Fort Steele – Apprenticeship Program

One of the great things about spending 4 days / 3 nights at Fort Steele as a grade 7 student at the Calgary Science School is the opportunity to immerse yourself in some of the prevalent jobs / trades of the 1890s. K thought this was the best thing about going to Fort Steele and had a great time trying his hand at being a tinsmith, a blacksmith, a leather worker, a homemaker, a railway worker, a surveyor, a gold panner and a cook. I hope these photos provide a sense of his experience…

Tinsmith shop
Tinsmith shop
Tinsmith tools
Tinsmith tools and a few strands of handmade tinsel
Tinsmiths at work
Mr. McBain instructs K on the fine points of working with tin
K tries his hand at making a hand-forged nail in the blacksmith’s shop
Harness shop
The master leather maker at Fort Steele made harnesses, saddles and more
Tools in the leather worker's shop
A vast array of punches, awls and other tools hung on the wall in the harness and leather shop
Leather worker-in-training
K punches some designs onto a leather bookmark while his home room teacher, Mr. C, works on a custom pouch for his trusty Swiss Army knife
Preparing fruit
K prepares an apple to be dried in the wood stove, a simple pioneer technique for preserving some foods for later consumption
Feeding the chickens
The apple peels and cores don’t go to waste and K enjoyed feeding the parings to the Barred Plymouth Rock chickens
Cook for a night
K and classmate A measured, mixed, baked and served the bannock that accompanied the beef stew for supper one evening
Dishwisher duties
Although the equipment and sanitation measures were thoroughly modern, the students got a taste of some old-fashioned work when they had to wash, dry and put away dishes from a meal for 65 people
Jacko the fur trader
K thoroughly enjoyed fur trader Jack-o’s tales of life as a fur trader in the 1890s
A short break
After helping to lay a section of railway track, K enjoyed a short break while waiting for his turn to pump the hand-car along the Fort Steele railway
End of a long day
At the end of a long day’s work, the students enjoyed a sing-a-long around a candle “campfire” in one of the NWMP sleeping barracks – some well-deserved relaxation after their apprenticeship program

5 thoughts on “Fort Steele – Apprenticeship Program

  1. My name is Henry Hamilton (resident blacksmith). We always enjoy when the students learn and get to delve into a small part of a very rich history. The blacksmithing trade has always held a wonder to me and I am glad to share that with such bright and wanting children. It’s times like these that make me feel that the memories of our past won’t ever be lost, no matter how much technology advances.

    1. Glad you found my post. Our son had the chance to work with Paul Reimer for an hour or so this summer and we’re hoping to get him into another blacksmith shop for a couple of hours over the upcoming spring break. These kinds of experiences help counterbalance today’s almost overwhelming pre-occupation with all things digital. Thanks for playing a role in keeping things real.

  2. Pingback: Paul Reimer, Blacksmith-Artist | Out and About with the GeoKs

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