Deep Creek Tool Museum, and "Hit and Miss" Engines

We were in the Salmon Arm area of British Columbia visiting family this past week, and I had seen a sign for the Deep Creek Tool Museum, between Enderby and Salmon Arm off of highway 97B and I was curious as to what exactly it had to offer. Luckily our wives allowed us a ‘free’ morning one day, so my brother-in-law John and I decided to check it out. I’m not sure what we were expecting, but when we got there, at first glance it appeared to be a private home and attached garage in which the museum was housed. It also had a large “Closed” sign out front, but I decided to ring the door bell anyway just to see if anyone was home, and if so what the museum hours were. I’m glad I did, as we ended up having a great visit and a personal tour !

First of all, this is not your “formal” museum with everything neatly tagged, labelled and hidden away in sterile cases – it is obviously a labour of love and life time hobby by the owner, Herb Higginbottom, who was more than happy to give us a personal tour pointing out the various gems he’d collected. Many of these were in working condition, and I was especially interested in his ‘hit and miss’ engine collection. These simple 4 stroke stationary engines were common between about 1890 through to about 1930, and get their name from the sound they make due to the way they govern their speed. Rather than having a throttle, the exhaust valve is held open and the intake valve stays closed when the engine is at speed – as the engine slows, the exhaust valve starts to actuate, and the engine starts to fire. The intake valve generally is not ‘operated’ in the usual sense, but has a very weak spring which allows the valve to be opened by atmospheric pressure when the cylinder pressure drops following an exhaust stroke. These engines have massive fly wheels to help maintain the engine speed, and which are also used for starting them – open the oiler, adjust the needle valve for the fuel (there is no carburettor), grab the flywheel and give it a spin ! He had one connected to a log splitter which he demonstrated for us and is shown to the upper right.

I suppose I’m not the only one, but I’ll admit I hadn’t ever given much thought to how things were powered before the introduction of electricity – I’d assumed things were either done by hand, or with water wheels or draft animals, so another item I found interesting was the gasoline powered Maytag clothes washer – this one dates from the early 1920’s and is probably a Maytag model 82. The little 2 stroke engine, called a ‘fruit jar’ multi-motor due to the shape of the cylinder, sat underneath the washing basin and was started with a small foot operated pedal. Presumably the exhaust gases were vented outside as otherwise, this would have been a real hazard to operate inside the house due to carbon monoxide fumes !

The garage itself turned out to be stuffed with every kind of imaginable tool dating from the late 1800’s through to present day – many old breast drills, foot operated fret saws, small gasoline powered circular saws and all sorts of hand tools, including the only double ended Crescent wrenches I’ve ever seen. It is an amazing collection and Herb can tell you what each one was created for, and how it was used.

In the future, the museum will be easier to find as Herb is in the process of building an 18 foot high (!!) working reel type lawn mower to sit out front, and may also expand the building so more of the display can be kept under roof.

Bottom line – if you like tools then this is the place. We managed to quickly spend a couple of hours and could have gladly stayed longer ! If you are in the area , give it a look see – recommended.

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