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Heritage Acres showcases industrial and farm equipment saved from scrap heap

The 30-acre site, which is marking its 50th year of operation, is packed with more than 30,000 artifacts in a collection of buildings next to the Pat Bay Highway

Heritage Acres is a gem hidden in plain sight.

Thousands of cars whiz past the tidy property and rows of antique farm and industrial equipment along the Pat Bay Highway every day — and yet few venture inside to take a trip through more than a century of history on Vancouver Island.

“I hear it a lot … people see it, but they’ve never been here,” said David Hopkins, vice-president of the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society, which operates Heritage Acres.

“It’s a pretty special place where we’ve preserved a lot of things that would have otherwise been thrown away or tossed in a scrap heap.”

The 30-acre site, which is marking its 50th year of operation, is a fascinating place, packed with more than 30,000 artifacts in a collection of buildings skirting a forest and open grassy area.

The collection ranges from industrial steam engines and tractors to vintage vehicles and farming implements, antique thimbles, dentistry and medical equipment and more than 2,000 Edison records.

There’s an old sawmill salvaged from the rot of the forest floor around Youbou that’s been rebuilt and brought back to cutting form.

Displays are set up to mimic life in Saanich at the turn of the last century, including a barber shop, printing presses, general store, haberdashery and a blacksmith shop. There’s a collection of restored buggies and carriages from when horse power ruled, pioneer household items, sewing and textiles, cameras, books, model toys and clocks.

The Royal B.C. Museum’s famed Old Town pales in comparison.

The star attractions are the steam generators, including “donkeys” from the logging industry — a steam boiler and engine connected to a winch mounted on a sled, used to move logs — and the steel-wheeled traction engines used in early agriculture before the advent of rubber tires.

A Sawyer Massey from 1907 has been fully restored to working order, and there is a 1913 Case among other classic steam-powered engines.

Steam traction engines were agricultural giants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, originally brought out to the Prairies to break up the sod and turn virgin prairie into fertile farming ground.

The traction engines pulled heavy bottom ploughs and powered threshing machines.

Heritage Acres wheels out the steam engines and fires them up every fall for threshing day demonstrations.

This year, the site’s annual Harvest Fall Fair, scheduled for Sept. 16 and 17, will also include demonstrations of blacksmithing, woodworking and the process of making linen from flax straw.

Young and old will also enjoy seeing the steam engines in action and viewing the museum’s 53 tractors, including a 1907 Avery and other models including Massey Harris, Fordson, John Deere and many other obscure, home-built and rare brands.

The display will also include vintage vehicles like the 1913 and 1924 Model T trucks and Model A dump truck.

Hopkins said the historical artifacts society started coming together in the early 1960s when pioneer farmers on the Saanich Peninsula like Willard Michell — whose family still farms there today — wanted to start preserving old farm machinery.

“They started collecting old things that was no longer being used but was worth preserving,” said Hopkins.

By the early 1970s, then-MLA Hugh Curtis suggested a highway greenbelt along the Pat Bay would be a good place for the society to set up its displays, and by the end of 1973, Heritage Acres was taking form.

Over the years, a collection of buildings was constructed to house the displays, and others were moved onto the site, including a chapel that is used for weddings, a pioneer log house, the Michell Museum, Newman Boat House, 1913 Saanichton School House, Hatch Streetcar barn, and the 1859 prefabricated Moody House.

The volunteer Vancouver Island Model Engineers built a track system looping through the property, so visitors can ride a small train throughout the property during special events and on selected weekends.

Hopkins said the museum operates on a shoestring budget with some government funding, but the heart of the society is its 120 members and volunteers, who come out to the site most days to work on preserving the many pieces of equipment and historical items.

The society relies on admission at special events and admission by donations most other days.

It also rents out the space for special events like family and corporate gatherings, as well as weddings, where the chapel can accommodate 40 and the outdoor covered area is used for dancing and banquets.

A wedding this summer attracted 300 guests and a corporate event brought in 350, said Hopkins.

“It’s really a beautiful place — and there’s always something interesting to see,” he said.



7321 Lochside Drive, Saanichton


Summer 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Winter 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Open every day except Christmas Day


Entry to the park is by donation per person to help keep Heritage Acres running. Proceeds are reinvested into preserving local history.

Special events admission is $5 per person, with kids under 12 free.

Contact or 250-652-5522

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