Nov 282014
 
Grain elevators Neidpath

Neidpath is a tiny ghost town on the vast Saskatchewan prairies and is home to a pair of fine looking grain elevators that are the subject of this report. Abandoned for decades, these old structures have seen better days, but it’s that very thing, that they are so run down and weather beaten that makes them so attractive. It’s beauty in decay. Every since we saw our first photo of the two years ago, we’ve been itching to see them for ourselves and in May of this year we got our wish.

I dare say these could be the most photogenic elevators we’ve ever seen. Even those somber gray skies seen during our visit could not detract from their beauty. This visual appeal no doubt explains why they are photographed often. Search Google for yourself and see.

We won’t touch on the town itself in this report and instead will write about it later. It’s interesting enough to merit its own article.

Neidpath was incorporated as a village in the early 1920s (with the coming of the railway) although people had lived in the area, a small number of them anyway, before that time. It never was a terribly large place population wise. By 2014, it was home to one. While documenting our subject, we ran into this person, the very last resident in town, who was retiring and preparing to move to the big city a few weeks hence. As of the writing this article, the population has shrunk to zero. Will the last person to leave Neidpath please turn out the lights! We’ll speak of this fellow, Marshall, in that upcoming article.

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Both the elevators seen were built in 1924 and closed in the early 1980s (some sources say ’81, others ’82). When built the most easterly structure belonged to Pioneer Grain and never changed hands during its history – I mention this as it was extremely common for these buildings to be bought and sold over the years or acquired via mergers and that this one remained under the same ownership for close to sixty years could be considered almost odd.

Pioneer Grain is a long time, but only moderate sized player, in the Canadian grain industry. They still exist today under the name Richardson Pioneer. The elevator is painted, well parts of it are, in that company’s orange colours. If it’s orange it’s a Pioneer.

The second elevator was built for the Saskatchewan Cooperative Elevator Company, a farmer owned collective. That firm, only a couple years later, morphed into the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, sill farmer owned, which would go on to become the largest grain handling firm not just the province, but all of Canada. They were merged out of existence less then a decade ago.

At some point, the SWP sold the elevator to Pioneer Grain. No one I spoke with was able say when that happened. It’s still being researched and if any of our readers know, we’d love to hear from you. It’s still in the old SWP mineral red colours. Pioneer added their logo when it was acquired by them but otherwise did not repaint the building.

Both elevators once had annexes (ancillary buildings used to increase a facility’s capacity). I understand these were added in the 1950s. They’re all gone now but when that happened is unknown, although some concrete foundations remain.

Both elevators also retain their offices, although one is close to falling down. These also housed the drive engines (both gone), which had to be kept isolated from the main building account of them being a fire hazard. Grain dust + spark = BIG BOOM! The buildings are connected via a walkway, which also (underneath) contained the machinery drive system. Also of interest are some secondary “out” buildings. These sheds were used for fuel and oil storage (again isolating things was a fire deterrent) and the biffy.

The west most elevator is missing the roof and walls over the driveway where the wagons and trucks would unload. In the orange elevator the belted lifting buckets were scattered about. Even though the buildings have not held grain for many decades, you can still smell it.

At the peak there were four grain elevators in Neidpath. Not much is known of them, like when they were built or even town down. It’s believed one belonged to Federal Grain and the other Pioneer (formerly Western Grain, nee Beaver Elevator). Some people I spoke with mention one of these, believed to be the Pioneer, burned down in the 1950s and was never replaced. By the way, it was not unusual for a firm to have more then one elevator in any one town, via mergers or acquisitions, or as a way to increase capacity.

As of 2014 there are just over four hundred traditional wood grain elevators in Saskatchewan, down from several thousand at the peak. A number of them, like these ones, are outright abandoned and as such are threatened. Who knows what will happen? Shoot’em while you can.

The old rail line here once belonged to the CNR, it’s Gravelbourg Subdivision, and was built in the period 1912-1924. It was started by predecessor company Canadian Northern and traveled from Avonlea south of Moose Jaw, eventually finding its way to Swift Current. Neidpath was reached around 1922 (some sources say 1920) and for a time was the end of track. This section, from Swift Current though Neidpath to nearby Hodgeville was abandoned in the early 1980s. Interestingly, this author has found records showing the CNR wished to rid itself of the line as early as the 1960s (it was never that busy, so never that profitable) but government red tape prevented this from being approved for close to twenty years!

This (branch line was built during the great railway boom of 1900-1930. Every town, no matter how small, it seems, had a railway line built to it with little regard as to its sustainability. In fact, they often built the track in hopes that towns would spring up around it. Government regulations (recall that red tape mentioned earlier) meant that abandoning a line was a long, drawn out and near impossible task to complete and from the 1950s to the early 1990s, few were torn up because of that, even though many were money losers. That this one was allowed to be closed during that period tells just how bad business was (it was also lightly built which further complicated things). New rules after the mid-1990s made the process easier and as a result the period 1995-2005 saw the wholesale abandonment of most lines.

The section from Hodgeville to Avonlea, where it connected with another line coming in from Moose Jaw, is still in place but has not seen a train for years. It was last under CPR ownership, who acquired it from the CNR in the mid-1980s.

An old locomotive turning wye (a triangle shaped arrangement of tracks) can still be seen to the south of the elevators. Recall, the railway once terminated here and this sort of facility was necessary as steam engines, unlike diesels, are directional.

To see more of the the town, go here…
Neidpath Saskatchewan.

Recommended posts…
A day with the Battle River Railway.
Prairie Sentinels – Eastend Saskatchewan.
Bay Island one room school.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: May, 2014.
Location: Neidpath, SK.

Neidpath SK elevators

Neidpath’s two elevators from the townsite.

Neidpath Saskatchewan elevators

Both these structures date from the 1920s.

Neidpath grain elevators

And were last used in the early 1980s.

Neidpath SK grain elevator

The orange paint tells us the structure once belonged to Pioneer Grain.

Neidpath Saskatchewan grain elevator

Grey skies make for a somber mood.

Elevator Neidpath SK

Standing on the locomotive turning wye.

Elevator Neidpath Saskatchewan

This elevator also once belonged to Pioneer Grain (earlier the Pool).

Pioneer elevator Neidpath

The faded sign can still be seen.

Grain elevators Neidpath

The train tracks in front are long gone.

Grain elevator Neidpath

Those foundations once supported an annex.

Neidpath Prairie Sentinel

The office has seen better days.

Grain elevator Neidpath SK

Neidpath today is a ghost town (we’ll post a report soon).

Derelict grain elevator

The roof over the driveway is missing.

Derelict grain elevator Neidpath

The wagon/truck unloading area.

Pioneeer grain elevator

A real weathered old beauty.

Grain elevator office

The drive engine would have been located here.

Grain elevator biffy

The fuel shed and biffy.

Two elevators Neidpath

At one time there were two other elevators in Neidpath.

Grain elevator buckets

The lifting buckets lie on the floor.

Grain elevator photo

Looking out…

Grain elevator's office

The view to the office.

B&W grain elevators

The rail car loading spot.

Inside old elevator

The smell of old wood, and musty grain filled the air.

Neidpath Prairie Sentinels

These are some of the most photographed elevators in Saskatchewan.

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24 Comments on "Prairie Sentinels – Neidpath Saskatchewan"

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Steve Boyko
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Spectacular! I’m going to have to visit these next time I’m in SK.

m d z
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m d z

The hills in the background give it an interesting feel, considering how flat some of the other locations come across as.

donhunny
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donhunny

I just spent almost five hours checking out all the pics and stories on your site. I applaud you for working so hard to document these fascinating subjects. These elevators are amazing!

Dwayne_o
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Dwayne_o

This gives me the super strong urge to poke around in old places like this. Things like this are so intriguing!

Gomez_D
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Gomez_D

Those pictures are so beautiful and haunting. Thanks!

RD Drake
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RD Drake

I recall riding in the family car on so many trips through Saskatchewan many decades ago and there were SO many of these….

Harry Gold
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Harry Gold

Great shots! Do you have them in higher res? I’d like some for wallpaper.

Jason Sailer
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Jason Sailer

Was great to see last spring! Although we had blue skies when we visited… They are old solider’s that is for sure!

Richard Cockerill
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Richard Cockerill

Shared to Ghost Town Hunters.

Matt Fisher
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Matt Fisher

C&C, you got a great website. Lots of material here, well researched and written.

Daryl Mitchell
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Daryl Mitchell

Fantastic photos and information. I have a particular connection to Neidpath – my great-grandfather, John Mitchell, was one of the town’s first settlers, and its first postmaster. He also named the town, after Neidpath Castle. The castle is just outside of his birthplace of Peebles, Scotland.

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