Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Finishing the Job: Part 3 - Grain Elevators of the CN Rapid City Subdivision

This is part 3 of a series photographing grain elevators in Manitoba. (Back to the start, part 2)

After visiting a few grain elevators on the CP Bredenbury subdivision, I switched over to some older elevators on the former CN Rapid City subdivision. The three I will be writing about are Beulah, Isabella and McConnell.


The grain elevator in Beulah, Manitoba
This elevator is located right off highway 83 and is on the opposite side of the actual town/village of Beulah. It looks abandoned but it may be in use for private grain storage.

The office building is semi-detached and still has a Cargill sign on it, but the other side of the building shows how close this elevator has come to destruction.
Burn marks on the side of the Beulah elevator office
This isn't new, though... photos from 2014 show the same damage.

The elevator doesn't have an annex any more, but you can see the foundation where it was, and the piping that was underneath the annex to return the grain to the elevator.
In the trench
I recorded a little walk-around video. Sorry for the wind noise!

This elevator doesn't seem like it has a long or happy future ahead of it. Let's hope that I'm wrong about that.

An old relic
From here I backtracked to route 355 and headed east to the town of Isabella.


The two elevators in Isabella
Ah, Isabella. This town has two grain elevators, one of which is a former Western Canada Flour Mills elevator!

Western Canada Flour Mills Co.
You can see from the multiple layers of lettering that it was labelled for the Manitoba Pool as well, as elevator "A".

Western Canada Flour Mills had a heavy Manitoba presence in the early 1900s until the 1930s when many of its elevators were sold to the Manitoba Pool. Many of their elevators were located on Canadian Northern lines.
Lots of WCFM elevators in Manitoba in 1911-1912!
You can read more about WCFM and other flour mills on the Manitoba Historical Society site and in the History of Grain Elevators in Manitoba (PDF).

I'm not sure if the elevators in Isabella are used for grain storage, but there was quite a bit of farm equipment parked on the former railway right-of-way. There is a large farm nearby and the town definitely had some occupied houses, so there's still life in Isabella.

The elevators are somewhat joined in that they share a common driveway.
Two elevators, one driveway
 Like I said, it's not clear if they are still used for grain storage. You can see from the photo above that the power is disconnected so perhaps they are dormant.

It was time for another selfie.
Selfie at Isabella
After Isabella, I continued east on 355 until it met provincial highway 21. There I found a grass fire burning, right up to the road in places.
That's the shoulder of highway 21 at bottom of frame. It didn't look like the fire was controlled, but I saw people driving from the nearby house and an RCMP car drove by, so I figured people knew about it.

It was time to go off road and drive to...


The ghost town of McConnell doesn't have any paved roads nearby, so it was a long drive over gravel to get there.
Driving to McConnell
But it was worth it.

Grain truck and grain elevator
McConnell is definitely a ghost town. There are two elevators, partially integrated into a farm; there is a church that was converted into a home and now appears abandoned; there is an abandoned school; and there is a monument. That's it.
Monument to McConnell
In the above photo, the two elevators are visible ("B" on the left and "A" on the right) and so is the old church. The school is off the left side of the photo.

The monument reads: "Erected to commemorate the village of McConnell 1911-1979 and to those who lived and worked to make it the thriving community that it was. July 1983"

The Manitoba Pool "B" elevator is inside a pasture. There were some cows milling around but they paid no attention to me. I took my photos from outside the fence. Here you can see the "B" elevator, with a fairly large hole in the side, no driveway, and what I presume was the office located a fair distance away.
McConnell Pool "B" elevator
The "A" elevator is closer to the center of "town" and appears to have had some work done on it. The roll-up door on the driveway certainly isn't original!
McConnell Pool "A" elevator
It doesn't look like the "A" elevator is in use either. Here's a look along the former railway right-of-way, although it isn't very evident where the railway used to run.
The McConnell elevators
There's a nice view of the two elevators from a nearby road, complete with cattails.
Cattails and grain elevators
One more view of the two elevators before we continue on.
Rail-eye view of the McConnell grain elevators
That was the end of my elevator tour of the former CN Rapid City subdivision. I had already seen the other grain elevator that remains on that former subdivision, Mentmore.

From McConnell I doubled back to highway 21, then headed south through Hamiota toward Oakner, my next target.

The town of Hamiota has no grain elevators any more, but it does have this Elephant-brand fertilizer elevator.
The Elephant brand lives!
These elevators were built by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada, initially a subsidiary of CP. It later became known as Cominco. Eric Gagnon did a great write-up on Elephant elevators. I've seen a few around.

Coming up... in the next post, we return to an active rail line, the mighty CN Rivers subdivision, for Oakner and beyond. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Finishing the Job: Part 2 - CP's Turn

This is part 2 of a series photographing grain elevators in Manitoba. (Back to the start / ahead to part 3)


After I finished photographing the grain elevators of the former CN Rossburn subdivision, I carried on to Binscarth, mile 76.6 on the CP Bredenbury subdivision.

The town of Binscarth was the junction of the Bredenbury and CP Russell subdivisions. There is still a remnant of the Russell subdivision, a wye and a few miles of track. This was (maybe is still?) known as the Agricore spur and leads to this Viterra grain elevator north of town.
Viterra grain elevator, Binscarth
This elevator was an Agricore elevator, built to replace the Manitoba Pool elevator that was in town.

Mile 1.05, Agricore spur, Binscarth
There were several maintenance-of-way (MOW) cars on the wye.
Gons on the wye
There is a much larger grain elevator southeast of town, the Paterson inland terminal.
Paterson inland terminal, Binscarth, MB
This baby can hold 21,600 tonnes of grain. There were quite a few grain cars nearby, including this interesting Union Equity car, reporting mark GROX 60652.
I grok the GROX
There is one more grain handling facility in Binscarth, Marquette grain.

There were also quite a few maintenance of way vehicles on side tracks in and around Binscarth. I guess track work is being done on the Bredenbury!

Read more on Binscarth's grain elevators.

That was fun, but there were many more elevators to see. On to another spot on the Bredenbury subdivision...


Marooned car in Solsgirth
The town of Solsgirth looks like a classic Prairie ghost town. It has all the elements: decaying grain elevator, abandoned houses, empty churches, no school... but there is still a bit of a pulse left to this town.

For one thing, Canada Post still delivers here (postal code: R0J 2B0). Another thing: it still has active railway tracks - mile 51.2 on the CP Bredenbury.

When I visited, there was a string of empty flatcars in the siding. They are obviously to carry the maintenance vehicles I saw in Binscarth, based on the rails mounted on the flatcars and the ramps seen at the end of the train.
Flatcars in Solsgirth
The grain elevator is an ex Cargill elevator, the former Manitoba Pool "A" elevator. I don't think it is being used any more but I could be wrong.
You misspelled "GRILL"
There are a few of this "modern" style of Manitoba Pool grain elevators around. Niverville comes to mind right away. The rectangular style with the machinery perched on top may have been modern and efficient, but to my eye it is not attractive at all.

You may have noticed the marooned hopper (SOO 125084) in the first photograph of Solsgirth that I posted. This hopper is up on blocks, for reasons unknown, and its trucks are nowhere to be found. I have no idea what if anything it is being used for.
SOO marooooooned
More on Solsgirth and its history.

Solsgirth is only 15 miles away from where I was last on the Bredenbury sub, at Shoal Lake.

After photographing the two churches in Solsgirth (more later), I moved on to Birtle, mile 59.2.


A busy little elevator
The Birtle grain elevator was a little hard to find! The town of Birtle is located in a valley formed by the Birdtail River. I followed highway 83 into town, expecting to find the elevator in the midst of town like most prairie towns. However, the elevator (and rail line) is not located there, but is north of the town above the valley. After a few minutes I found the elevator, at mile 59.2. There are a few CP maintenance-of-way buildings there.

CP MOW buildings at Birtle
The elevator is obviously in use.

In downtown Birtle I saw this little elevator in front of the Hewson's store, a nice callback to the Angusville grain elevator.

That was Birtle. Now I left the CP Bredenbury and went on to abandoned rail lines, at Beulah. Ahead to part 3!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Finishing the Job: Part 1 - Grain Elevators of the CN Rossburn Subdivision

On April 30th I set out on my last marathon Manitoba grain elevator trip. I had about two dozen elevators left to photograph, and this trip would get all but one of them. I did my planning and on the evening of April 29th, I was ready to go. My camera was charged, I had a zillion podcasts on my phone, and my wife thought I was crazy. She might be right.

My alarm went off at 3:00 AM and I jumped out of bed. OK, maybe I just rolled out of bed. After a quick shower and breakfast of toast and milk, I was off.

First up on the podcast list was A Modelers Life. With one "L" (inside joke).
Yes, that's 3:22 AM
I hit the road, headed west to Portage la Prairie then up highway 16 through Gladstone.


As I approached Happy Rock Gladstone, I decided to take a few minutes to photograph the new Parrish and Heimbecker grain elevator on the CN Gladstone sub just off the highway.

I took a side road and set up my tripod for a long exposure shot. 30 seconds did the trick!
A concrete dream
That was my first new grain elevator.. not planned, but I'll take it!

After grabbing some breakfast at McDonald's a Scottish restaurant in Neepawa, I carried on through downtown Minnedosa, then headed north on highway 262 to Clanwilliam, the first on my list.


When I arrived at 6:19 AM, the sun was above the horizon but not quite above the trees yet.
The grain elevator in Clanwilliam, Manitoba
The elevator sits alone on Railway Avenue (of course) and is no longer in use. I understand it was last used 6 or 7 years ago. The CN Rossburn subdivision used to run between a point near Neepawa and Russell, but all that was abandoned back in 1996.

This elevator has two discharge pipes on the railway side. Any guesses why there are two?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

There are two because the longer one was for loading grain into the (side) door of grain boxcars and the shorter one was for loading into the tops of grain hoppers. Simple, right?

The elevator is not in great shape, but certainly better than some I've seen.

So that was Clanwilliam.

On to Sandy Lake!

Sandy Lake

The Sandy Lake grain elevator
The grain elevator in Sandy Lake dominates the skyline, as elevators often do. It helps that it is up on a ridge, above the cottages and houses that dot the shores of the lake.

Compare this elevator to Clanwilliam's and you'll notice a few things:

  • This annex still has a peaked roof, unlike Clanwilliam's which has machinery/piping on the top;
  • Sandy Lake's roofs have been replaced
  • The cladding has been patched here

It turns out that Sandy Lake's elevator is privately owned by Lewandowski Farms.

Lots of interesting piping here!

Just for fun, I recorded a short walk-around video.

By this time I was running behind schedule... the elevators were just too interesting, I guess! I resolved to try to pick the pace up.

Of course, as I approached Oakburn, I had to stop and take a few photos... even though it wasn't new to me. But first I noticed this:
Milepost 65 of the CN Rossburn subdivision
A milepost! Oakburn's siding was mile 65.6. There was another milepost still existing on the other side of Oakburn too.


I was here in late 2014 so I didn't linger very long. The annex doesn't look like it is leaning any more.

More on the Oakburn grain elevator...

I drove past Vista - which used to have a few grain elevators - and on to Rossburn, namesake of the subdivision that used to go through here.


The Rossburn grain elevator is located in the heart of the town. It looked to me like it is still being used. I was impressed by how bold the lettering is on the elevator... no wear at all. I wonder if they were reapplied recently.

Elevator selfie
I had to take a selfie here. I was taking one or two photos of each elevator with my iPhone, just in case I had problems with the SD card in my camera. I'm paranoid that way.

At this point it was 8:40 AM and I had been up for close to 6 hours. Go caffeine go!

I was taking pictures of the Ukrainian churches that I found, like I did last summer. I'll publish them in a separate post later.

After photographing Rossburn, it was on to Birdtail. I punched the GPS coordinates into my phone's map application, as I had been doing, and went on my way.


No elevator :(
The elevator wasn't there.

I hadn't been 100% sure that there was still an elevator at Birdtail. There was no Street View available and the satellite view of the area was old. Still, a little disappointing.

The Birdtail grain elevator was a wooden structure with no annex. It was labelled for Tanasychuk Farm according to old photos of the elevator.

There was no sign of it, so I carried on. At least I caught up on some time!


The grain elevator in Angusville is interesting. There is a garage attached to the elevator, where the annex used to be.

I spoke with the owners - who moved here from Scotland a few years ago - and they don't know much about the elevator itself. It's not used and in fact the garage is blocking the driveway doors on the elevator.

The office appears to still be intact. There is a pile of timbers out back that might be from the demolished annex.

After visiting these towns, I have a couple of tips for you if you choose to go elevator fanning:
  • Leave the town by a different route than you came in, if possible - you might see something else interesting on the way; and
  • Always look back - you might get a cool view.
This was my look back for Angusville:

On to Silverton and its very interesting elevator(s).


Old house and grain elevator, Silverton
I had to stop and include this old house in the shot. It looks like someone was stripping the house down to its bones.

The Silverton grain elevator is obviously a former UGG elevator. It wears its heritage proudly on the side of the annex and elevator.
Ex UGG grain elevator, Silverton
Note the "B" on the elevator indicating that there was an "A" elevator. My guess is that the Manitoba Pool elevator that used to be in Silverton was the A elevator and this became the B during the six Agricore United years when the UGG merged with Agricore (itself a merger of the Alberta Wheat Pool and Manitoba Pool Elevator). I could be wrong.

I really like the checkerboard look on the cupola of the elevator - very unique in Manitoba.

The elevator looks well maintained, with a new roof. Hopefully it is still serving after so many years!

As it happens, there are two grain elevators in Silverton.

The second is on a nearby farm. I spotted it as I was driving out of town. I took a few shots of the elevator from a public road but didn't get any closer, as it is clearly on private property.
Private elevator, Silverton
I wonder what the history of that elevator is...

Anyway, on to the former terminus of the CN Rossburn subdivision, Russell.


The grain elevator in Russell, Manitoba
I arrived in Russell to find the ex Manitoba Pool grain elevator to be in fine shape. It is privately owned and apparently still in use for grain storage.

Things are looking up!
The Trans-Canada Trail runs along the former CN line here. Russell used to be a division point on the CNR, with a roundhouse, station and so forth. The CN Rossburn subdivision ended here in a yard, and the CN Tonkin subdivision continued on into Saskatchewan.

Clayton Chaloner contributed his photo of a brace of GMD1s lifting the last loads from the Pool elevator in Russell.
CN 1604 in Russell, photo by Clayton Chaloner
The CP had a presence on the west side of Russell with the CP Russell subdivision running from Binscarth to Inglis. At one time the majority of the grain elevators were on the CP line but there are none there now.
Russell CPR station and grain elevators, early 1900s
Russell is near the large Bunge plant in Harrowby, MB (on the CP Bredenbury subdivision) as well as potash mines in Saskatchewan, so it is a "happening" place.

Speaking of the Bredenbury sub, that's where I went next... to Binscarth. Read on!