Being located in the dry belt region of southeastern Alberta, Scandia was a relative latecomer on the scene and it was only the promise of irrigation that brought settlers in. For without that life giving liquid, there could be little hope of future development and growth. And so the water came and with that problem solved, crops could be grown successfully. The population grew and before long a railway line was brought in to exploit these new markets.
Although people had lived around here as early as 1914 with the coming of irrigation, the Scandia we see today dates from 1927-28. The railway arrived at that time and that really kicked things into gear. The town was laid out, a small business district was established and homes built; and for all intents and purposes Scandia looked to have a bright future. For a time it did, but as the years passed, demographics changed, and people moved away and business shuttered.
By the late 1970s the rail line was gone and elevators closed and the town became the quiet place we see today. One grain elevator managed to survive though and it still stands on exactly the same spot were it was built in 1927. It’s restored and is the centre of an outdoor museum called the EID Historical Park (EID=Eastern Irrigation District). Surrounding it are a number of exhibits, machinery, vehicles and structures, associated with the early life of settlers in the area. It was established in 1976 just before the rail line here was abandoned and I am thankful for those people to had the forethought to do this.
There is of course a wonderful assortment of farm machinery and we take our time examining it all. Lots of strange and wonderful contraptions can be seen and the exact function of some are puzzling to us. Thanks goodness someone has placed signs on each so at least we know what we are looking at.
A nice Ford Edsel sits among the machinery and we have good time photographing it. It has interesting lines especially that strange puckered-lips grill. It was hoped this model would be great success for the Ford Motor Company, but instead was a failure that cost them huge sums of money. It’s was heavily criticized and it did not seem to resonate with the buying public. Some 118 000 were built over a three span (1958-1960) but only just over 7000 were made in Canada, making this one a real rarity. Its Oakville assembly plate was still visible on the door jamb.
Walking around, we find the nice assortment of old tractors, trucks and the like and we shoot those items pique our interests. A nice old Federal Truck from the 1920s is seen, very cool! Vehicles from this maker were never that common, especially here in Canada. I’d sure like to know its history.
Near it an old fire truck keeps Connie busy. It’s a fairly typical looking example, one you might find in any small town fire hall. It’s mounted on a late 1950s Chevrolet Apache Truck chassis.
Taking a look at the stock car that sits in just front of elevator, I realize it’s a double decker. Unlike most other “cattle cars” which were single decked, this one would be used to ship smaller animals like sheep or hogs. I guess at one time a lot of livestock was shipped from the Scandia area, so it being here makes sense. This type of car would have been used up until perhaps the 1970s before trucks took that business away from the railways (I think the railways actually abandoned that business).
A nice train station sits at the site. It’s not originally from here but rather came in from Jenner Alberta some 100km away, being transported in a couple years back. I have never seen Scandia’s original station so I am not sure what configuration it was in. This example is a rather large station and may not reflect the layout and look of the original here, but it does still capture the feel. Given the small size of Scandia and other towns on the line, its likely that passenger service was modest, perhaps being just a coach tacked on to the end of the local freight.
You heard me say the station was perhaps too large for this size of town. Oddly Jenner, where it came from, was even smaller in size and I am frankly puzzled why they had such a large structure of this type. A mystery? This station would date from around 1914 or so, the year that the line it sat on was built.
Just down from the station is a good mix of buildings representing those that could be found along the main street of any small prairie town. There are stores, a blacksmith and gas station.
I head to Railway Avenue (every small town it seems, has a street so named) and turn my attention to the grain elevator. It’s in fine shape for it’s age and kudos to those responsible for its restoration. We shoot it from many angles, close in and far away.
This elevator is painted in the traditional mineral brown colours of the Alberta Pool (aka Alberta Wheat Pool, or AWP). It was never repainted in that company’s later blue scheme. This elevator is a provincially recognized heritage site. An undated picture I have seen, taken perhaps around he time the rail line was abandoned, shows our elevator without its attendant office/powerhouse building. With that in mind it’s unclear if the current structure was built new (to look old) or came from a different elevator – perhaps the town’s second elevator which has long since been torn down. In that same picture the second one still had its office shed attached.
Next to the elevator is an old ferry that once operated across the Bow River not far from here. It was long since replaced by a bridge.
This town was the end of steel for the CPR’s Scandia Subdivision branch. This lightly constructed line came in from the mainline as Cassils and in addition to grain from here and from nearby Rainier, it also was the conduit for coal coming in from Bow City, which was loaded at Kitsim siding north of here. Always a fairly sleepy line, service was sporadic, especially after coal shipments ended in the 1950s. The last train left in 1977 and the line pulled up. Around 1973, a section of this branch was used for the filming of the CBC mini-series The National Dream.
There was a second elevator here, marked for the Federal Grain Company. Built in the 1930s, the structure was later sold to the AWP after World War Two, but was never repainted. It survived into 1977 and perhaps even after based upon pictures I have seen, but I am not sure the exact date it was demolished.
There is a nice little house of worship in town and I am surprised to see it still has regular services. Not many small town churches can say that.
We had a great time shooting here and we had the entire place to our selves. We did not of course shoot everything at the site, that’s too big a project to do in one visit. And anyway, not all things move us all the time and so this gives us a reason to return. On second visits, we always find new inspirations.
To see a report on nearby Bow City, follow this link…
Bow City townsite – with Forgottenalberta.com.
To see a report we did on nearby Kitsim siding, where Bow City coal was shipped out from, go here…
Bow City coal and Kitsim Siding.
Check out the link below to see a pair of restored grain elevators in Nanton Alberta…
Nanton Alberta, elevators and old things.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: April 2013.
Location: Scandia, AB.