History of the Grain Elevators in Granum and Stavely – circa 1981-84

History of the Grain Elevators in Granum and Stavely – circa 1981-84

The town of Granum, south of Calgary at the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 519 is located on the edge of the prairies and the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Granum was once the home of at least 8 elevators.  I photographed the row of five in 1981.  These little pairie towns were tied together by the railway and by their distinct giant grain elevators.

Granum 1981


The town of Stavely is 68 miles south of Calgary on Highway 2.  The Canadian Pacific railway ran through both Granum and Stavely.  Here is a great shot from 1981 that I took before the elevators started to be destroyed.

Stavely 1981 copyright Judy Dahll collage

When the tracks were removed the grain elevators started to disappear.  One by one.  There is only one elevator remaining  in Stavely.  It is owned by Husted Farms.

The Great Fire

In 1982 one of the Alberta Wheat Pool elevators in Granum caught on fire and burned to the ground.

Granum 1982

Granum 1982 Taco Hansma jp blogGranum elevator fire 1982 TacoMeanwhile in Stavely a new, bigger, more modern Wheat Pool elevator had been built in 1982.  The smaller Alberta Wheat Pool was no longer used so it was loaded on to a trailer and moved to Granum in 1983 to replace the one that was destroyed by fire the year before.Stavely elevator moving to Granum 1983 Stavely moving to Granum 1983 for story


The trip from Stavely to Granum is approximately 20 miles.  The movers chose to take this elevator and annex on the road on the west side of Claresholm.  The move was put on hold when the transmission went out of the truck.  Eventually they maneuvered another tractor in to take over the rest of the move .  It was successfully set down in Granum.Stavely Elevator

I spent a lot of time just north of Granum during the 80’s photographing horses from Hans Hansma’s herd of Registered American Quarter horses.  Some of the finest horses in the countryI was at Hansmas on August 27th, 1984 the day Granum’s replacement elevator caught on fire reducing it to a pile of grain on the ground.  This fire also destroyed the hotel and a grocery store.  I shot a few photos from the road northeast of town of this fire.  My friend Taco Hansma took all the photos you see here of the fire in 1982.  His photos of the fire are much better than mine.  Alberta Wheat Pool burning Granum 1984


  • When snow and ice put an end to the navigation season, Buffalo’s grain elevators were usually full to capacity. Therefore, lake boats making their last run to Buffalo in the fall kept their grain on board until elevator space became available. Known as the “winter fleet,” these boats made Buffalo Harbor a busy place even in the winter and spring as they were shuttled around for unloading.

  • Sue Goodwin says

    Love the history of the elevators and I’m glad you got so many pictures.

  • link says

    The end of transshipment and the closing of the animal feed industry meant much more than just the decline of the grain trade in Buffalo. it also meant a serious loss of jobs. At one time thousands of men and women were employed one way or another with the grain industry. Now their jobs were gone.

  • Micheal Bryan says

    Where are the other photos? I remember the fire in 84. I remember sitting in the park, watching it all happen.

  • Jim Pearson says

    I had a career building grain elevators which first drew me to this site.
    Thanks so much to Judy for preserving not only many great photos of our prairie Icon but also some of the stories.
    I am very proud to have had a hand in the construction of many but also a great sadness to see my life’s work disappearing from the landscape.
    That said, this site is so much more than elevators.
    The way photos were captured working with cattle was also a trip down memory lane.
    Landscapes, blazing sunsets, animals, old buildings it is all here.
    Every structure photo and especially those of a tumble down buildings turns my thoughts to the stories and some maybe the broken dreams they represent.

  • Thank you very much for your interest in this site Jim. I had a lot of fun going down the road looking for everything old. Getting into my files now is just like Christmas. I thought I would remember everywhere I was and names of owners of the sites I photographed, other than the elevators. Well, it is a good thing we are not supposed to use names and locations now because some of that knowledge has disappeared.

  • Anonymous says

    I totally remember both of the fires. I was in grade 9 when the first one went up. I clearly remember seeing the smoke rising from the building as we were travelling from Granum to Claresholm that day for either volley all or basketball. It was a Wednesday. We were all freaking out as we were watching the smoke rise out the back window of the bus. If I recall correctly – it was a motor in the top of the elevator that caught fire. Smoldered for weeks – and the smell….. Finally it was all cleaned up only to have another elevator put on the same spot – which eventually burnt down; not because of any fault of the elevator, but because of bad luck. There was a fire that broke out at the Granum hotel, then tranfered to “Reg’s Place” (for those kids who hung out there – you know where I’m referring to) or the Granum restaurant. Because the wind was so strong that day , the embers flew across the street and hit the newly placed elevator in its path. Karma sucks. This was basically the beginning of the demise of the grain elevator on the prairies. These photos brought back a lot of memories. Thanks Judy. Best wishes. Lorne Nelson.

  • Judy Dahl says

    Thank you Lorne. Your personal account of living through the fire events is awesome. I was taking horse photos two miles north of Granum, AB at Hansma’s when the first elevator fire broke out. I was done working when we noticed it, I drove a little closer to town to take some photos. I never went very close though as I did not want to get in the way of any the emergency vehicles. Using my 200mm lens, I did get a couple of decent shots.

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