Tag along as we explore an old equipment yard bursting to the seams with all manner of vintage vehicles, machinery and odd bits of scrap metal of every description – aka the Crowsnest Collection for the area of Alberta where it’s located. There are plenty of old trucks here, some common makes others less so, some even downright rare. Much of the latter are part of an old truck collection, while many others are former company service vehicles in retirement (the site belongs to an earth-moving firm) or ones salvaged, brought here, the remains being left behind after the usable parts were removed.
Other stuff, ancient railway boxcars, unrecognizable steel bits, car and truck parts, odd stuff, big and small, can also be seen. It’s chaotic and photographically an amazing place. There’s so much to see, that we’ll have to make this a multi-part report. Even then, we’ll only be scratching the surface. We could return a dozen times and still find inspiration and new things to photograph.
We’ve actually photographed some of these trucks before, but always from behind the fence. It’s nice to get inside and see them up close. If you go back in the BIGDoer.com archives you can see the reports we did on showcasing them. Warning though, our older work is not as the stuff we pump out today.
Joining us on this adventure are a group of film photographers based out of Edmonton and BC. These include good friend Robert Pohl, who we collaborate with often, and some of his associates. Looking alien in today’s world, they shoot giant toaster sized cameras mounted on huge wood tripods (and oh, those capes). It’s almost a bit surreal. But maybe they’re on to something. Vinyl is cool again. Is film next?
Either way, they’re dedicated artists, their work on display in galleries…and we’re hacks. Not sure why it’s a compatible mix, but it is. Shooting as they do it takes many minutes to set and record a photo. In the meantime, we’ve filled up an SD card, had lunch and took a nap. (Note: we sometimes break out the 35mm film camera, but not this time).
Before we get to the meat and potatoes, a few things. The yard is always a bee-hive of activity and is off-limits to the general public. We’re enthusiasts but by no means experts, so an error or two in this write-up is likely. If you know more, correct us. It won’t hurt our feelings. Since there is a lot to see, each description will be brief (I know, so unlike us) lest this post grow too large and out of control.
Now let’s start exploring…
1 above) A row of medium duty trucks, including a GMC (1970s) tanker, International S Series (late 1970s to late-1980s era) cube van, a 1960s/1970s International Loadstar tanker and and another old International which we’ll touch on in the next photo.
2) This yellow beast with a huge brush guard is an late-1950s to mid-1960s International R-190.
3) The remains of a International Loadstar, believed a model 1600 (1960s/1970s). The pickup box comes from another vehicle, but almost looks like it’d fit. Seen in the background is a prominent landmark of the area, Crowsnest Mountain.
4) An early to mid-1950s International R Series pickup. You’ll notice is looks much like the larger R-190 just discussed – the two “R Lines” sharing some metal work. International, in the 1940s and 1950s in particular, was a big producer of pickup trucks. They stopped making them in the 1970s.
5) Gas is $0.36 an Imperial Gallon. Now that was a long time ago – dating it back to the 1960s or so. That’s equal to a litre being around eight cents! Notice “Big Red” in back. We’ll look at it in an upcoming instalment.
6) The cab of a Bay City Crane. Lots of levers and gears inside and no doubt a loud dangerous place to work. That company was in business into the 1960s. Not sure what year this one from but appears to be a “Model 30”. This is a new one to us and we’ve never seen this make first hand before here.
7) The remains of a Bucyrus-Erie 54-B Stripping Shovel (perhaps 1950s era). It last worked at Summit Line Works at the west end of the Pass. A plate riveted to the operator’s cab suggests it was employed by the highways department in the 1960s.
8) An unidentified crane carrier truck chassis (the owners had no idea, neither do we). It looks to be perhaps from the 1960s. It has similarities to various makes of that era coming from Crane Carrier Corp, FWD Corp and others but a match to none that we could find. Experts, we’re calling you!
9) The grill and little else from a 1960s/1970s GMC 9500, the company’s largest truck of the time.
10) A little unsure, and so are the owners, but it appears to be an early 1960s Diamond T truck cab. This make is not terribly common in Canada, but not so in this yard. There are many here.
11) A row of 1940s/1950s era boxcars that were once used to haul grain. All are ex-CPR and were retired and brought here, a couple decades ago, to be used as storage sheds.
12) A newer boxcar in behind that was in a wreck at some point (we’ll look at the damage in the next post). It too is used for storage. Good timing, a train passes in the background. The line runs right beside the yard.
13) A 1950s Military 4×4. Appears to be a Dodge. Said to be a former radio truck. Unsure if ex-US or Canada. Came from BC a few years back and runs. Nothing else is known about it.
14) A real brute and still put to work from time to time, is this 1980s International Paystar. Six by six drive means it can go place other trucks would fear to tread. Difficult conditions be damned!
15) More of those boxcars. Some wear original 1950s era paint, others the post 1960s CPR “Multimark” (aka Pacman) logo and “Action” Red paint. It’s not odd for retired cars to be resold for use as sheds or workshops. Like what’s seen here. Recycling at its best.
16) It’s getting good now! A late 1940s Diamond T. This make, recall is rather rare in Canada. We’ve only seen a handful. This particular model is actually a really big pickup – and you thought super-size ones were a modern trend. The paint tells us it once worked at a farm supply company and John Deere dealer – it’s even pained in Deere Green – in the state of Montana.
17) Another Diamond T of the same era, stripped of many parts.
18) The green Diamond T again. Is it me, or does it have come nice lines and an overall classy look? I understand they were extremely well built (in Chicago Il).
19) A look inside. Tough and simple, with few creature comforts! But did they get the job done!
20) A 1960s Dodge Crew-Cab (before that style was common) that once belonged to the US Air Force. We’ll look at the rest of the vehicle in an upcoming post.
21) More boxcars. Can’t get enough of them. The CPR once had tens of thousands of ones just like these.
22) An early 1980s Pontiac Grand Prix. Nice colour! A little work and some new tires and it looks like you could drive it away. Our old friend Crowsnest Mountain makes an appearance.
23) An early to mid-1960s GMC Medium Duty. Funky paint! It once belong to the town of Blairmore Public Works and later the municipality of Crowsnest Pass (when all towns in the area amalgamated).
24) There’s some weird stuff here – example, this discarded wheelchair. Wait till you see the roller skates but that’s for the final report.
25) Inside a boxcar, showing the fill levels for each type of grain. Go above and you’d overload it. It might seen funny, but until the 1970s grain mostly moved in boxcars just like this one. Filling them and more so emptying was a laborious job. The hoppers used today are much more efficient.
26) A pair of REO Speedwagons from the late 1940s. That’s one handsome design…IMO one of the nicest of the era. Like the Diamond Ts they could be sourced with an oversized pickup-style box. Take that F350! Interestingly, REO and Diamond T would join in the 1960s becoming Diamond REO before closing down a decade or so later. Neither make was common in Canada. But they sure are here.
27) And finally, another Speedwagon, the attention of those crazy film photographers we spoke of earlier. We watch from a distance as they do their dance – set up the camera – no move it – take a look under the cape – take a meter reading – move again – write down all the details, the where, the what, the when, the settings – recheck focus – load the film (B&W by the way) somewhere in the process – double check everything – triple check everything – click! All in sloooooow-bloody-motion. Damn, I admire these guys.
Back to the subject – anyway yes the 1970s/1980s stadium-filling band REO Speedwagon was named after the truck line.
Whew, that’s it for now, but fret not there will be more, enough for two follow up reports in fact. Stay tuned the next should be here in a week or so, the last following not long after. A giant thanks to the fine folks who let us inside the yard. One of the best we’ve ever been invited to. It was a blast, the six or so hours we spent there just flying by. And thanks to mother nature (damn, we’re lucky sometimes) for those fantastic blue skies, a wondrous back drop for that subject matter.
We came back…
Crowsnest Collection – Reprise
An interesting mix of old metal…
SS Hosmer tug boat remains.
Industrial Works Dragline it once worked in a coal mine.
Class of ’63 a tiny locomotive with a fascinating history.
Nash-Nash-Ford in an old farm yard.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2016.
Location: Crowsnest Pass, AB.
Article references and thanks: Ed D., Hanks Trucks Forums, REO,Diamond T and Diamond REO Enthusiasts, Nakina.net, NationalIHCCollectors.com.
The Crowsnest Collection is private property with no public access. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.