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Visit & Hike Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site: A Great Regina Day Trip

Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Website, located just an hour’s drive from Saskatchewan’s capital city, Regina, is a day trip filled with things to do. History lovers and museum goers will discover a brick making plant little changed from when it opened in 1914. Indeed, moving into the plant is a visit back in time as there are nonetheless pallets of bricks wrapped for delivery! And for hikers and wildlife fanatics on the lookout for an genuine Saskatchewan experience, there are 250 acres of land untouched because the glaciers receded some 10 centuries in the past.

Whereas it’s a challenge, volunteers work arduous to keep the historic website open to visitors.

Table of Contents

Mountaineering Massold Clay Canyon
Exploring the Clay Pits
Significance of Clay in Saskatchewan
Historical past of Brick Making at Claybank Brick National Historic Website Museum
Contained in the Claybank Brick Plant
Claybank Brick Plant Heritage Day Annual Occasion
Experience the Lil’ Jigger railway on the Claybank Historic Spur line
Bunk Home Cafe & Present Store
Plan Your Visit to the Claybank Brick Plant
References

Mountaineering Massold Clay Canyon

Hikers within the canyons on the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic website.

The Massold Clay Canyon has the identical plant and wildlife because it did at the finish of the Wisconsin Glacial Age. By no means broke up and used for grain crops, this panorama is exceptional. Chances are you’ll catch the scent of wild sage, taste a tiny wild strawberry you’ve picked out of the grass, or toss a cloud of dust-like spores from a puffball into the air together with your shoe as you hike the Claybank Brick Plant trail by way of the canyon.

Wagon ride taking people to the canyons and pits at the Claybank Brick National Historic site.

Wagon experience taking individuals to the canyons and pits on the Claybank Brick National Historic website.

The three.1 Claybank Brick Plant path is a loop that leaves from the historic website following a wagon path up into the hills, which have been as soon as mined for their clay. With an elevation achieve of 77 meters — until you determine to climb even larger — the trail is rated as average in problem by AllTrails.com.

I found the hike fascinating, though I need to admit I took the straightforward “road,” since I loved a wagon journey to the highest in the course of the annual heritage day occasion. The wild prairie grass, which covers all the things however the mud pits themselves, hides wild flowers that have all however disappeared from the prairies. In case you’re not careful, you can find tiny spears of spear grass in your stockings or thorns from a prickly pear cactus. And in the event you hold your eyes and ears open, you’ll hear numerous songbirds and see wild animals akin to foxes and deer.

Exploring the Clay Pits on the Claybank Brick National Historic Website

Old equipment used to mine the clay at the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic site.

Previous gear used to mine the clay on the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic website.

As you walk alongside the trail out to the clay pits, you’ll find numerous pieces of previous gear used within the early clay mining operations. Years ago, extracting clay was a tedious process. Staff dug the clay using plows and scrapers. Then, they loaded it into wagons that horses pulled back to the plant.

The clay at Claybank is a part of Saskatchewan’s Whitemud formation. Shaped through the cretaceous interval, Claybank’s clay has particular properties that make it suited to heat and strain bearing functions. Referred to as high-refractory clay, the mud from Claybank’s pits was used to make hearth brick, insulating brick, and even hearth bins for steam engines.

Linda Aksomitis hiking in the Claybank Mud Pits

Linda Aksomitis mountaineering in the Claybank Mud Pits

In the pits, you’ll see numerous layers — or striations — of mud uncovered by the mining course of. Little grows in clay soils, since roots can’t penetrate it. So, you’ll solely see plant progress where there’s some dust or soil masking it.

On a rainy day, you’ll really know you’re strolling on clay, not dust! It is going to keep on with your footwear and really feel slippery beneath your ft. As you discover the clay within the pits, you’ll additionally see how simply the formation is eroded by heavy rain, as you’ll see giant grooves and cracks on the aspect hills.

Significance of Clay in Saskatchewan

Bricks of different colors are produced by the different types of clay.

Bricks of various colors are produced by the several types of clay.

Early settlers shortly discovered Saskatchewan’s clay assets, notably within the Southern parts. Why? Nicely, with out the forested areas widespread to Saskathewan’s central and northern areas, clay was an essential building materials.

The truth is, Saskatchewan has quite a few several types of clay. They embrace: bentonite, brick and ceramic clays and kaolinite. When you’ve ever questioned if you take a look at historic brick buildings round North America why they’re not the same shade in all places, it’s due to the clay. Bricks from bentonite clays vary from white by means of cream, reddish brown and blue, turning yellow upon exposure to air.

As you may guess, China clay, or kaolin from the Kaolinite mineral, produces opaque white colored bricks. It does, nevertheless, vary so much in composition and properties, so brick colour might differ depending the place the clay originated. Saskatchewan’s kaolin reserves have been estimated round 2 million tons!

In Saskatchewan, clay falls underneath mining laws. So, by provincial regulation, when clay deposits are mined out in the present day, the land have to be reclaimed. Meaning the floor have to be returned to its unique, or better condition, to make it suitable for plant and animal habitats.

History of Brick Making at Claybank Brick National Historic Website

Display of different bricks produced by the Claybank Brick Plant.

Show of various bricks produced by the Claybank Brick Plant.

Tom McWilliams, a homesteader, applied to the Federal authorities for a allow to mine clay from the world in 1886. Nevertheless, before trains, clay was hauled by horse and wagon from the Claybank area to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. And that was around 50 km!

Things changed shortly with the arrival of the Canadian Northern Railroad in the space in 1910. In 1912, a new company, Saskatchewan Clay Merchandise, which consisted of Moose Jaw business men, bought McWilliams’ property as a way to produce bricks where the clay was located. Plant development was accomplished in 1914, however with the conflict and economic circumstances, Saskatchewan Clay Merchandise didn’t really get rolling.

So, the company reorganized and commenced again beneath the new identify, Dominion Hearth Brick and Pottery Company, in 1916. They targeted on the distinctive high-refractory clay properties at Claybank. Phrase of their brick’s quality spread, so when the Chateau Frontenac was inbuilt Quebec Metropolis, the central tower was faced with Claybank brick. However occasions change. Reorganization of the brick market and modifications in know-how resulted in the choice by the house owners on the time, A.P. Green Refractories Ltd., to close in 1989.

Contained in the Claybank Brick Plant Museum

Storage area for finished bricks at Claybank Brick Plant.

Storage area for completed bricks at Claybank Brick Plant.

The Claybank Brick Plant offered a terrific instance of effectivity. The truth is, Parks Canada famous in giving the historic designation to the Claybank Brick plant, that “it’s representative of the way in which functional requirements and efficiency were primary drivers in the design and construction of industrial facilities.”

Masking 37 hectares, the plant buildings date from 1912 to 1937. The brick production process moved via this collection of hooked up buildings from shaping to delivery and storage areas.

Exterior of a kiln at Claybank Brick Plant.

Exterior of a kiln at Claybank Brick Plant.

I found the buildings with the 10 kilns a number of the most fascinating areas, and will only imagine how scorching they might have been as the bricks have been being baked. The drying tunnels have been also intriguing. Long carts with bricks laid out on them stretched back into blackness additional than we might even see.

For guests fascinated about improvements, the world where repairs and improvements have been made, would probably be a favorite. David definitely spent some time checking by means of the displays.

Claybank Brick Plant Heritage Day Annual Event

Volunteer demonstrating the sliding box form used to shape bricks from the clay.

Volunteer demonstrating the sliding box type used to form bricks from the clay.

The Claybank Brick Plant is open by way of the summer time season (June till the top of August) for self-guided tours, plus some every day guided tours. Nevertheless, every year, they hold a Heritage Day. There, you possibly can see former staff and educated volunteers operating all of the gear and telling you about brick making because it occurred within the last century.

Watching the gear run brought an entire new dimension to desirous about brick making. Somewhat than the silence sometimes found in museums — or locations like this long-since abandoned plant — sounds crammed the areas. Certainly, thunks and thuds and the hum of motors permeated the buildings.

Demonstrator using a machine at Claybank Brick plant.

Demonstrator utilizing a machine at Claybank Brick plant.

As we moved from building to constructing, we frequently found full demonstrations of a course of. In others, with a single machine, the demonstrator defined the basics, then answered all types of questions from what it was wish to work on the plant to the intricacies of the machine’s operation.

Journey the Lil’ Jigger railway on the Historic Spur line

Lil' Jigger railway on the Historic Spur line

Lil’ Jigger railway on the Historic Spur line

You can even experience on the Lil’ Jigger railway automobiles for those who go to the historic website on Heritage Day. Once used to transport staff forwards and backwards to the nearby city of Claybank, the little practice provides visitors another sample of what life was like many years in the past.

As you may anticipate, Lil’ Jigger strikes pretty slowly alongside the historic spur line into city. Your experience although, only takes you out far enough for a full view of the farmland that’s in between the brick plant and town today.

The brick plant, working as it did with out many know-how improvements, required lots of labor. Whereas some men lived on website within the bunkhouse, others got here from close by farms and cities. Lil’ Jigger helped convey them.

Bunk Home Cafe & Present Shop on the Museum

Saskatoon pie at the Bunk House Cafe & Gift Shop

Saskatoon pie on the Bunk Home Cafe & Present Store

The Bunk Home seems very similar to a faculty from the early 1900s. Product of brick — in fact! — it offered a place for staff to stay on website. There’s nonetheless a sense that working males referred to as this place residence as you stroll via the spacious, high-ceilinged rooms. Now, nevertheless, guests, not staff, can pull up a chair and get a meal.

What are you able to eat on the Bunk House Cafe? The native cooks delight themselves on their saskatoon pie, so it’s all the time in season. Additionally they serve every day, home-cooked specials. Do make certain to sample the bread, baked in the unique outside brick bread oven!

As properly, remember to take a look at the present shop and its choice of Saskatchewan-made souvenirs and crafts. You by no means know what you’ll find. Maintaining the historic website open is difficult for fundraisers and each dollar you spend whenever you go to helps!

Plan Your Visit to the Claybank Brick Plant

Visit the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Website website for full particulars concerning the website’s history, open hours, and admission – https://claybankbrick.ca/

Verify the date for the annual Heritage Day and different special occasions at – https://claybankbrick.ca/special-events/

Google Map for a Day Trip from Regina to Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Website

References

Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Website. (n.d.) Parks Canada: Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=822 [Webpage provides all of the details used to determine the site’s status as a National Historic site.]

MacKenzie, J. (2003). Saskatchewan’s clay assets. Saskatchewan: Western Improvement Museum. Retrieved from https://wdm.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/WDM-Saskatchewans-Clay-Resources-by-Janet-MacKenzie.pdf