Oct 142016
 
Vulcan CPR Demonstration Farm

The home, the barn, everything seen in this yard once served a rather unique and special purpose. Operating as a fully functioning “demonstration farm”, near Vulcan Alberta, and tied to the Canadian Pacific Railway, it was a show piece of sorts a century ago, promoting the region’s agricultural potential. Come, see how to farm. Then move here, and farm. See what it takes to be a successful homesteader – we’ll show you how it’s done. Yes, right here! We’ll help get you started. Own a farm just like this. My friends, a new life calls.

Prospective settlers would be told where to acquire land and of course similar farm buildings, what crops to grow and how to do it efficiently, what equipment to purchase, what techniques to use and so on. It was simple, almost turn key. Plop some buildings on your newly bought land, apply what you’ve learned, and you’re in business my friend. Easy or what?

CPR Demonstration Farm: today empty and forgotten, but at one time a show home of sorts enticing new settlers to the area. Researched, written and photographed by Chris Doering and Connie Biggart (BIGDoer/Synd/WestProducer )

The CPR had a vested interest, of course, in the success of this endeavour. They’d profit both on the sale of these kit farms and then again, many-fold, on the resultant business brought to the railway through the moving of inbound materials needed by all those new settlers; and outbound agricultural products the area would produce. And the transporting of people in and out, all the stuff needed for new towns that would spring up, and any industry established there, they too all moved by railway. It was win-win for the CPR!

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This demonstration farm was one of many set up across the prairies by the railway, in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s from 1912. Each, it appears, was unique in form and would be built in areas just opened up for general settlement, often concurrent with the coming of a new railway line. They would used for a number of years, or even decades, then when the population potential of the area was reached, or their usefulness fully exploited, which ever came first, they’d be disposed of piecemeal or sold off in some way. Over time the buildings connected to these places have mostly disappeared.

This example, located just outside the community of Vulcan (on private property, please respect that), it’s believed, is the only one left that’s intact and complete where built and appears pretty much as built. This fact makes the site historically significant. Absolutely. It’s a rare beast.

It’s not entirely clear how long the CPR operated the farm. Some records suggest up until the late 1910s, others well into the late 1920s. What we found seems rather contradictory.

We do know a bit about the farm’s first manager, who lasted from opening until about 1915, but nothing of those that followed. After disposal by the CPR, when ever that was, the farm clearly continued to be used and lived in at least the 1960s if not a wee bit later. Clearly by the 1970s, the house was empty however, although the barn and outbuildings seem to have seen use, in some capacity, for a time after.

CPR Demonstration Farm

The circa-1912 CPR Demonstration Farm, Southern Alberta.

Some gaps here, for sure. We’ll continue research and will update as needed (the BIGDoer way: put down what we know now and update posts as more comes in). You know something? We’d love to hear from you.

The house and barn, and perhaps even the other outbuildings here, were all built to standardized plan offered by the railway. These could be bought as off-the-shelf kits for easy assembly on one’s own property or sometimes we’re pre-built and bundled with a parcel of land. Several different models, sizes and layouts of houses and barns were offered depending on the need and budget.

The house is fairly simple and square with few ornate elements. Even plain, it’s charming in its own way. There’s room inside for a good sized family. It looks like a coal stove originally provided heat. Electricity was added at some point, post World War Two, it’s sort of hinted at. Plumbing? Well, the biffy’s outside so that answers that question.

The barn is unremarkable, utilitarian and functional – ones like it lacking the traditional gambrel type barn roof, never seem that attractive. The wind driven water pump looks to be complete.

The house has been boarded up, but even so, birds and elements have gotten inside and made a mess. The place looks and feels structurally sound. The barn, less so but still somewhat solid and true. The other two outbuildings, which may have been added post CPR ownership (it’s hinted at) are not doing as well. They’re perhaps beyond salvaging.

A group is working to take over stewardship of the demonstration farm and have it officially recognized as an historic resource. It has an important connection both to the province’s rural roots and its settlement history. Wonder, how many people came to the Vulcan area and went on to be farmers because of this place? It surely had an impact on the region’s success.

If and when the group acquires it they’ll have their work cut out. The roof needs attention for one. I know there’s a million other things too. Still, it’s not beyond saving and with a bit of elbow grease could be restored to its former glory. Money will be needed, lots of it (as someone working to help save old buildings, trust me, it’s not cheap). Regardless, we wish them the best. Given what this farm represents, it mostly definitely should be saved. I doubt anyone would argue that.

More stuff you’ll like…
St Peter and Paul.
1915 Cement House.
Grist Mill Farm.
A forgotten place called Comrey.

If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: August, 2016.
Location: Southern Alberta.
Article references and thanks: Bev, Todd, Book – Wheat Country, a History of Vulcan and District, Vulcan County Heritage Survey, Vulcan Advocate, Miscellaneous CPR Records.
The CPR Demonstration Farm is private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.

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CPR Demonstration Farm Windmill

It’s rare to find an intact windmill like this.

Demonstration Farm

Red Elders thrive in the yard.

Demo-Farm

Basking in the late afternoon glow.

CPR Demo-Farm Barn

The barn is simple and follows a standardized plan.

CPR Demo Farm Barn

This outbuilding is in rough condition.

CPR Demo-Farm Southern Alberta

Sunset on an old wagon.

CPR Demonstration Farm Interior

A peek inside the house…

CPR Farm in Southern Alberta

The grass grows deep.

CPR Farm Vulcan AB Barn

It’s hoped the farm can be historically recognized.

Farm window

Glass is usually the first to go.

Alberta Farm Yard

The house was lasted lived in many decades ago.

CPR Demo Farm Outhouse

Indoor plumbing, here, was only a dream.

Vulcan CPR Demonstration Farm

Overall, the site is pretty much as built.

Vulcan AB CPR Demonstration Farm

The railway had many of these demo-farms across the prairies.

Vulcan Alberta CPR Demonstration Farm

Old farm, modern grain terminal.

Vulcan AB Demonstration Farm

We greet a harvest moon.

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34 Comments on "CPR Demonstration Farm"

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Steve Boyko
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Steve Boyko

Great documentation as always! I love that sunset wagon photo.

Bernard Nemeth
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Bernard Nemeth

(via Facebook)
Thanks for sharing. Very interesting.

Val Holman Semple
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Val Holman Semple

I could so live there love these pictures!!

Jenn Tanaka
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Jenn Tanaka

(via Facebook)
I always wondered what that place was!! Cool!!

Sheila Bohn Neufeld
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Sheila Bohn Neufeld

Very interesting….

Buddy Slapak
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Buddy Slapak

This really needs to be preserved!

Jason Paul Sailer
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Jason Paul Sailer

(via Facebook)
A great day except for the mosquitoes!

Elke Janhsen
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Elke Janhsen

Thanks Chris for again sharing the history on this. Very informative and I learned lots of new things.

Coinoath Sarsfield
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Coinoath Sarsfield

(via Facebook)
Love it! How did that windmill survive all these years with wind down south?

Cody Kapcsos
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Cody Kapcsos

(via Facebook)
Something seriously needs done with this place! It should be a National Historic Site! It has all the traffic on two busy highways.

Hazel Fuerst
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Hazel Fuerst

A dream place for sure!

Francesca Williams
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Francesca Williams

I really enjoy your stories and pictures especially southern Alberta ones.
I lived in many small towns and in the Forgotten corner 1980-82
One Four to be specific.

Rob Humeston
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Rob Humeston

(via Facebook)
Great shots – def a site worth saving!

Brian Holt
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Brian Holt

I have to thank you both for showing the history of our wonderful western provinces before a good portion of it disappears.

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Mike Lowe

I’ve driven past this place dozens of times and just thought that it was another abandoned homestead. Next time I’ll try to slow down a little bit.
Thanks for the write up.

Kevin Ulry
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Kevin Ulry

(via Facebook)
Drove past it lots over the years, neat place.

Ryan Wunsch
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Ryan Wunsch

You keep me coming back for more! Magnificent pics!!!!! Always enjoy a prairie sunset…. Great work Chris and Connie!

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