The village of Hodgeville Saskatchewan has two grain elevators. One is a traditional style wood-cribbed “prairie sentinel” – you know the type, at BIGDoer.com we study them all the time – while the other is a more modern concrete structure. Both sit alongside a disused railway line. The rusty track is still in place but it’s been a few years now since a train last visited. There is talk of resurrecting the branch, but so far no progress has been made.
Located in the southwest corner of the province, the town of Hodgeville is located about 80km from Swift Current, the nearest large community. The village was founded in the early 1920s and today is home to some one hundred and forty people.
Let’s look at the wood elevator first, a large structure built in 1967. That year also happened to be Canada’s Centennial and in celebration of that event the cupola was adorned with a confederation logo, a stylized Canadian Maple Leaf with the years 1867-1967 displayed underneath (communities and businesses were encouraged to engage in such projects). The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (aka SWP) or simply the Pool, the company who owned the building, applied these to any elevators built that year. As of 2014 only a handful of these remain.
This structure was used by the Pool in the early 1990s. At that time, a replacement concrete elevator was built to the north. We’ll look at that one shorty. This building was not torn down, thankfully, and subsequently, in the early 2000s, it was was purchased by a local farmer. Presumably it is used by this person to store grain. I wonder if he ever loaded producer cars using the structure? Producer car: one loaded directly by a farmer or farmers, bypassing any commercial elevator companies, agents or brokers.
This elevator was built as a single composite. That’s one with a large capacity bin complex on one side only. A composite has a wide footprint. While traditional wood-cribbed elevators were still being built in the 1960s (and would be until the 1980s), this one differs from those constructed earlier. It’s of course larger and internally also incorporated more modern grain handling machinery, both of which helped with efficiency. Even so, visually anyway, it shares a lot in common with elevators built many decades before. It was not until the late 1980s/early 1990s before steel and concrete structures came on the scene.
This elevator was built for the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. That company, a farmer owned cooperative, dates from the mid-1920s. There were once two other SWP elevators in Hodgeville. Both were built in the early 1920s and were closed in the 1980s. One was a former Saskatchewan Cooperative Elevator Company facility (SCEC was folded into the SWP in the mid-1920s). The other once belonged to Federal Grain and was inherited by the SWP in the early 1970s when they took that company’s Saskatchewan operations.
The second elevator, an early version of the now fairly commonplace high throughput concrete inland terminal, was built in 1990 and replaced the 1967 structure. While its layout and appearance are similar to other concrete “vators” this one is rather modest in size for the style (it’s still huge though). It was lasted used a few years ago when the trains stopped running. After 2007 the company that owned it was called Viterra, a successor to the Pool.
Seen in front of this building is a winch system. This was used to move rail cars about the property. Older elevators used a gravity system to accomplish the same. The siding had a slight grade which allowed cars to roll out of the way once loaded.
Sitting in front of the two elevators is the remains of a rail line. The track is still in place but has not been used for a number of years. This line was the CPR’s Gravelbourg Subdivision (named after a town along the line) that travelled in from the east before ending here in Hodgeville. That railway has only owned the line since the mid-1980s. Prior to that, it was a CNR branch which was completed in the 1920s. It’s not exactly clear why the one company transferred the line to the other. Under CNR ownership, it once travelled beyond Hodgeville, almost making it to Swift Current.
A local group is trying purchase the line. We wish them luck. It’s hard to run a railway, even a short line, and even more so one whose only commodity is grain. Traditionally that doesn’t pay too well.
Besides all the elevators mentioned already, there were at least two others in town at one time. Their histories are a bit cloudy however. We know they were built in the the early 1920s, when the tracks came through, and belonged to such companies as Alberta Pacific and Federal Grain but beyond that their disposition is not known. Of course, we’ll always keep researching and will update this post should we find out more.
We take some time to walk around the elevators, taking it all in. We line up the shots so interesting buildings and such are also included in the pictures. There were a lot of closed businesses it town and some of these became foreground subjects in our shots. Like many small prairie towns, (sadly) there are many empty commercial buildings. Ones that made into our pictures include an old garage and a farm equipment parts dealer.
Wandering around further, we find an old RV in an empty lot and line it up with the wood elevator. If you follow this blog you’ll see we often find funky old motor homes while out exploring. We love and often report on them and discovering this one was a pleasant surprise. This odd looking creation appears to be homemade. If so, what an ambitions project!
At the peak there were several thousand grain elevators in the province. Now there are around five hundred. Many are traditional wooden prairie sentinels, either saved or not torn down for one reason or another, along with a some modern concrete or steel facilities located far apart at strategic locations.
The whole day we shot, the skies above us were gloomy and grey. And it was cold. A long weekend in May had us exploring this section of Saskatchewan in search of grain elevators and abandoned things and most days we had these ugly skies. Oh well.
Our next stop this day was a chunk of land just outside Hodgeville. It seems, at one time, the tiny community had their own airport. Rather odd I’d say. I am really eager to research this operation but a cursory looks tells us it may not be an easy task. It seems it was rather obscure. With that in mind it may be some time before we post a report.
To see other Saskatchewan grain elevators we’ve explored, follow these links…
Prairie Sentinels – Admiral Saskatchewan.
Prairie Sentinels – Cadillac Saskatchewan.
Prairie Sentinels – Prelate Saskatchewan.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: May, 2014.
Location: Hodgeville, SK.