The B.C. Vintage Truck Museum expects to double its exhibition space by early fall after being awarded a $50,000 B.C.|Canada 150 grant on April 2.
The funds will be used to expand into an additional wing of their current building. The additional 6,662 sq. ft. will make it possible for the Surrey Heritage Society (SHS) to bring in more trucks and create more room in the existing gallery.
“We’re pretty crowded in this part here, so we want to move things around so we can have more space,” said Anna Dean, SHS secretary.
The addition will also make the museum more accessible and give people more “breathing room,” she said.
The space is leased from the City of Surrey, but renovations must be made before the museum can move their trucks in. The majority of the grant money will go towards installing garage doors and creating an opening in the inner wall to allow trucks to drive through.
Garage doors will be installed along this wall. The space is currently used as a storage space for the City of Surrey, but soon it will be incorporated into the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum. Sam Anderson
Construction is still in the beginning stages, and the dedicated group of SHS volunteers will take on as much of the work as possible in order to save costs.
Since the museum opened in 2012, members of the SHS have dedicated 25,000 hours to the operation of the building and the maintenance of the collection.
The museum takes part in up to 15 community events a year and has hosted more than 10,400 visitors from 11 different countries over the past five years, all thanks to the efforts of volunteers.
It’s a labour of love, according to Dean.
“We have trucks dating from 1914 to 1955 and they’re beautifully restored trucks. Each truck has a unique history, and played an important part in developing the province,” said Dean. “It’s not just a bunch of old trucks. They all have a story.”
Each of their trucks tells a tale that directly relates to the history of the province. The museum houses trucks that were used to transport troops and freight during the First and Second World Wars, carry dynamite during the construction of the Fraser Canyon highway and replace the horses and wagons that hauled hay from Sumas Prairie to dairy farms in Yarrow.
Soon they’ll have more room to tell those stories. At least for now.
1881 Town Hall
The B.C. Vintage Truck Museum building has had many uses over the years.
It was originally Surrey’s museum, constructed in 1958 as a Centennial project.
Surrey’s 1881 Town Hall was built into the space—or, rather, the space was built around it.
From outside the museum, the only hint of town hall is a roof peak sticking out of an otherwise flat-roofed building. Inside the museum, it’s easy to mistake the 136-year-old structure as just another exhibition room.
The 1881 Town Hall is so built-in to the structure that roof support beams run through it. And sometime within the next few years, the hall will be moving to another site.
The current Surrey Museum is a 10-minute walk down 176A Street. It’s currently undergoing site preparation ahead of breaking ground this summer on their $10.3-million expansion.
A “heritage square” has been worked into the expansion plan. The Anderson Cabin, which is currently on the museum site, will be joined by two more heritage buildings: the Anniedale School and the 1881 Town Hall.
To move the 1881 Town Hall, the section of the building that the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum is renovating will have to be demolished. The degree of demolition is unclear. As of yet, there are no specific plans in place detailing how the move will be accomplished.
“That’s down the road, we’re not going to worry about that today,” said Dean.
For now, the expansion project will open the 1881 Town Hall to visitors again. Over the past few years it has been rented out to community groups for meetings, but it hasn’t been open to the general public for 12 years.
Interior of the 1881 Town Hall, now used as a meeting space for local community groups. Sam Anderson
The hall has been fitted out for meetings, and a heritage display was installed on the walls.
“We’re doing our level best to be good custodians (of the hall),” said Chenn Berger, SHS president. “Five years ago when we moved in, we were told our time was limited. But we can’t say that we’re living on borrowed time. We can’t look at it that way.”
“Our goal here is to become larger and larger until Surrey recognizes that if they move us, they’ll have to provide us a similar facility,” he said.
Five years of caring for B.C.’s stories
The museum, which is open on Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., was busy when The Reporter visited. Volunteers toured visitors, tires were delivered and rolled through the front room and the clang of tools carried from the main gallery where maintenance was underway.
“We’re doing the brakes on the firetruck right now,” said Chenn. “There’s a dozen of these that we can drive at any given time, so we try to keep them running.”
The Surrey Heritage Society, a volunteer-run organization, has been the caretaker of the collection for five years. Sam Anderson
The collection has changed hands a few times since it was donated. The Teamsters ran it before handing it over to the SHS.
“Five years ago, they gave it to us,” said Berger. “They said if we fell apart within five years, it would revert back to them. Well on April 16, our five years are up and they belong to us totally.”
“We want to develop as much local history as possible,” said Berger. “Cloverdale, obviously, but Surrey and the Vancouver area as well. The more you can enhance the story on each truck, the better.”
If you’re looking to help tell those stories, the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum is always looking for an extra hand. Most of the volunteers put in around eight hours a week, but as Dean said, “We’d be happy with anything. Come here for two hours, that’s a help.”
For more information on the museum or volunteering, visit: http://www.bcvintagetruckmuseum.org/.