We’re in Saskatchewan seeking ghost towns and grain elevators and as much adventure as we can handle. Stopping in the tiny community (redundant statement – nearly all Saskatchewan towns, it seems, are such), we find a real treat, a stunning prairie sentinel, all nice and brown, surround by yellow flowers and under lovely blue skies. As photographers we could not be more happy. As history explorers, we’re always thankful to document another fine old building and it’s surroundings.
This elevator dates from 1957 and replaced an earlier 1910s era structure that used to stand on this exact spot. It’s a single composite style – simple terms: it’s wider than a typical wood grain elevator – the composite part is that integral wing on the building’s one side. A double composite would have one on each side – make sense?
Like all old elevators that did and still exist across Saskatchewan, and the other prairie province as well, those built between the early 1900s and sometime in the mid to late 1980s, this structure is wood-cribbed and is made of 2×6 boards laid flat and stacked. It’s simple and functional, and while perhaps outdated as the years progressed, it worked. Thousands and thousands of these grain elevators, all very similar in design, appearance, construction and function, were built over those years. The design was proven.
The beauty of an elevator belonged to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, or simply the “Pool”, a farmer owed collective, from the time it was built until around 2001, when it was sold. That firm, by the way, founded in the 1920s but with roots going back a decade or so earlier and once the biggest grain handling firm in all Canada, ceased to be after 2007 when it merged with a rival. The elevator retains its old mineral red paint and was never redone in the later Pool silver colours.
An old picture, maybe from the 1979s, uncovered while researching this article, shows the elevator with an attached annex (an addition which helped increase capacity). When that was built and torn down is not known. Interestingly in that same photo, Tessier’s old train station can be seen directly across the tracks. Now that’s interesting!
Once located nearby, but gone sometime in the 1990s was another grain elevator. That one can be traced back to the 1910s and for much of it’s history was owned by Pioneer Grain. A few others also existed here, but long long ago.
There used to be about three thousand wood grain elevators in Saskatchewan. Today there is about four hundred and fifty. Many, this one included, have been purchased by farmers or farm groups to be used for grain storage and/or grain cleaning. Others still, but not a huge number, are used as designed and belong to commercial grain handling firms, some are owned by museums and a few are abandoned.
The replacement for the once huge network of wood grain elevators are concrete and steel inland terminals, a small number of them but each huge in size, located here and there across the province. Where as the elevators of old were always located in town, and every community the prairies had at least one if not more, these new ones generally aren’t. They’re so spread out in places, that farmers sometimes have to travel great distances to sell their grain.
The railway line passing in front is not terribly busy. This stretch of track used to run all the way between Saskatoon Saskatchewan and Calgary Alberta but in the east has been cut back to a point just beyond the Alberta border. It was built in the early 1910s by the Canadian Northern Railway, which was absorbed into Canadian National Railways in the 1920s, who still owns the line today. It’s their Oyen Subdivision and the main commodities hauled include grain and petroleum products. In the old days, it was a busy section of track, no so much now.
The elevator still has a railway siding but it’s no longer in use.
Tessier was founded in the early 1910s and like many communities in the province, owes its existence to the railway, which arrived on the scene at that same time. About twenty people live here today. Old photos, from the 1920s show it a much busier, much more happening place.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2015.
Location: Tessier, SK.
Article sources: Book: Tales & Trails of Tessier, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool records, CNR archives.
Please view the elevator from public areas.