There is not much left in the ghost town of Neidpath Saskatchewan, just a couple empty houses, some crumbling foundations, a tiny church, and off in the distance, two old grain elevators. As abandoned and forgotten places go, it’s not terribly big nor all that showy, but for reasons neither of us can fully explain, how it all fits together is something quite amazing and almost perfect.
We spent a good deal of time wandering about, we lost ourselves in Neidpath, yet I realize now, we took very few pictures. It’s not that the town isn’t photogenic, it truly is, but I guess we were caught up in the moment. When an experience is so wonderful – we soaked it up, every last drop – the cameras were simply forgotten. Our apologies, now we’ll have to return.
The town is located in the southwest quadrant of Saskatchewan, was founded in the early 1920s with the coming of the railway. Never growing that large, at its peak it was home to perhaps a hundred folks, give or take. By the 1930s is was already in decline and with each passing decade, fewer and fewer people lived there. Most businesses, save for the grain elevators, closed in the 1940s. Still, a few hardy souls held on for the next few decades.
Full ghost town status did not happen until 2014, right after our visit. As we walked about we bumped into the very last resident, Marshall, a gruff old fellow, who was then preparing to move to a retirement home in the city, in less then a month’s time. Not only was he born here, he lived here almost all his life here and was a wealth of information. He pointed out the former location of the school and other homes and businesses and told us many stories from the old days.
We asked him what he felt about leaving and in a typical Saskatchewan old-timer fashion, trust us he’s the epitome of the that image, he shrugged it off as though no big deal. That blew our minds – a major event in his life and he was nonchalant about the whole thing.
Today all that’s left in “downtown” Neidpath is a couple houses and that fine old church. The latter is a particularly nice building and overlooks the old rail line and the grain elevators a bit to the south (the town and tracks were separated by a few hundred metres, which I find somewhat odd). Any roads in town are now grassy cart paths.
As we explored we felt ourselves being sort of overwhelmed by the very experience. The silence, the boiling gray skies above, the absolute emptiness, the sadness of it all, it was like nothing else we’ve ever felt. It was spiritual, moving, invigorating, draining, fun, sad, and a whole gamut of other emotions all rolled in one, an odd feeling, which admittedly was strangely fascinating. This distraction kept us from shooting more images, which I now regret.
In behind the church we found a 1950s era Austin (UK) A40 Somerset. It’s a rare beast in Canada, mainly because they were not really designed for the tough conditions here and for one were horribly unreliable. I’d love to know the story of this car, but even Marshall didn’t seem to recall how it got there. Funny thing, we found another car of the same model and era, in the same colour, in another ghost town, the following day. Now that’s odd!
This rail line that passed by Neidpath was the Canadian National Railway’s former Gravelbourg branch, built in fits and starts during the period 1912-1924. Early work was done predecessor firm, Canadian Northern Railway. The line made it’s way west from a point south of Moose Jaw, eventually passing through Neidpath before terminating in Swift Current not far away. The section here was abandoned in the early 1980s – some sources say earlier, and some much earlier, but this author has seen a timetable from 1980 showing the line listed in service.
Other parts of the branch still exist today and now belong to the Canadian Pacific Railway, but have not been used for a few years.
The two grain elevators in town are documented in another report (scroll down for link). They date from the 1920s and were closed and abandoned some thirty five years ago, when the railway pulled out. Without a doubt they are some of the best prairie sentinels this author has ever chronicled.
Neidpath was one stop on our spring 2014 Saskatchewan grain elevator and ghost town tour. We spent close to a week exploring back roads in the southwest part of the province in search of history. We saw a lot of good stuff too, but Neidpath was surely one of the highlights of that adventure. It so captured our imagination.
To see the town’s grain elevators, go here…
Prairie Sentinels – Neidpath Saskatchewan.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2014.
Location: Neidpath, SK.
Article sources: Marshall, the last resident, CNR timetables and records, local history records.
Permission should be requested prior to visiting the places we’ve shown here.