Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Finishing the Job: Part 5 - To Sunset and Beyond

This is part 5 of a series photographing grain elevators in Manitoba (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, summary).

Leaving Rivers, I headed toward the former CP Lenore subdivision. This subdivision was one of those prairie branch lines that didn't make a lot of sense, being parallel to the CP Carberry subdivision and the CP Miniota subdivision, never mind the nearby CN lines.
1926 CP Western Lines map
The Lenore sub was shortened in 1977 and was abandoned soon afterward. I wrote about the start of the Lenore sub at Forrest here.

I made my way to...


Bradwardine's bins
The grain elevator in Bradwardine is still in use, despite not having rail access for the past 25 years. I could hear machinery working and in fact there was a truck in the elevator's driveway. Numerous bins stand on the other side of the former railway right-of-way.

You can see from the photo above and the distance shot below that various parts of the elevator have been replaced with metal siding.
Bradwardine from a distance
I didn't linger too long, and I didn't want to approach too closely since it was clearly still in use. I moved on toward Lenore, the end of the former subdivision.


The elevator at Lenore looks a lot like the Bradwardine one, except that it has a horizontal annex rather than a vertical one. Lenore was Manitoba Pool #40.

I'm not sure if Lenore is still in use or not - this Flickr photo seems to indicate that it is - there is a fence around the "track" side of the elevator that is clearly meant to discourage people from wandering over there. My photos are from the road side.

You can see that the driveway has been rebuilt with modern siding but the rest of the elevator and annex appears to be original.

I was able to walk up to the original railway right-of-way and take the below photo without crossing any fences.
Lenore and the former Lenore subdivision
The town of Lenore is a little larger than most of these small Prairie towns, and it has this cool sign:
Gulf sign, Lenore
No gas station, though!

While shooting the elevator, I was distracted by a tree full of birds.

Now I really had to do some criss-crossing to get the remainder of the elevators.

First I had to drive down to near Virden to get the Harmsworth elevator. En route I passed right by the Virden-Hargrave elevator.


Virden Hargrave
This elevator was not actually new to me, as I had photographed it last summer during a trip to Saskatchewan. However, I was here, so... grab a photo and carry on.

Before you ask, I have only a faint idea why it says Virden Hargrave on the side. It's clearly an ex Manitoba Pool elevator, but it's not in Virden nor in Hargrave. I guess it's near both of those.

It's adjacent to the CP Rocanville subdivision but it has no rail service.

I carried on to...


The Harmsworth grain elevator
The grain elevator "in" Harmsworth is amongst the oldest remaining elevators in Manitoba. I'm pretty sure the Elva Lake of the Woods elevator is older but this one is not much newer.

Despite its appearance, this elevator is still in use. I met the owner of the elevator while I was photographing it, and he told me that there was some grain stored in it. He's quite concerned about vandalism and said that it has been vandalized twice recently. As a result, he keeps a close eye on the elevator. We had a good chat, but alas, I had to carry on before the sun set.

This elevator is also adjacent to the CP Rocanville subdivision but obviously has no rail service.

From Harmsworth it was another long drive up to the CN Rivers subdivision again, this time at Quadra.


The Quadra grain elevator
The elevator at Quadra is privately owned and apparently still in use. It is a former Viterra concrete elevator with a capacity of 5,450 tonnes.

There are two tracks off the CN Rivers subdivision. The elevator was (is?) listed in CN's Producer Car Loader Station List with 7 car spots.

There is a lovely bend in the track between Quadra and nearby Arrow River that a few people have photographed trains at. I hung around for a bit but there was no sign of any train nor any green signals to be seen.

Here's Bill Hooper's photo at Quadra from 2003 that includes the older Manitoba Pool elevator. I think the current elevator is behind the wooden one.
QuadraMB 8-2-03 ScannedSlide

I went over to Arrow River and looked down the track there, too. Nothing but some sagging but picturesque telegraph wire.

On to Cromer in the falling dark!

I had to hop on the Trans-Canada Highway again for a few minutes, then headed down route 256. On the way I took a few sunset photos. You can tell I was getting into oil country!


Cromer at last light
Cromer was the last elevator on my list. I knew from the start that I would get to Cromer after the sun set, so I was prepared to set up the tripod and take some long exposure photos. I like the results so much that I am sorely tempted to revisit some elevators after dark!

Blue Hour at Cromer
Cromer is smack dab in oil / fracking territory, and in fact I drove through a large terminal operated by Tundra. This large terminal is capable of handling 60,000 barrels per day and is serviced by CN via the CN Cromer subdivision (surprise!) The new rail facility is several kilometres east of the elevator and has two loading tracks and a couple of storage tracks, as far as I can see from Google Maps. Cando has the contract to switch this facility and has two locomotives there.

After Cromer, there was nothing left to do but head home. I'll wrap it up in the next post. Thanks for reading along!

Read on!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Finishing the Job: Part 4 - The Rivers Subdivision

This is part 4 of a series photographing grain elevators in Manitoba. (Back to the startpart 2, part 3, part 5)

After the two elevators of McConnell, I was abruptly returned to the present with the modern grain elevator at Oakner.


Three tracks serve the Oakner elevator
The Oakner elevator is near mile 159 of the CN Rivers subdivision. This Cargill facility has a capacity of over 14,000 tonnes and has three tracks for loading grain. Unlike other Cargill elevators in Manitoba (Morris, Nesbitt/Page, Elm Creek, and Elva), Oakner doesn't have its own locomotive for switching.

Apparently Oakner and other Cargill facilities recently had PLC upgrades. A PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) is a kind of industrial computer that is used to monitor and control machinery. This is in the line of work that I do so I was interested to find this blurb from Delco Automation.

Beyond grain storage, the Oakner facility has a number of other outbuildings including fertilizer storage.
The extended Cargill facility in Oakner, MB
Sadly no trains came along.

There is not much of the town of Oakner remaining, just a few nearby buildings. I carried on.

Since the Rivers subdivision doesn't have a road running alongside it in the western part of the province, jumping from elevator to elevator meant driving L patterns across the landscape.
No direct routes..
All right, fine. Off I went to Norman.


Selfie at Norman
This elevator stands alone in the middle of nowhere, essentially. There is nothing around the elevator at all.

This is a former UGG grain elevator now operated by Canada Malting Ltd. It looks like a close relative of another Canada Malting elevator in Mariapolis. At least Norman has rail service from CN.

This is one of the newest wooden grain elevators in Manitoba. It was built in 1983 and started operating in 1984.

I parked nearby and took a few photos. As I was walking around, I heard a distant train horn. Finally - a train!

I set up the tripod with my iPhone on it, and stood by to snap pictures. It turned out to be a westbound CN intermodal train led by CN 8961 and 2230.
My Civic was photobombing
I was happy to stay a few minutes and shoot this train as it rolled past.

I think there was someone working on this Saturday as there was a pickup truck at the elevator and I could hear some machinery working.

This elevator has a capacity of 5,500 tonnes and has a single track with 23 car spots for loading and storage. Canada Malting's site has a page on it.
The siding at Norman
Note the Oakner grain elevator is just visible on the horizon at right.

After Norman, it was time for the namesake of the CN subdivision.


The town of Rivers is a fairly busy place, with a population of a little over a thousand people. CN is front and centre with the namesake CN Rivers subdivision running through the town, and CN has a bunkhouse next to the former station.

In the photo below you can see the grain elevator with the train station visible at far right.

The town of Rivers, Manitoba
There are a pair of wooden grain elevators in town, labelled as Cargill and sharing a common driveway. It does not appear that Cargill still operates this elevator as it is not in Cargill's list of facilities.

It appears that one was built in 1951 by National Grain and one was built in 1957 by UGG.

I spotted a lonely CN 8918 sitting near the west end of the town. I'm not sure why it was there but it was nicely placed for a roster photo.

I checked out the train station in Rivers. It looks like it is owned by VIA but appearances are deceiving.
The train station in Rivers, Manitoba
Notice that the station is not in great shape. The Rivers Train Station Restoration Committee has not posted on their blog since June 2014; however, I see they have received a $50,000 grant to repair the roof this summer and will receive $25,000 from CN for a "loco-labyrinth" / RV park.

This is the actual VIA train station shack.
Luxury accommodations in Rivers! 
Basically it is unstaffed and the passengers are on their own. VIA's web site strongly recommends that you reserve at least 24 hours in advance, and you have to bring your own luggage to the baggage car. This kind of stop used to be called a "flag stop" but I'm pretty sure you can't flag the train down any more.

The CN bunkhouse is right beside the station.
CN bunkhouse, Rivers
There is a CN boxcar and caboose on display nearby, as part of a park. Maybe the loco-labyrinth will be near here?
CN 73664 and CN 79528 in Rivers, Manitoba
I thought about getting take-out at the local Chinese food restaurant but decided that would take too long, so I bought a sub at a convenience store. While I was there, an intermodal train rolled through town but I saw the tail end of it.

A CN engineer recognized me when I poked my head into the restaurant and messaged me on Facebook, so I went back to say hello and finally meet him in person. Hi Christopher!

I would be back on the Rivers subdivision one more time this day when I visited Quadra. The other grain elevators in Manitoba on or beside the CN Rivers subdivision are at Elie, Bloom, Gregg, Harte, Justice and Knox and I had visited all of those before.

That was it for Rivers... it was time to leave active tracks again and head for nearby Bradwardine and beyond.

Read on!

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, part 4, part 5)

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.

In the next post, we return to an active rail line, the mighty CN Rivers subdivision, for Oakner and beyond. Read on!