You may have heard whispers of a gem of a museum tucked underground in the foothills outside Cochrane, Alta.
But getting there is a bit of a mystery, and so is getting in.
One does not simply pull up to the family ranch of Ian MacGregor and ask to view the comprehensive collection of more than 500 impeccably maintained and restored treasures proudly displayed in his basement.
Though to call it a basement is a bit of an injustice.
MacGregor established the Canadian Museum of Making underneath his home in 2001. He provides exact directions to the gallery after private tours, like the sold-out Beakerhead event, are arranged.
Once there, visitors meander through the underground bunker’s network of concrete tunnels, inlaid with lighted displays of carefully selected artifacts that span African metal work, steam engine machinery and machine tools.
Some of the oldest objects in the galleries date back to the 1750s.
At the heart of the private collection is “Mary,” a tandem-cylinder, horizontal steam engine built in the 1890s. The compound mill engine powered a weaving mill in Yorkshire, England, for more than 70 years.
The first gallery of the private collection highlights African metal work in bronze, brass, copper and iron.
Head down a level or two and you’ll find the history of machinery from the 1840 through to the end of the First World War.
There’s also a linotype machine, a Cleveland Twist Drill prototype — which MacGregor deems the rarest item in his collection — and a few select automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, steam tractors and horse-drawn vehicles, as well as one of the first electric cars.
MacGregor said obtaining the prototype twist drill…