leather and hardwood. Another project required new wooden wheels at a cost of for the pair. A cutter he is now working on was purchased 10 years ago in Moriarty, N.M., from a museum dealer. He wants to try it out before the snow's gone this winter and hopes to have it done by Feb. 23. The actual carriage isn't the only interest held by Mr. Remington: He also has facilities to make and repair the ex- tensive harness used by the horses that pull the carriages. All the brass decorations and rings are kept polished, especially f many cases, the metal harness are covered with sewn to give a custom ap He has a special sewinf ported from Germany w leather up to one inch thi' One of the units he b lanterns. So instead of wor Mr. Remington manufact himself in his workshop. Aside from the hundred has met through his hoi pleasure of working with i when the projects are fini with the horses on drive country or at shows or par him going. "There is something a when people had pleasur that holds something sped says. "We're not so horse will come back to ta! car, but it's fun." He points to the pageant a shining carriage pulled team as one of the big dra the hobby. He is glad the 1 ment has maintained the governor general's cai more than 200 days each visiting dignitaries and ce occasions. One of Mr. Remington's used to transport the Que Philip when they were la Prince Philip, himsei driver, struck up a livel; with Mr. Remington, wh< doorman for the occasion With little sign of dec! Mr. Remington is going ti of his collection. It is tl larger carriage house. Hi of keeping the carriages them, he will sell or trade revolving stock headlined units. In the last two years meeting of the Carriage America, the number of involved has been tremei ".It is unbelievable how have turned back to carriages. It's just great.