These then and now posts are becoming a BIGDoer.com trademark. In this one, we look at the old Dominion Bridge complex in the Calgary neighbourhood of Ramsay. The first photo is from 1950s, or perhaps the early 1960s at the latest. There are many buildings in the factory but in these photos we see only one. It has a very visible Dominion Bridge sign in on its sides. A travelling crane can be seen in the factory yard, next to a gated entrance. Two cars are parked in front. Some men, perhaps Dominion Bridge workers, are gathered around one.
Let’s revisit the site to see what’s changed. Some elements have, the crane is gone and the entrance gate has been moved for example. Other things remain as they were. The building itself is one, it looks much as it did, although the main door had been made bigger at some point. And the sign, while faded, is still there. The people seen and the cars…well, I guess we can say with reasonable certainly that they’re all no longer with us.
This factory complex dates from 1927 and was expanded on may times over the years. The building seen here was one of the later additions, we know that much, although the exact date it was constructed is not known. The plant was originally built by the Riverside Iron Works, a long established Calgary firm, which moved here from an earlier factory elsewhere in town. The huge Dominion Bridge company, who had many plants across Canada, took over the operation in 1928.
Products built here over the years include machinery and fabrications related to the oil and gas and mining industries. Large steel assembly jobs were also taken on. Given the name of the plant, one would assume bridges were built here, but that’s not been confirmed. My understanding is those were built one of the other DB factories, and Calgary concentrated on other things.
The plant was closed in the 1980s and converted to an industrial park not long after. The building we see here currently houses a company called F&D Scene Changes. They make movie and theatre sets, display art pieces, parade floats and a whole array of interesting things. In the 1990s, as a truck driver, I used to haul wood into this company. I recall some of the sets being made at the time and just how convincing they were.
Other buildings in the factory today are being converted to trendy office space where as the ones in back, like the one seen here, are still industrial in nature.
The cars seen in front, both from Chevrolet, include a late 1940s/early 1950s model on the left and a 1957 example on the right. The latter is particularly popular with car collectors and would be quite desirable to own today.
I spoke with the owner of this picture and he was unsure if the people seen were perhaps friends of his father (who shot the image); or if he was simply photographing the factory building and they just happened to be in the picture.
Ramsay is one of Calgary’s more mature communities and is located just east of and across the Elbow River from downtown. It’s mostly residential in nature, with some industrial, and is home to many old and historic buildings, the Dominion Bridge complex being one.
This was our not our first attempt to do this series. In fact this one buffaloed us and it took three tries to get it to where we were satisfied. This is does not happen often and usually we get it right (or as right as it possible) the first pass.
The original image is courtesy James Tworow and comes from his family’s photo collection. Thank you James for allowing to use it. We had a ton of fun shooting the now version. This is not the first time we’ve used photos from him, by the way.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: June, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.