Grain elevators are more often associated with the vast expanses of Canadian prairie so seeing one deep in heart of British Columbia seems really odd. However here in the mountain flanked Creston Valley conditions are prefect for growing grain and this helps explain why a few of these “prairie sentinels” can be found in the area (two more exist in nearby Creston). This example stands in the small town of Wynndel BC.
Below you can see the elevator in the 1970s and again in 2012. In that time it has changed very little and is in surprisingly good condition. It was built in either 1935 or 1937 depending on what source you use, but I am not sure when it was last used. Perhaps 2001, since there is a calendar from that year on the office wall (I peeked through a window).
This elevator is marked for the United Grain Growers, at one time one of the big players in the Canadian grain industry. This company has long since merged with a rival forming yet another company – it’s complex and this marriage was initially called Agricore United, and later Viterra. The grain industry long complex trail of mergers and acquisitions and keeping track of who’s who was and is sometimes a challenge.
You might find it interesting that the locomotive pictured also survives. Number 4065 was made by the Canadian Locomotive Company in 1951 under license from the Fairbanks Morse company in the USA. After retirement in 1975, this historical unit was preserved in Ottawa Ontario at the Museum of Science and Technology. It was one of the first mainline diesels tuned out by the Kingston Ontario firm and spent much of its life roaming southern BC, along with other FM designed CLC produced units. These engines while a somewhat of a maintenance nightmare, where well known for their ability to pull hard and lug. This made them perfect for the heavy trains that travelled the roller coaster profile lines in this part of BC.
Even more amazing is the Milwaukee Road flat car further down the elevator siding. That railway ceased to be after the mid 1980s. How the car got here and why it never left is anyone’s guess. The siding it sits on has been severed from the mainline so I guess these two holdouts from another time will be keeping each other company for the foreseeable future.
I have heard that the elevator may be torn down soon but I am not sure if these are just rumours or not. In any case, I am super happy I had the chance to view it.
The elevator is located on CPR’s Nelson Subdivision that travels between its namesake town and Cranbrook BC. At least two daily trains travel the line. Much of the traffic here is paper related shipments from a big kraft mill in Castlegar or material headed to and from the huge smelter in Trail, which I believe it’s the largest such operation in the world. At one time, many more freights and even passenger trains used to ply the line and it was a much busier place.
Update: December 2012. I have heard from some experts and it’s likely the Milwaukee Road flat car seen here was being used by the CPR MOW (Maintenance of Way) department. Perhaps to ferry machinery and equipment along the line north of here that travels the west side of Kootenay Lake. There are no roads in that area and all work equipment must be brought in by train. The Milwaukee Road merged with the CPR owned Soo Line railroad in the mid 1980s. Later much of the Soo Line, CPR’s US based railway, was folded into the parent company but even so the Soo Line still maintains some of its unique identity. I’m getting off track here (get it Haha) so to summarize even if marked Milwaukee Road, it’s actually owned by the CPR. Make sense?
It’s assumed that the car was either left here and forgotten about after being unloaded (it’s up against a loading ramp) or that it was dropped here after developing a mechanical problem, and perhaps again forgotten about by the department that owns it. In either case it may sit for a while before someone figures it’s gone missing. Then they’ll have to get it out – not an easy or cheap task now that the siding has been severed.
Update: October 2013. As this update is being written, the Wynnndel elevator is in the process of being dismantled. A sad day, one of BC’s very few grain elevators will soon be gone. It looks the structure is being taken down board by board, instead of being simply demolished, meaning that the wood is to be recycled (it’s valuable) and made into other things. At least then the spirit of the elevator will live on. It’s not clear if the flat car seen in our post is still there or not.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: August 2012
Location: Wynndel, BC.