Nier Alberta was not so much a town, but more a locality. Think of it as a dot on the map, the centre of an area, perhaps with a post office, but not really by definition a community with houses and businesses. Located not that far north of Calgary, the place had one claim to fame, nothing big in the sense it moved the world or anything, but still pretty dam interesting none the less.
Standing along the rail line for a time was a grain elevator – nothing odd there on the Canadian Plains – but from the 1960s-1980s period was painted up in a wild hippie-esque motif. It was the “psychedelic” grain elevator and has been gone for decades. Let’s visit where it stood and see what we can find.
First the town – well the place – it dates from the early 1930s although people lived in the area for some time before. Still, the Canadian west was rather late to be settled and even into the early 1900s there were not many people hanging around the Nier area.
Anyway, the place “sprung” to life when the CPR’s Crossfield to Cremona line came through. This stretch of track was finished in 1931, in the depths of the great depression, and was one of the the very last, if not the final “grain branches” built by the firm. The railway building boom of the early twentieth century pretty much ended here.
This line, lightly built and never that busy, closed down in the late 1970s. One of the last built, recall, it was one of the first to go. Today, one can follow the old roadbed for much of the route, through small burgs, across the plains, to the end of the line where the rolling foothills begin.
There was a grain elevator in Nier – but we already said that – probably the only thing there, and it dates from the 1930s having been put in place shortly after the track came through. It always belonged to the firm “Parrish and Heimbecker”, a name long known in the industry but always modest in size. The company is still around.
At some point in the late 1960s it was decorated up in those “craaaaazy colours” (man), appearing in a TV commercial for a paint firm. It was said to have been seen during a “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast. Not sure if only one side, as shown in the old photo, was done up that way or if the others out of view on the far side were as well. Anyone know?
Anyway, the Nier Elevator was never repainted and retained that “hippie” vibe right to the end. It was last used in the 1970s, when the line was puled up, but remained standing into the early 1980s. Then one day a local fire department torched it, for practice, and it was gone.
What’s left today?
Not much as you can see! There’s evidence of the old rail line, what looks to be an old train loading dock and the old road into the elevator can be followed. Everything’s deep in the grass but is there if one looks good and close. What appears to be the outline of the elevator foundation can still be found too. Also, we stumbled across some cut posts underfoot likely representing that fence line to the right. All these things, all relatively hidden from sight, helped us align our now photo. Yes, it’s the same spot in both. Almost dead on to the inch (or cm) if we’ve done out work right (and we usually do). But you’ll have to take out word for it since readers can’t see those features. The trees, by the way, still sort of have the same profile as they did way back when, which we thought interesting.
This photo was sourced by Team BIGDoer. We were unable to attribute copyright ownership despite a deep search – even we come up short some times. If it’s yours, let us know and we’ll take what ever actions needed to tidy up things.
If you have a nice “then” photo you think should receive our trademark “then and now” treatment, drop us a line. These have to your own or in your collection, or in the public domain (a good number of really old photos are) and should show a street or landscape scene or something similar and be from the 1980s or earlier. In particular ones where the change is minimal or extremely dramatic, so at each end of the scale, are most coveted. Not sure how it works? Browse our then and now article and get to know us and what we do.
More like this to keep you busy…
East Coulee Alberta then and now.
Brokeback Mountain then and now – Brokeback Meadows.
Canadian Pacific Railway then and now – Banff Park.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: The 1980s and July 2016.
Location: Nier, AB
Article references and thanks: Jim Pearson, Jason Sailer.
BIGDoer.com was given permission to enter the property.