Rod Miller of Big Valley shows off one of his favourite pieces in his massive tool collection.

Big Valley Historical Society hopes to open museum for tools

The Big Valley Historical Society hopes to open a new museum to display an extensive collection of historical tools donated by a local resident. Rod Miller has amassed more than 10,000 tools in his 30 years of collecting.

The Big Valley Historical Society hopes to open a new museum to display an extensive collection of historical tools donated by a local resident.

Rod Miller has amassed more than 10,000 tools in his 30 years of collecting.

Dan Welter, fundraising chair for the historical society, said the world needs to see this collection.

“Rod has done an amazing job of putting this collection together, but now it needs to be showcased,” Welter said.

About 3,500 of the tools are displayed in a rail car. They range from animal clippers to sledgehammers to wrenches to a primitive nail gun.

There’s a grizzly trap, a doughnut roller, a hay cutter, and vacuum tube testers.

Almost anything you could ever want to do, Miller has a tool for it.

The rest of his collection resides in his shop, where there is box after box of spark plugs and jar after jar of old keys.

The oldest tool he has is from 1858, but Miller doesn’t know what it’s for. A lot of the tools are from the late 19th century up to the 1920s and ’30s.

A tool museum might draw more people to Big Valley, which is already a destination for the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions, a heritage railway that runs between Stettler and Big Valley, Welter said.

“We need to show this to the world,” Welter said.

Miller started collecting tools 30 years ago when he picked up two items at an auction without knowing what they were, then decided to find out. From there, the collection grew.

“I just kept buying and buying and collecting and collecting,” he said.

None of the pieces have been donated to him, and he didn’t keep track of how much he has spent on the collection.

“Just lots,” he said.

One piece is a large black knife, which he wields with relish.

“I think it’s a butchering tool, and they would split an animal in half.”

Now that the historical society has the collection, it’s raising funds to build a museum to house the entire thing.

The society hopes to put the tool museum on a lot it owns, next to the Big Valley Creation Science Museum.

The historical society hopes its June 7 fundraiser at the local arena will provide the last of the money needed to begin construction on the tool museum. Tickets are $100 and includes cocktails, dinner, dance, and live auction.

Items up for bid include signed hockey cards from the year Canada won the Summit Series against Russia and a guitar signed by Nickelback.

“It’s going to be a major event,” Welter said. “We’re hoping to attract 1,000 people for the dinner and dance.”

The society wants to open displays to the public in 2014-2015, and have the entire project done in three to four years.

“It’s world class,” Welter said. “You won’t find another collection this size in North America for sure.”

For tickets to the fundraiser, call Lois Miller at 403-741-5522 or email

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