While travelling random back roads we always seem to stumble across something interesting – old farms, machinery, all kinds of left over and abandoned stuff – it’s amazing what we find. An example of a very cool and rather strange discovery, happened upon totally by accident (as is often the case), are the two dome roofed structures seen here. Keeping the two buildings company and adding even more appeal, is an ancient wooden boxcar at the same site.
It’s not clear the exact purpose these two structures serve. Are they a house and garage, or are they two storage buildings? Given their poor condition, we may never know for sure. Certainly one would be big enough to live in and the other has a door big enough and space enough to drive a car into. However, there is a large sliding barn-style door leaning against the bigger building which if it belonged to this structure suggests that it would have been used for utilitarian purposes. So two sheds, a dome-home and shed, a barn and shed, dome farm buildings, or what?
In that respect we’ll hold our opinion on what we think, until we know more. Our readers are invited to chime in on this as well.
One building is a perfect half sphere, the smaller one, and the other similarly built but with vertical walls topped by a dome – think of it as mushroom shape. The larger building also has what appears to be a rudimentary dug-out style basement which hints at it being used for residential purposes – although that’s still only a hunch, of which we have many.
The “garage” building seems fairly solid, it’s leaning a bit but nothing major. The other, the guessed at “home” as you can see is caving in on one side. A few more snow dumps and who knows, it may collapse completely. Peering inside one can see just how complicated the dome structure is and one would have to be an expert to build this incredibly challenging roof-truss system. Kudos to the carpenter who mastered this discipline. On the fallen side, is what appears to be a large entrance way, or perhaps a porch if it’s actually a home, but its too far collapsed to say for sure which.
No information has been found in respects to when these buildings we constructed, but we’ll keep digging. If I were to guess, the late 1960s or early 1970s would be a reasonable one. It seems at that time, radical architecture like this was becoming more acceptable and more so this author has found many dome roofed style homes and buildings looking similar to these ones that date from that era. Until we know more however, that’s only a guess – lots of guessing and assumptions in this report.
While there may indeed be some advantages when it comes to dome roofed construction. – strength, large open spans – I’d say the complexity of design and the additional costs to make it would be a huge disadvantage. A half sphere is a complex structure to build.
There is some junk in each building, as would be expected. Old car parts, equally old appliances and other bits and pieces. And of course bird poop, lots of that.
Also on the property is a very old all-wood railway boxcar. This veteran is easily a century old, actually more like a hundred and ten or twenty years old given the style of construction. It’s all wooden body and underframe means its from around the turn of the twentieth century. The car’s backbone, large wooden beams (probably oak), have cracked which has caused it to kink in the middle.
The windows I’d guess were added sometime after the car was retired, which would have likely been in the 1920s or thereabouts. Wood cars did not last long in service, perhaps no more than two decades or so at best. I looked high and low and could not find a car number or company logo, not surprising since any paint has long since faded away. Without that, we’ll never been able to track the car’s lineage. It seems likely though that it’s an ex-CPR boxcar given that their tracks are right beside the property here. How it got to its current location here and when can only be guessed at.
Inside the was the usual assortment of junk and of course, bird poop. One end of it shows signs of being burned. Some of the outer sheathing has broken away allowing us a good look at the truss system which normally helps give the car rigidity but seems to have failed here. The car has a broken back!
Just down the tracks is another box car, this one from a more modern era, being used as a storage shed for a nearby company. The door says “GE Railcar Services” who once ran a rail car repair facility in Calgary. In the 1990s, GE (yes he same GE that makes home appliances) used a small portion of the CPR yards downtown to do their work. This car must have been a shed for them as well.
The exact lineage of this boxcar is also not known, since a car number cold not be found on it. We do know however that it was likely built in the 1970s since its appearance matches other cars of that same era.
Seen in nearby playground is a miniature grain elevator, symbolic of the thousands and thousands of such full-sized structures that used to dot the prairies. We caught a glimpse of this mini-vator as we drove away and had to take a picture of it.
We visited this site at the magic hour, the time just before sunset when everything is a golden colour. This added such a wonderful glow to most of the pictures and even inspired me to take some arsty shots. I, as do most photographers, love that time of day which lasts for maybe an hour (hence its name). There is also a magic hour in the morning, and both rely on the weather cooperating of course.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: October, 2013.
Location: Rocky View County, AB.