Museum unveiling ‘How Our History Fits’

Madison Sharman, manager at the museum, shows off one of the miniature historical buildings
Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

After some time tinkering around with a model train from the 1970s, the Northern Rockies Museum recreated a scene of Hinton using miniature models of historical buildings for the new exhibit, How Our History Fits.

The model train was donated to the museum, and the staff have given it their best work to get it running once again.

Madison Sharman, manager at the museum, explained that the train would be an ongoing project at the museum, and it plays a central role in this new exhibit.

“I have the mill homes, and I’ll be building the Roxy movie theatre that burnt down in 2009. The train station what it looked like in the 70s, and that’s the Hinton hotel, that burnt down in 1999, it used to be where Starbucks and the weed shop are now,” said Sharman pointing at all the buildings in the exhibit that she’s worked on diligently.

“People have such strong connections to old buildings in town, and to see them recreated is such a novelty for them. But we only have so much space. There was this Chinese food restaurant called the Highway Cafe, and everybody always talks about it so I have to have that on here.”

Also featured are the Athabasca river and the Canadian Northern Bridge, which is the bridge that Hwy. 40 uses to Grande Cache, built in 1912. The Brule sand dunes are also present in the display, with the old train station consumed by the sand poking out in a few areas.

The exhibit will evolve over time featuring new buildings and places, like a beaver pond or the railway tunnel in Robb, which is the longest, most narrow tunnel in Canada still used by the trains, said Sharman.

“They don’t have kits of our buildings so I had the blueprints for the station and the mill homes, so I was able to take those measurements and make them into HO scale, I didn’t have a blueprint for [the hotel] so I measured how big a window was in a picture and then used that as a reference point,” explained Sharman.

Masha Scheele Photo

The walls around the miniature town are painted with a mural of Roche Miette, done by a volunteer, and above the mountains a timeline is shown of Hinton’s history compared to the rest of the world.

Terra Verch, public relations director at the museum, was the main researcher for the history portion of the exhibit, while Sharman put most of her efforts into recreating the buildings.

“It’s a comparative look at the history of our region with the rest of the world, because it’s kind of hard to understand where we fit. Our history is relatively new in comparison to the rest of the world,” said Sharman about the timeline.

Sharman points at one spot on the timeline, “A seedling that starts growing at the Columbia Icefields around 1265 and it’s still growing. Because it can’t grow very fast, it’s so cold in the winters so it grow super slow.”

In another spot she points out the first people moving into the area, compared to the middle east where they’ve already domesticated sheep, indicating a major civilization.