It all started with a Matchbox Lipton Tea Panel Truck given to John Buikema by his wife 35 years ago.
Fast-forward to 2014 and that toy truck remains in Buikema’s possession. It takes up a small piece of shelf space on the staircase between the first and second floors of the museum he runs. The truck is one of 5,000 toys he has on display at Canada’s Farm Toy Museum.
“I draw customers from all over the world,” he said.
And a quick look at Buikema’s guestbook confirms that. Signatures of people visiting form Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, places throughout the United States, towns and cities from Buikema’s home country of the Netherlands, accompany names of people from all over Canada.
Last year the museum, located on Buikema’s Beamsville farm, is turning 20. Featuring toys that date as far back as 1883, the museum has something from just about every person’s childhood. Tractors and farm implements in all the major scales – 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64 – litter the walls of the museum.
There are also pedal tractors, back issues of the Toy Farmer magazine, model horse and buggy toys that are more than 100 years old, and homemade wooden toys Buikema made himself.
The toys feature all the major brands: Cockshutt, Oliver, Massey Harris, John Deere and more. Many of the toys are from the major farm toy producer Ertl, though Buikema also has lesser-known manufacturers.
Buikema said the museum is a great trip back in time for adults.
“Many are looking for a toy they had on the farm 30-40 years ago,” he said.
Remember playing with a toy Case Comfort King, or perhaps driving the real thing? Buikema has a model toy to show you. Along with the toys, Buikema has also built replicas of a farm and another of the entire country, which he says are big draws. The farm features a model barn he built, with all sorts of farm activity going on around it.
But the diorama of Canada is one of his proudest achievements. Built into the addition he constructed in 1997, Buikema replicates Canada, from Peggys Cover to the Rocky Mountains. Toy tractors and combines litter Alberta and the Prairies, while toy cars are stuck in gridlock in the GTA. A giant CN Tower sticks up in the middle.
“I didn’t have room for 16 lanes,” he jokes about the two lanes that make up the highways in Toronto.
“I really enjoyed making it.”
Buikema has received accolades for his work. He’s received first place ribbons for his custom made toys at the Rockton World Fair and locally at the Caledonia Fair. He was also featured on the front cover of Toy Farmer Magazine, which goes to 35,000 subscribers throughout the world.
The museum is open by chance or appointment. It’s located at 5128 Philp Rd. in Beamsville. For more information call 905-563-5727.
Here are just a few of the wonderful Canadian museums for those interested in artisanry and the history of how things are made:
Albert Gilles Museum | Boutique, workshop and museum of copper art
Canadian Clock Museum | Heritage of Canada's many clock manufacturers and sellers from the early 19th century to the present.
Marine Museum Of The Great lakes | Exhibits include shipbuilding, boat building, shipping, life of a sailor, marine art, natural history and ecology of the Great Lakes.
Hammond Museum Of Radio | Radios designed and manufactured in Canada, early radio and wireless artifacts, receivers and transmitters.
Mackenzie Printery & Newspaper Museum | Reconstructed home of rebel publisher William Lyon Mackenzie, displays of 500 years of printing technology.
Highlands Cinemas and Movie Museum | Small 5 screen movie theater and museum about movies, motion picture projectors and associated paraphernalia.
Lambton Heritage Museum | Local history, pressed glass, agriculture equipment, antique vehicles and engines, late 19th century pioneer home, school, blacksmith shop