This old grain elevator stands alone in a field, battered and beaten, having been abandoned for many decades. We’ve seen a lot of these structures in our travels and this is perhaps the most sorry example yet. But it has this amazing dignity and elegance, even in spite of its decrepit state. It’s sad and it’s beautiful and it’s oh so photogenic. We’re in Whitepool Saskatchewan.
The building dates from 1930. It belonged to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, a farmer owned cooperative founded in the mid-1920s (but with roots going back further) and for much of its storied history, the largest grain handling firm in the entire country. The “Pool” was merged out of existence less then a decade ago.
The Whitepool facility only operated until 1970 when it was closed. Until recently, according to pictures we’ve found online, there used to be a house standing nearby, presumably the residence for the elevator operator.
A sign on the side of the building tells us this was Saskatchewan Pool #587 – the firm uniquely numbered each and every elevator they operated, hundreds and hundreds of them, Looking up, we’re reminded to use Pool Co-op Flour.
Given how these types of buildings are constructed, made using 2×6” boards laid flat and stacked, structurally they’re incredibly strong. This one does have a bit of lean to it but it’s doubtful there are any worries of it toppling over anytime soon. Old elevators are near indestructible.
The driveway, a once covered spot where the grain was offloaded from wagons and trucks is gone, as it the elevator office and engine house. The inner workings of the building are open to the elements (and birds). One the rail side, two sliding doors hang at crooked angles. What a pitiful looking place.
Whitepool is one of handful of abandoned wood-cribbed grain elevators to be found. There are hundreds more in Saskatchewan today, built from the early 1900s up until the 1980s, but most are in use in one way or the other. At one time there were around three thousand in the province!
We wonder if the building will be here next time we visit. Looking at it one can’t help think it’s days are numbered. We tried to track down the owner of the building, to see what they may on this, but with no luck.
The railway line that once passed here has been obliterated, with nary a trace to be found, save for the occasional spike or metal tie plate found poking out of the ground. Where grain was once loaded it’s now grown.
This section of track dates from the early 1910s and was built by the Grand Trunk Pacific during the great railway building boom of the 1910s and 1920s. It ran east from Biggar, through Whitepool towards the Saskatchewan/Alberta border. In the early 1920s it came under control of Canadian National Railways, who later further extended the line into Alberta,.
In the early 1980s, the sleepy line was cut back, ending in a place called Smiley. In 1987, the part through Whitepool was transferred to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the rest abandoned. This new operator only got a decade or so out of it and gave up on the line (what was left of it) around 1997-1998. Soon after the rails were pulled up. One can still trace the route on Google Earth. Some sections, like the one in front of the elevator, are now farmer’s fields.
Whitepool was the name for the siding on the railway line and there was never really a town to speak of here – perhaps a house or two and that’s it. Today there is a single farm just to the north and a still active CPR line right beside it.
As we explore, a storm boils overhead, fitting weather I guess given the sombre mood, Rain falls, sometimes lightly, but mostly in buckets, thunder rolls, and every now and then flashes of lighting brighten the dark skies around us. Perhaps it’s not the best time to be walking about with an umbrella in hand. We elected to shoot in B&W, it just seemed right.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2015.
Location: Whitepool, SK.
Article sources: Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, CNR archives, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool archives.
The building should be viewed from the road.