Thursday, October 12, 2017

Passing a Half Century (Part 2) - No Trains

And I don't understand why I sleep all day
And I start to complain that there's no train
-- No Rain (more or less), Blind Melon

The first day of my 50th birthday trip (first post) was spent traveling from Winnipeg to Calgary and then driving to southern Alberta. It was very busy!

Warning: NO TRAINS.

No plan survives contact with the enemy

"Kein Operationsplan reicht mit einiger Sicherheit über das erste Zusammentreffen mit der feindlichen Hauptmacht hinaus." - Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Our plans for my birthday trip went awry even before we left.

Our first night was going to be spent at the majestic Prince of Wales hotel in Waterton, Alberta.

Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton National Park 2009

This hotel is a landmark for the area. It was built in the late 1920s by the Great Northern Railway as the last in a chain of luxury hotels. Today it's a national historic site. It closes for the winter and we had booked one night - September 19th - on its last week of operation for the season. My wife had been there before but I had never been.

It has been a dry summer all across western Canada and there were numerous wildfires popping up in Alberta and British Columbia. These made for spectacular sunsets - even in Manitoba - but they made for worrisome and sometimes dangerous conditions for residents and firefighters.

Unfortunately, the Kenow wildfire spread like... well, wildfire... and crossed into Alberta and into Waterton Park itself. We received a call and email from the hotel on September 7th, and when I called them back, they told me the hotel was closing and the town of Waterton was evacuating. They offered to book us in another hotel in Montana - no thanks - so they gave us a full refund.

Totally understandable, but... shoot. Disappointing.

We hurriedly booked a room at the Ramada in nearby Pincher Creek, Alberta and that was that.


We took AC 8333 from YWG/Winnipeg to YYC/Calgary early in the morning (thank you to my father-in-law for driving us to the airport). We landed pretty much on time just after 8 AM and retrieved our luggage and headed to the car rental section.

I had some free days with Enterprise so I had booked a mid-size car there.

They wanted to upgrade me to an SUV but I hate driving those, so they gave us a "luxury" car instead, a Chrysler 300. That is a sweet car but it made me feel a little old! Great range, though - over 900 km on a (large) tank of gas.

I wanted to stop at the Trains-And-Such model train store, but they didn't open until 10. We drove to the area then had breakfast at a nearby Tim Horton's until just before 10, then went to the store.
Trains & Such, Calgary
I love that place! I ended up buying a dozen employee timetables to add to my collection.

With that done, we headed south toward Pincher Creek, in search of grain elevators.

De Winton

The next stop was the small town of De Winton, not far south of Calgary. The town has two small grain elevators, on private land. Oddly I had never been here, despite its proximity to Calgary.

De Winton grain elevators
These two elevators are fairly old. The Diamond Fertilizers elevator dates from around 1906 and is one of the oldest in Alberta. The other is from the 1920s. More details can be found in the excellent BIGDoer article on these elevators, which came out just a few days after I visited the site. Coincidence? ;)

The other side of the DeWinton elevators
I photographed them from public roads on both sides of the elevators. While driving away from the last shot, I saw this.
A bucolic scene in De Winton
I don't know who arranged these, but... thanks!

Note the Calgary skyline in the distance... De Winton is not that far out of town.

Next stop...


The Azure grain elevator
This elevator is a little south of High River, and is barely visible from highway 2.

The Azure grain elevator is part of a farm complex and was on the CP Macleod subdivision. This is a former Alberta Pacific grain elevator, still in its original location. More on the BIGDoer site, again!

We drove around to the "sun side" and I broke out the long lens to get a shot of the elevator with the mountains behind it.
Haybales, a grain elevator and mountains.. not the usual combination
I included the hay bales because I was thinking of BW Bandy and his blog. Go read it! He posts a lot of interesting things - not just hay bales.

After Azure, we got back on the highway, and drove into Nanton. The town of Nanton has a couple of grain elevators that form the Canadian Grain Elevator Discovery Centre. I've photographed these elevators a couple of times and on this trip I completely ignored them. My focus was instead on...

The Bomber Command Museum of Canada

PP-616 on display in Nanton Alberta
It's an odd place for an airplane museum, but Nanton hosts the Bomber Command Museum of Canada. This museum hosts a number of planes and a pretty extensive array of interpretive displays. The star of the museum is their Lancaster bomber, FM-159.
Lancaster FM-159 in Nanton, Alberta
I had seen the outside of the museum before but it was never open when I passed through Nanton.. or I didn't have time to stop. Time to correct that.

We spent about an hour touring the museum. The interpretive displays are quite nicely done and explain the history of bomber planes with the Canadian military, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the history of Lancasters and their use in raids like the "Dambusters".

Nanton itself doesn't have any air force history that I know of, but towns around it like Vulcan and Dewinton certainly did.

Have a look at their web site - lots of interesting detail there, even if it looks like it was written in the late 1990s - and give them a visit when you're in town!

On to...

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

My wife expressed an interest in visiting Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. I think she was intrigued by the name, but since it wasn't that far off the highway, off we went.

The site is quite well done and explains how some First Nations people would herd bison off cliffs, then harvest the carcasses. I had not heard of this practice before so it was very educational for me.

It was interesting but a little expensive at $15 per adult.

These bison in a nearby field were a nice bonus.
Don't jump!
We returned to the highway and kept going south. I had one more grain elevator to see.


Raley grain elevator
We drove down highway 2 almost to Cardston, then took highway 5 northeast until we approached Raley. The grain elevator is pretty well hidden. You could easily miss it from the nearby road. Fortunately I knew where it was from prior map scouting so I spotted it as we approached.

Raley has the oldest grain elevator in Alberta, built in 1905.

There are a few houses in the vicinity but nothing very close to the elevator. It looks like it is still on the roadbed of the former CP Woolford subdivision.

Former Alberta Pacific grain elevator in Raley
I'm not sure if this elevator is still in use or not. The annex looks like it was recently patched up and some Internet searching shows the nearby Hutterite colony uses the annex for fertilizer storage.

It's a beautiful old elevator. More information is available on Wikipedia and of course on I should be getting a commission from Chris and Connie for all the linking I'm doing in this post! ;)

After paying my respects to this elevator, it was time to head to Pincher Creek for the night... or was it?

Pincher Creek

We returned to Cardston, where I bought a Pepsi Max, then went somewhat cross-country to Pincher Creek. We could have taken highway 2 back up to Fort Macleod then highway 3 to Pincher Creek, but we had just been on highway 2 and wanted to go a different route. So we took highway 2 north to route 505 and headed more or less west from there.

Eventually it teed off into highway 6, where we would have gone south into Waterton Park if that wasn't actively on fire at the time. So, north it was. We saw and smelled the smoke around that area.

We arrived in Pincher Creek and checked into the Ramada hotel. The sun was still up and I wanted to take advantage of that, so we went up to Pincher Station - just north of highway 3 - to see if there were any trains around.

The title of the post tells you there were no trains. I did take the time to photograph this fragment of a grain elevator annex that Jason Paul Sailer told me about.
A bit of an annex
There are two elevators of sorts in Pincher Station.

One is a former Elephant fertilizer elevator, now with an Agrium sign on it. These distinctive elevators once dotted the prairies, and several still exist. Eric Gagnon has a great post on these elevators.

The other elevator in Pincher Station is in Alberta Pool turquoise and still has the Pool logo on the non-track side. It has a big sign proclaiming Sinnott Farm Services on the track / highway side.

Now that I look back on the photos I took of these elevators in May 2016, the Elephant elevator also has a Sinnott Farm Services sign.

Sinnott Farm Services elevator in Pincher Station, Alberta
The light was getting low, but I wanted to have a quick look at the nearby Lundbreck Falls.

Lundbreck Falls

You wouldn't think there would be waterfalls outside of the mountains in Alberta, but... you'd be wrong!

Mind you, they aren't very tall - 12 metres / 39 feet - but they are pretty and worth a quick trip off the highway.

This is the Crowsnest River.

We took a few photos from various angles and vowed to return in the morning on our way west into the Crowsnest Pass. Still no trains. :(

Coming Up

On our second day of my 50th birthday trip, we headed into the Crowsnest Pass and visited Blairmore and Fernie before touring the railway museum in Cranbrook... and two more grain elevators! Another busy day coming up.

READ NEXTBack to the first post

PS you can read this series as an eBook, with extra photos and content!


Patrice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrice said...

Happy belated birthday Steve!

Very nice post. For your information, the displayed aircraft (PP 616) is a former RCAF CT-133 Silver Star. This was a Canadian variant of the USAF T-33 Shooting Star. These were mostly used as jet trainers.


Canadian Train Geek said...

Thanks, Pat! We used to call those "T-birds" when I was living near CFB Shearwater in the early 1980s.

Eric said...

Whaddya mean 'no trains'??? Oh, OK. It was a cool post regardless. And you did visit a hobby store, where there were definitely trains :) DeWinton is Area 51 in Alberta to me - when those interesting pieces of rolling stock were stored there; now gone.

Thanks for the link re: the Elephant elevators. That one still looks good!

At the CFB Trenton airshow, they would bring (at one time four) T-birds down from the utility squadron at CFB North Bay.

Nice photography including the unexpected waterfalls.


Eric said...

Oh, two more things:

The Head Smashed-In apparently refers to the shape of the rock near the edge of the cliff, not the eventual state of the buffalo heads.

Also, liking the silhouette blog header photo!
That's all for now.

Chris BIGDoer Doering said...

Thanks for the multiple shout outs! We do get around. It's been confirmed, the DeWinton Elevators have sold, but no word yet on what the owners plan on doing with them. Fingers crossed it's nothing bad.

Karl A. said...

Happy Birthday! Congrats on the big milestone! And thank you for the great photos.

Canadian Train Geek said...

hi Eric, I didn't see any rolling stock nor any aliens in DeWinton... not saying they weren't there, though...

The display said that Head-Smashed-In referred to a curious fellow who wanted to see the buffalo up close, from below... and that's what happened to his head when all the buffalo fell on him.

I'm glad you like the silhouette photo! I don't change the header nearly as much as you do, so it will be there for a while.

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Chris, yes, hope the elevators remain after the sale!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Thank you, Karl! Love the great modeling you're displaying on your blog.