Sep 262017
 
De Winton Grain Elevator

It’s a tiny speck on the map a mere stone’s throw from Calgary. The overused phrase “blink and you’ll miss it” applies here. We’re speaking of DeWinton Alberta, sort of hidden in a small valley and only accessible via a winding back road, a place not many people know of. Perhaps a dozen or so residents call it home, with more on acreages in the area and in “town” there’s a small store, the hamlet’s only business. There’s a decidedly rural feel here…very rural…yet no more than five or six clicks away is the big city, home to over a million.

There’s two fine “prairie sentinels” in De Winton. It’s what we’ve come to see. They’re old, historic and may have a troubling future. The buildings and the land their on, along with and a couple dwellings out behind are for sale. Who’s to say what new owners would do with them? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot…only time will tell. Not much use for the two, realistically so we’ll be watching the going’s on here with a bit of apprehension. The elevators are on private property and not publicly accessible, in case anyone’s wondering.

Grain Elevators of Dewinton: a complete and thorough tour! A BIGDoer.com production, researched, written and photographed by Chris Doering and Connie Biggart.(BIGDoer/Synd/Ver2.Canada.com)

Let’s get this out of the way – what’s in a name? No one seems to agree on the spelling of the town. Some old papers call it DeWinton, a road sign is marked De Winton and yet another shows Dewinton. We spoke with some locals and near all agreed to disagree when it comes to this – it almost got heated at times – De Winton among the trio of choices, however, is leading by a small margin. In the spirit of détente (or is that dé tente) we’ll use all three, randomly. Google Maps does – zoom in on the town and see – so why not us?

Scroll down for photos and to comment.

Full disclosure…the history of these buildings, which we’ll speak of collectively as the pair, twins or the DeWinton Two (historically wise, they’re so heavily connected), is a bit…well…lacking. So little in the way of solid data, so many holes, so many missing pieces to the puzzle. It’s said the most southerly elevator dates from 1906, making it one of the oldest in the province and one of three pre-1910 still extant in Alberta today. In case you’re curious, the other two are from 1905 (Raley) and 1906 (St Albert).

There are some books and documents out there that state the south DeWinton elevator, as we’ll call it, is a couple decades newer. We looked up land records and it wasn’t touched upon there – not odd since many old buildings, rural ones in particular, are listed as “unknown” in the date field. These are often lost to time. Still, we think 1906 is most likely of all found.

DeWinton Alberta Grain Elevator

In DeWinton Alberta hunting grain elevators.

Like all grain elevators on the Canadian Plains. it follows a fairly standard pattern and is built of 2x6s laid flat, tied together by huge beams and a billion nails. Talk about being overbuilt! A firm by the name of Richcraft is said to have built and operated it originally – a search turned up nothing on the company. Perhaps in the 1920s, perhaps earlier, another firm took over but no name is mentioned in the documents referenced. In the 1950s the firm United Grain Growers, one of the big boys of the industry with a huge network, was listed as operator. At some point circa 1980, or thereabouts, the elevator was closed. In the 1990s (?) it was acquired by a firm Diamond Fertilizers and modified to serve their needs.

Grain Elevator Engine House

The office/drive engine shed.

Later still the elevator became an anchor building for a furniture factory which recently closed down. An odd re-purposing if there ever was one.

The elevator, recall, is pretty typical, maybe on the small side, save for the scale set up which is different from any we’ve ever seen. That raised office holds some of the weighing machinery. Research is ongoing and of course, experts are encouraged to chime in.

The second north elevator is somewhat larger. Like its neighbour, we don’t know much about it. One document mentions it being built in 1909 (with a big question mark beside it), where as a number of other sources say the 1920s. Since we know there’s only three pre-1910 elevators in the province, we surmise it must be that newer date or at least some date post 1910. We’re not confident in any of this.

The original owner is listed as “Hogg & Lyle” (nothing otherwise is known of the firm). It said to have traded hands, as grain elevators are apt to do, with the same UGG firm having it for a time in the 1950s and beyond . The firm Parrish and Heimbecker (another well known player) is also mentioned as having owned it pre-UGG but no dates are given.

UGG, no not the boot company, the grain firm, was a long time player and only went out of business (via mergers), in the early 2000s. P&H is still around.

Later, in the 1990s, the Diamond Fertilizer firm bought this one as well. They also operated as Catl-Lac Feeds or so some old signage on the one wall tells us. Later on, that furniture company bough this one too, the elevator being the north anchor for a building housing their main production area. So odd how they incorporated the elevators. “Our furniture factory could use some grain elevators!” Said no furniture factory owner. Ever. Yet, here it is. This elevator has been heavily modified inside and on the ground level.

Beside this elevator is the old office/drive engine shed. The one for the south elevator is gone. Factoid: it was practice to isolate the drive machinery from the flammable environment inside the elevator proper.

There used to be a third grain elevator in Dewinton. It lasted only about a dozen years in the 1920s/1930s. It’s not clear where it was located in relation to the current ones. We looked in the grass for an old foundation or something but found nothing. Pointless exercise I guess.

These elevators, incidentally, are two of some two hundred and fifty wood grain elevators left in the province today, down from a high of some eighteen hundred (!) at the peak in the 1930s. They’re a dying breed! Well into the 1990s there was a huge number of them standing (built 1910s-1980s and all looking much like these ones). Now, not so much. Most were destroyed during a period of consolidations and other great change within the industry. And we thought they’d last forever!

That wood working shop – what the? Well, it operated for a number of years and was kept busy making, restoring and refinishing wood furniture. They were big enough to require a good sized moving truck. The operation has recently wound down, the tools and machinery auctioned off shortly after our visit. Lots of reminders of this woodworking past can be found about the property, even inside the elevators (old chairs everywhere for example).

The main workshop floor is well worn, suggesting real heavy use – or reuse or that the wood working section is older than what was suggested to us.

Old trailers, both the pulled-behind-a-truck kind and the Ricky-and-Julian-live-in kind, can be found on the property. They’re used for storage.

DeWinton Grain Elevator

The most northerly of the two grain elevators here.

The Canadian Pacific Railway runs out behind the elevators. This line dates from the 1890s and is the firm’s north/south mainline between Calgary and Lethbridge. It’s a moderately busy stretch of track and lucky us a train showed while we shot. And perfect timing too, just at sunset was upon us, made all the more incredible due to smoke from forest fires. The elevator siding is still in place, mostly, but disconnected from the main line. Grass hides most of it. At one time, interestingly, there used to be some heritage rail cars stored here (see: DeWinton De Winton Dewinton. That post, as might be obvious from its title, also touches on the name debate.

DeWiinton AB Grain Elevator

The wondrous soft light of evening.

Seen on property, old trucks and cars, a former “Coast Guard” boat, miscellaneous metal and even a 1970s/1980s era “ten speed”. The usual stuff that accumulates in places like this. Some rare (in Canada that is) Mercedes L Series trucks languish in the back forty. Along with a huge number of metal chair frames.

DeWinton is named after a British Military Officer who it’s said established a ranch in the area. The town first makes mention in the 1890s. Back then Calgary was much further away. Historic MacLeod Trail, an early trade route, passes right through town.

An experiment. A fair number of the pics seen were shot on a tiny mirroless camera, Connie’s camera (Pany GX85), outfitted with lenses off our Minolta film camera. While the results are nothing short of amazing – damn those old lenses are something fine – the combo can take on fabulously ridiculous proportions. That’s one front heavy rig!

The elevators, the land, some houses, they’re all for sale. We were planning on putting a link here, but we see the listing was pulled a couple days back. Maybe sold? Hmm, the mind races – we’ll make some calls. Still, for further information, contact Commercial Realtor John Fraser, at Royal LePage.

More elevator tours…
Bashaw Processors.
Alberta Wheat Pool Menaik.
Searle Grain.
Prairie Sentinels – Woodhouse Alberta – Vandervalk Farm.

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

Date: August, 2017.
Location: DeWinton De Winton Dewinton, AB.
Article references (and thanks): Realtor John Fraser, Alberta Register of Historic Places, Jason Sailer, Book: Place Names of Alberta,
The DeWinton Grain Elevators are on private property. BIGDoer.com visited with permission.

Dewinton Elevator

The south elevator is from 1906 – a van in retirement completes the scene.

DeWinton AB Elevator

Catl-Lac Feeds (aka Diamond Fertilizer) was an earlier owner – north elevator.

DeWinton Alberta Elevator

One for the birds…

Bin Selector Grain Elevator

The old bin selector…

Weight Scale Grain Elevator

…and weight scale.

Spray Paint Can

In the wood shop. The what?

DeWinton Wood Working

A floor of character.

De Winton Grain Elevator

Old trucks found out back.

Mercedes L Series

These are all Mercedes L Series.

De Winton AB Elevator

Chair frames…

De Winton Alberta Elevator

Red Elders grow in abundance on the property.

De Winton AB Grain Elevator

Grain elevators were the tallest things in small town Alberta.

Choke Cherries Alberta

A good crop of Choke Cherries.

De Winton Alberta Grain Elevators

Both elevators also show the name Diamond Fertilizer.

Grain Elevators DeWinton

There’s an old rail siding there in the grass.

Grain Elevators DeWinton

More woodworking shop reminders.

Apollo Ten Speed

Taking us back to the 1970s/1980s, this Apollo “Ten Speed”.

Old Gas Pump

An ancient gas pump.

Grain Elevators DeWinton AB

The buildings are for sale which suggests an uncertain future.

Grain Elevator Office

The north elevator office/engine shed, front angle.

Ford B Series

A Ford B Series furniture moving truck.

Old Grain Elevator Alberta

Inside one of the oldest in the province.

Wood Working Shop DeWinton

Chairs everywhere!

Old Grain Elevator Interior

…And another.

Grain Elevator Weight Scale

A different weight scale setup.

Panansonix GX85 Film Lens

Film lenses on mirrorless cameras can take on ridiculous proportions.

Grain Elevator Siding

A section of siding not overgrown – rail from 1918.

Forest Fire Haze Alberta

Smoke from forest fires makes for an amazing sky.

Trailer Park Boys

A shout out to the Trailer Park Boys.

Grain Elevator Bird House

Cheep…cheep…cheep.

Ex-Coast Guard Boat

Ex-Coast Guard.

DeWinton Wood Shop

Between the elevators, the wood shop.

CPR DeWinton Alberta

Lucky us, a CPR Train passes.

CPR Railway DeWinton Alberta

Rails into the sunset…

Dewinton Grain Elevator

At one time there were some historic rail cars parked here – read the post.

Mighty BIGDoer-mobile

The Mighty BIGDoer-mobile.

BIGDoer.com Night Shooting

Waiting for night to fall…

Dewinton AB Elevators

Light from nearby Calgary masks all but the brightest stars.

Dewinton Alberta Elevators

Still, some came out to play.

Dewinton Alberta Grain Elevators

Opps, camera in the scene…such sloppy photographers…

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34 Comments on "Grain Elevators of DeWinton"

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Steve Boyko
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Lovely photos! I was there on the 19th – not as close as you as I shot from public property since I didn’t have permission like you did. Those sunset photos are awesome.

Jenn
Guest

Love it! I hope the new owners appreciate history enough to keep the elevators. Awesome photos, love the night shots.

Tanya Good
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Tanya Good

Love it C&C! Really special.

Eric May
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Eric May

No tie plates under the siding track rails. Definitely light duty track.

Kyla Black
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Kyla Black

Great shots Chris!

John Barry Graham
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John Barry Graham

The elevators are for sale?

Kelli Young
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Kelli Young

Love it’s with permission’. Great shots!

Michael Pannell
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Michael Pannell

Nice Unimogs.

Judy Dahl
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Judy Dahl

Very informative and the photos are wonderful.

Martin Stierlen
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Martin Stierlen

Great light !!

Lila Cugini
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Lila Cugini

Great photo Chris. I love that truck!

Craig Rice
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Craig Rice

Lucky you, been admiring them from afar for years.

Kathy Warren
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Kathy Warren

These photos are great!

Genie Anderson
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Genie Anderson

Lovely set guys and girls!

Roxanne Stubbs
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Roxanne Stubbs

Informative! And gorgeous photos BIGDoer crew!

Member

This was a great article and the photos are amazing!

Eric Gagnon
Guest

Great post! Is it just me missing the link to the historic cars at DeWinton post?

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