A black and white side view of a stem engine train passing along tracks. "962" is written beneath the conductor's window, and the figure of a man is seen leaning out of it. "Canadian Pacific" is written on the back half of the engine.
A view of Engine 962, courtesy of the website Okanagan.net.
A black and white image of a man waving from the window of a train. He is smiling and looking back over his shoulder. He is wearing a pale conductor's hat, and has on a tie and jacket. "962" is printed beneath the window.
A photo from the Kelowna Courier of February 27, 1950, showing conductor Charles Haggitt, veteran conductor of Engine 962, on his final run before retiring. Courtesy of the website Okanagan.net.

Veteran 962

“No longer will the clanging bell and the piercing whistles of veteran No. 962 be heard on the Okanagan sub-division between Kelowna and Sicamous” read an article in the Kelowna Courier of March 18, 1957.

Engine 962 carried both passengers and freight through the Okanagan Valley in a time when steam-powered trains were considered the work-horses of the Canadian Pacific’s Okanagan run. Ontario-born Charles Hagitt, who served as the engine’s chief engineer, described it as the “pride of the Okanagan,” and when he retired in 1950 said he felt like he was parting from an old friend.  

Service Discontinued

It was thought that the engine would be used for many more years after Haggitt’s retirement, but when service between Kelowna and Sicamous was discontinued in 1954, the engine was used as a yard switcher in Vernon.

It performed its last passenger run in 1957 (and was, in fact, the last steam engine to haul a passenger train from Kelowna on the CPR) with engineer Cyrill Taylor at the controls. The engine was then scraped in 1958 when the CPR converted to diesel power.

A black and white image of a large metallic bell on a table with three men looking at it. All three are wearing bowler hats, and have their backs to the camera. The bell is hanging in a metal sling contraption.
The bell of CPR steam engine 962 being presented to the City of Vernon in 1959.

The Bell Donated

The engine’s bell—which was heard many times by the residents of Vernon as the train passed through—was donated to the City in 1959, and was later turned over the Vernon Museum. It remains on display at the museum’s front entrance.

A gold-coloured bell in a black metal sling sitting on a rock floor. The base of a black door with a window is visible to the right.
The bell from Engine 962 on display in the Vernon Museum in 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

Two women in front of a beige, multi-storied building, holding botanical samples. The woman on the left is blond, and smiling at the camera. The woman on the right has dark red hair with bangs, with piercings on her hair and one below her mouth, and smiling slightly and looking off to her left. The left sample is a green plant with a white flower pressed flat on a sheet of paper between sheets of thin plastic. The right sample has pink, bell-shaped flowers.
Cheryl Craig and Jennifer Rhodes of the UBCO Biology Department displaying samples from Jim Grant’s botany collection in 2022.

A collection of 400 laminated botanical samples collected around B.C. by local naturalist Jim Grant has been transferred from the Vernon Museum to UBCO’s Biology Department.

A smiling man with short grey hair wearing a blue beret. He is also wearing a while collar shirt, with is peaking out from a being knit sweater. He is looking at the camera and has black binoculars on a brown strap around his neck.
Portrait of James Grant. Courtesy of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club.

James Grant, often known as Jim, was born in Trinity Valley near Lumby in 1920. Even as a child, Jim showed a keen interest in nature and art. At the age of 15, his lifelike sketches of birds had become so impressive that he won a bird-drawing competition conducted by the English magazine “The Bird Lover’s League.”

Jim later worked as a farmer and a logger before enlisting in the Canadian Army in 1941. He served with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals until 1946, when he returned to Vernon and was employed by the Federal Forest Entomology Lab.

His work took him throughout the province, and he quickly became a skilled ornithologist, entomologist, and botanist. He also spent a few years doing similar field work in Alberta. In 1970, he was appointed Field Studies Coordinator for School District 22, a position which saw him organizing and conducting student field trips to grassland, forest and pond sites, where he remained until his retirement in 1978.   

White orchid flowers on yellow-green stems surrounded by dark green words in a semi-circle that read North Okanagan Naturalists' Club.
North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club logo featuring a bog orchid.

Jim was a founding member of the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club; in fact, during an excursion to the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve in 1965, he spotted a small, white bog orchid which later became the club’s emblem. He also operated a hospital for injured hawks and owls from his home in Lavington.

After Jim’s passing in 1986, his botany collection was donated to the Vernon Museum. However, earlier this year, the museum’s collection committee decided that it would be of more value to the Biology Department at UBC’s Okanagan Campus, and it was transferred accordingly, to the great excitement of the university staff.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

A man in black and white wearing a loose, white button-up shirt standing in a pottery studio. He has a bushy mustache and furrowed eyebrows, and a partially bald head. He is showing a pottery bowl to the camera. To his left are three shelved full of different pieces of pottery, including bowls, mugs, and jugs.
Axel Ebring with some of his creations in 1953.
Axel Ebring’s article in the Vancouver Sun of April 3, 1943.

The Historical Record works in mysterious ways.

Around 1975, a newspaper dating back to April 3, 1943, was discovered beneath the floorboards of a North Vancouver home. 47 years later, in 2022, the newspaper has made its way to the Museum & Archives of Vernon

The North Van house was 80 years old in the 1970s when it was purchased by Jim Huffman, who now lives in Vernon. While renovating one of the bedrooms, Jim discovered two or three complete Vancouver Sun Newspapers dating back to the 1940s tucked beneath the old linoleum flooring. Being somewhat of a self-proclaimed history nut and hoarder, he tucked them away in safe place before passing them along to a museum staff member earlier this year.

What is interesting about one of these aged Vancouver newspapers (other than the fantastic Prince Valiant cartoons) is that it includes an article about one of Vernon’s very own—Axel Ebring. Long before the age of the internet, this celebrated local potter had managed to make a name for himself across the province.

The Potter of Vernon

Axel Ebring was born in Kalmar, Sweden, in 1874. At the age of only 12, he immigrated to Canada. He worked as a general labourer for many years, before adopting his father’s profession and building his first production kiln at Notch Hill, near Salmon Arm, in the 1920s. He discovered another clay deposit about ten years later in Vernon, and moved his operation here.

Axel Ebring’s photo in the Vancouver Sun of April 3, 1943

A Massive kiln and an even bigger legacy

As the Vancouver Sun article relates, Axel Ebring’s kiln was about 20-feet square and 8-feet high, with walls that were two-feet thick. After forming his creations, Axel would decorate them with naturally-produced dyes made from roots and berries. The article also includes an interesting discussion of the process Axel would take to break down chunks of scavenged quartz to form a glaze. Once decorated and glazed, the pieces were placed in large, heat-resistant crocks called “seggars,” which were then stacked on top of each other in the kiln. The pieces were fired twice for sixty hours, with a cooling period in between, and then were ready for sale.

Axel remained in Vernon until 1954, when he passed away. His legacy was marked in the naming of Pottery Road, near where his kiln and shop were located. Many of creations are preserved in both the Vernon Museum and the R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum, as well as in private collections. 

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator

 

 

 

The post office clock on Barnard (30th) Avenue circa 1935.

A Post office clock

In 1912, Vernon opened a beautiful new post office complete with a British-made clock tower on 30th Avenue. The building and its clock graced the city for decades until the structure was partially torn down in 1959.

Luckily, the clock itself was rescued by the owners of the former Allison Hotel in Vernon, who recognized its historic value and stored it in their basement until 1971.

The Clock is restored

That year, the clock was acquired by the Vernon Centennial Committee with intentions to restore it to its former grandeur. While its inner workings were stored at the Historic O’Keefe Ranch, the clock faces were installed in a new centennial tower located outside the Vernon Museum.

The Vernon Museum’s role

Forty years later, in 2011, the clock faces were removed from the centennial tower, and alongside the inner mechanisms, were installed in the Vernon Museum.

Thanks largely to the efforts of local inventor Garry Garbutt, and dozens of generous supporters, the clock was restored to working condition. This former post office clock uses a pendulum to keep time, and has to be wound every few days (although the museum staff usually keep it unwound unless they wish to be startled by an impressively-loud chime once an hour).

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator