Today we look at the former Pool grain elevator in Coleville Saskatchewan, not a really old building compared to some we’ve documented, but still one of interest. Problem, though, it was raining, very hard at times, and we had the choice to wait it out (but we were short on time), risk getting the camera wet or breaking out the umbrella, neither option we were crazy about, or just do something fun and creative.
Coleville is a small town in the west-central part of the province. Settlers started moving into the area in the early 1900s with the town being founded in 1913, when a railway line came through. Around two hundred and fifty people call the place home today.
The track that once passed through here had a rather interesting history. Built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, this company (near bankrupt) was later amalgamated into the government controlled Canadian National Railways in the early 1920s. Known as the Dodsland Subdivision, this stretch traveled west from Biggar Saskatchewan, through Coleville and deep into Alberta. This was a typical sleepy prairie branch line, the main commodities hauled being grain with some petroleum products.
In the early 1980s the line was cut back to a point just west of Coleville to a town called Smiley. In 1987, parts of the line, the section through Coleville included, were transferred to the Canadian Pacific Railway, who operated it for the next decade or so when it was abandoned and the rails lifted. This branch was one of countless examples lost in the 1990s, a time when the railways were retrenching at an incredible rate.
Through its history, five grain elevators once stood in Coleville, but not all at the same time. This one was the last and the largest. It dates from the mid to late 1970s (reports differ) and operated as the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool’s (or simply “The Pool’s”) facility “A” and replaced an earlier and much smaller structure, also Sask Pool “A” that dated from the mid-1920s.
When the rail line was pulled up, around 1998, the elevator was sold to a local farmer, who uses the structure for grain storage (many old elevators still standing today have been reused this way). The Pool sign is still intact, which normally would have been painted over when sold.
This is a single composite style grain elevator with an integral annex addition on one side and a separate unattached annex on the other. The latter was likely added sometime after the main building was constructed, and it was suggested to us that it was salvaged from another elevator, located in some other town and brought here to help increase the the building’s capacity. That seems reasonable – it does sort of appear older than the elevator itself.
Annexes were common and no two, it seems, were alike. They were a simple and budget minded way to increase the capacity of a grain elevator.
This is a fairly late example of a traditional wood-cribbed grain elevator, a design which dated back to the early 1900s and was being built as late as the 1980s. Yes, no matter the age, all were similar in appearance and construction, although their sizes might differ, and in functionality were pretty much the same. Only in the late 1980s/early 1990s did they start making them of concrete or steel.
The Saskatchewan Pool was founded in the mid-1920s and ceased to be in 2007, when it amalgamated with a rival. It was a farmer owned cooperative and at its peak was the largest grain handling firm, not just the province, but all of Canada.
The first grain elevators in Coleville were built in the years 1914-1917. One of those, an Alberta Pacific Grain Company facility closed early on, in the 1920s. Another, originally Scottish Cooperative, in the 1940s became the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool facility “B” (it was not odd for a grain firm to have more than one elevator in any one town), before closing down in the 1980s.
The third elevator was built for Stewart Grain. In the 1930s Federal Grain owned it. In the early 1970s, is was Saskatchewan Pool “C”. Closed in the early 1980s it was not torn down right away and was still standing as late at 1998.
The fourth Coleville elevator was the Pool “C”, built in the 1920s, which as you may recall the current structure replaced in the 1970s.
There used to be as many as three thousand grain elevators in Saskatchewan, now there are about four hundred and fifty. Many, like this one in Coleville, are used by grain producers as storage (and sometimes cleaning) facilities. Some still function as commercial grain handling facilities, but not that many. Some, like one we found in nearby Whitepool, were simply abandoned.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2015.
Location: Coleville, SK.
Article sources: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, CNR archives, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool archives, Casual conversations with local residents.
This site is private property but we shot from public roads.