Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guardians of the Grain

When I first came west in 1968, I travelled by train from Halifax, NS to Edmonton, AB. Once Ontario was behind me, the prairies spread out endlessly for mile after flat mile. It quickly became apparent that by watching out the window I could easily tell what towns and settlements the train was passing through. It seemed that each little whistle stop along the Canadian National train line boasted at least one 90 ft. tall grain elevator. I had seen pictures of them in history books and knew they existed, but not in such abundance. Over the years I've come to appreciate them for the "Signposts of the Prairie" that they are. They're also called Prairie Giants and Prairie Castles, and, at capacity, hold 25,000 bushels of grain.

Magrath, Alberta

This type of wooden grain elevators were built in the early 1900s in every town along the railroad right-of-ways and quickly became the commercial and social centres of the west.

Raymond, Alberta

They are gradually being phased out in favor of the larger more efficient concrete grain elevators. From a total of 1651 in the canadian west in 1951, there were only 156 left in 2005. 12 have been designated as provincial historic resources. It's sad to see these beautiful old historic buildings torn down, but that's the way of progress. At least some are being saved.

Mossleigh, AB

These three elevators at Mossleigh can be seen for what seems like miles away. They start out as three identifiable specks on the horizon which grow larger as you approach them. They they disappear as you go around a couple of bends and suddenly there they are - right beside the road.

Carsland, Alberta

This is one of the new design grain elevators...huge, concrete structures. Not as many are needed because of their greater capacity so they no longer mark all the towns as you travel through the prairie highways. They have their own esthetic beauty though.
In reading an article about grain elevators last night I was surprised to learn that I didn't have to come west to see one. There is one independently owned grain elevator in Nova Scotia in the small town of Tatamagouche - not far from where I used to live. Huh!
As much as I like and appreciate these symbols of western Canada, my heart still belongs to the lighthouses of my Maritime roots. But I'm adaptable.


Emtron said...

did I take that photo of the magrath one? or did we both manage to take identical shots of it?

Jane said...

What beautiful photos! I would love to see the rural side of Canada.


Pat MacKenzie said...

Em, that's a picture you took of Magrath. Don't know why I have it.

Wendy said...

I love grain elevators too. I guess even Maritimers can appreciate them. I'll have to see if I can get a picture of Mum standing beside the miniature grain elevator in the garden of her PCH. But I'm sorry - I do not see the esthetic beauty of the new concrete monstrosities.

Kath said...

I too enjoy seeing the grain elevators along the country side. There are alot of them along our path in SD, NE, and WY to the hayfield out there.

They have a sadness/loneliness to them I always think.

I am always going to stop and take pics along the way but yet we never do.

JQ said...

The pic doesn't do the concrete one justice. I know what you mean, Mum. They can look more like part of the space program than part of the ag program.

Anonymous said...

Check out Tatamagouche Grain Elevator on facebook