Little did I know when I moved to Calgary a few years ago that this city has one of the finest car museums in North America. Situated in a 75,000 sq ft building known as “Gasoline Alley”, within Heritage Park, is a collection donated by local oil and gas businessman, Ron Carey. Mr. Carey collected and restored the 67 vehicles he gave to the city, many of which are trucks. But perhaps the real highlight of his gift is what’s said to be the largest collection of petroliana in the world — restored pumps and automotive-related signage.
This is the first post of a two-part series sharing some of the automotive treasures of Gasoline Alley, and focuses on the beautiful polished gasoline pumps in the collection and the signage someone from the first half of the 20th century was likely to see at a service station. Our next post will look at some of the interesting cars and trucks in the collection.
Most of these pumps and memorabilia predate me, but they’re as beautiful as the driving machines that surround them. The polished metal and glas and glowing signs are from a nostalgic simpler time. Many Americans might not recognize some of these companies from Canada’s western history, but there are certainly examples from large international companies.
The collection of pumps spans a century of gasoline dispensing in Canada dating to the early 20th century. The collection includes:
- the earliest models (previsible pumps), where fuel is dispensed from an opaque container)
- visible pumps (glass cylinders wherein you could see what your were buying)
- clock-face pumps (displaying volume of gas dispensed)
- computer pumps (the latter showing both dollar cost and volume dispensed)
Here are some of the Pumps in the collection:
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, then right arrow to advance the slideshow)
The signage at Gasoline Alley is also top-notch. There are thousands of signs on display ranging from small wall plaques to huge signs suspended from the ceiling of Grand Hall, the largest space in the museum. Several of them were from companies I’d never heard of and the whole thing was a lot of fun; if you like old cars, you’ll enjoy looking at these!
I found Gasoline Alley quite fascinating and hope when you’re in Calgary you’ll find a day to enjoy this amazing collection of automotive history. I’m grateful to Mr. Carey for making these items available to the public, but found out an interesting tidbit while researching this post. He continues collecting and in his personal storage facility has some 150 private gas pumps that he likely will donate someday — won’t that be something!!
Here is but a small percentage of the signage in Gasoline Alley: