OUR PRAIRIE ELEVATORS

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OUR PRAIRIE ELEVATORS

A once familiar sight on the horizon on the prairies has now almost become extinct, the grain elevators.  There once stood six giants in a row in the town of Claresholm but by Dec 6, 2000, there was nothing left but the railroad tracks.  Most of the grain stored was shipped to market by rail.  The last train went through Claresholm February 25, 1999.  The newest elevator, the  United Grain Growers elevator at the south end of town was the last to go down December 6, 2000.  The demolition crew worked long and hard to accomplish their job.  I have seen some elevators give in and fall quickly.  Not this one; it was not going without a fight.  When it finally fell all that was left was a huge cloud of dust and a mountain of rubble.

 Watching the U.G.G. being demolished was difficult for me.  One of my first jobs when I got out of college was a secretarial position in their main office in downtown Calgary.                                                                                                      

This is not an unfamiliar story.  Most prairie town and cities have lost their elevators.  Fires account for some of the losses, but wrecking crews demolish most of these structures.

In the 1982 Granum, AB. lost one of their elevators to fire.  It was replaced by an elevator that was moved from Stavely, AB. as they were in the process preparing to tear theirs down.  That elevator  also burned to the ground.  The closeup photo of the Granum Alberta Wheat Pool  engulfed in fire was taken by Taco Hansma Several “Save the Elevators societies were Several “Save the Elevators” societies had formed across the province.  They consist of people volunteering and working together, raising money to purchase and preserve the disappearing structures.  The High River, AB. Historical Preservation Society reached their goal, only to see their elevator burn down May 26, 2003.  One very avid enthusiast spent a week residing atop this building in order to gain awareness and raise money for the causeThe town of Nanton, AB has so far been able to save two of their grain elevators.  Again, it is only through the generosity of many individuals donating their time and money that they still stand at this time.

My travels through Alberta as a professional equine photographer afforded me the opportunity to capture many different elevator rows in towns and villages throughout this province.  I treasure my images and hope that there will be some of these massive structures left on the horizon for future generations to enjoy.

All photos were taken by me – except the 1982 Granum fire. Photo credit for that photo is for Taco Hansma.

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