Apr 262013
Queenstown AB grain elevator

Queenstown Alberta is a tiny little hamlet in the proverbial middle of nowhere, a town no bigger than its dot on the map, and while on an oil field hotshot run (my job at the time) I took a little time out to photograph some of the few things left standing there. Those being the Federal grain elevator and the old garage. This was in the spring of 1997.

While practically a ghost town, the gas fields near Queenstown seemed to be humming with activity back then and I made numerous trips into the area. The nature of that business means your are always on the go and so while I passed by here many times, I only had he luxury of stopping once. And even then I had to jump out, quickly take my pictures and be on my way. I came and went flash mob style.

These used to be many grain elevators in town, five or six (a lot for a small town), but on my visit only three or four remained (going by memory). For some unexplained reason I shot only the one. I can likely attribute that to the very limited time I had, for the road called. Or maybe I was just being sloppy. Or maybe the others did not inspire me. Or maybe, as was often the case, I ran out of film and had no backup roll. Pick one.

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I am not sure choosing this elevator was a conscientious decision, but if it was, I picked the most interesting of the group. You see, this one was painted in the colours of Federal Grain, a company which had not existed since the early 1970s. Taken over by the Alberta Wheat Pool at that time, this one was obviously never repainted, making it a real rarity by this point.

This Federal joined at least two or three other AWP elevators still standing here in 1997 – I did not record the number I saw and to determine that referred to pictures from others taken around that time showing Queenstown’s elevators. At one time there was one more here owned by Pioneer Grain and perhaps even one more yet again – a picture from 1983 shows the roof of a sixth, but it looks small like it was a seed cleaning plant.

I’ve researched a great deal but the lineage of this elevator is still mostly unknown and so we can only make assumptions. Was it built in 1925 when the rail line here came through, perhaps later? When was it torn down – when the rail line was abandoned or some other time? All these things are a mystery right now, but I am sure further research (which sometimes takes a long time) will turn up new information. I am not sure if the elevator was vacant at by the time of my visit. Judging by how little used the road in looked, I would say probably yes.

In the late 1990s it was still possible to find the occasional (very occasional) elevator pained for the Federal Grain Company. These organizations were a frugal sort and only repainted if it was absolutely necessary. Today, only a couple Federal grain elevators still stand across the prairies, all privately owned.

Mergers and acquisitions area common place occurrence in the Canadian grain industry and Federal Grain was no exception to this. It joined with or took over many companies over its history, including such notables as Alberta Pacific Grain and Searle Grain (in 1943 and 1967 respectively). In the early 1970s, as was mentioned, 1972 to be exact, it was folded into the respective Wheat Pool of the province the elevator stood in – so Alberta elevators became Alberta Wheat Pool, Saskatchewan became Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Manitoba elevators, Manitoba Pool Elevators properties respectively.

For some reason, as mentioned, I did not photograph the other elevators, but strangely I did shoot a snow fence that protected the CPR line. Clearly winter is tough here, as hinted at by these fences. They are to protect the train line from the build up of wind driven snow.

This line, by the way, is the CPR’s Lomond branch which ran from a point south east of Calgary, meandering along and passing through many small towns, before ending in Vauxhaul further southeast. In earlier times, it extended further east (as the Suffield Subdivision), connecting with the CPR east/west mainline east of Medicine Hat. It was cut back over time. It’s not clear when the last trains passed here, I’ve been told variously the late 1990s or early 2000s.

Oddly, I never once saw a train on this line, or even a car spotted at an elevator and for a time I was making regular visits to places close by and passed over it often. By the end I am sure service was sporadic at best. Like most prairie branch lines it must have been a money loser. It died, like all the others, due to changes taking place in the industry. Small town elevators were forsaken being replaced by huge inland terminals.

Also seen here is the much photographed Queenstown Garage, the last remnant of any businesses left in town. It’s quite a popular subject with photographers judging by how many pictures one can find of it online (including some of mine). I have not been able to find much in the way of history on the building. Not terribly surprising really, but who knows what I may turn up in the future. Things have that way of happening. Note the old car sitting in front of it.

I am so glad I was able to visit Queenstown before the elevators were gone, even if I only caught one of them on film. I, like others, thought that the rail line and elevators would last for ever and so was a bit sloppy in documenting of them. They’d be there next time after all. Changes in the grain industry certainly caught us off guard, and when the elevators started falling en masse, we were left scrambling. I missed a lot of opportunities earlier on and really regret that.

These pictures were scanned from 35mm slides.

To see some other sights along the same Lomond Subdivision branch line, click these links…
Prairie sentinels – Arrowwood Alberta
Doukhobors in Alberta – Anastasia Village
Mossleigh elevators.

If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!

Date: Spring 1997.
Location: Queenstown, AB.

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Queenstown AB snow fence

These snow fences hint at strong winds that must blow here in winter.

Queenstown Alberta

The Queenstown garage still stands, but the grain elevator is gone.

Queenstown AB grain elevator

There were a few grain elevators here, but oddly this was the only one I shot.

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  25 Responses to “Prairie Sentinels – Queenstown Alberta”

  1. Very well written. I like the articles you post, especially when they are about the history of my own home town. I live just outside Queenstown!

  2. Wow that is one I wish I had seen!

  3. Stop writing such interesting articles I have to get back to work!


  4. Even though the town was never grew that large, in the early days it was a wild ruccus place on a Saturday night. So my great uncle told me, who worked as a farm hand in the area in the wild 1920s. The booze would flow and the fights would follow.

  5. I’ve been researching the history of Queenstown in a book called Snake Valley, Lake MacGregor and Area.

    On the 15th of December 2012, I purchased 12 acres of Queenstown. I have located the foundations of the two schools that once resided on this property. There are still 2 four-seater outhouses on the property.

    Eventually this property will become a retirement getaway. I have drawn up plans to build a 80 foot diameter earth bermed dome home with central swimming pool and courtyard that is opened for viewing the night sky. From the road side, it will look like a small hill on the property with only the south facing side exposed to the sunshine and spectacular view of the countryside. Above the central pool and courtyard will be an upper ring shaped patio deck for BBQs and kicking back.

  6. I love reading about ” THE OLD “.
    I try to get away for as many three day bike rides as I can.
    Your articles are a great joy and give me places to go and people to see.
    Thanks ever so much.

  7. I’ve just been reading the memoirs of my cousin Leona Gertrude Dilse. She is the daughter of Charles and Gertrude Lund (nee Hofman) They lived in Queenstown where Charles was a grain buyer/elevator agent for the Alberta Pacific Grain Co. He immigrated to Canada from Denmark in 1914 when he was 17 years of age and had worked at various jobs until he became a grain buyer. After many years he retired in 1963.

    Gertrude’s father Tymen Hofman who was originally from Holland, came to Alberta from North Dakota in 1907, and while the family lived in a tent, he built a small cabin. He later built a large two story house that my cousin Leona was born in. At the time of her birth, her uncle Morris and aunt Nettie Hofman were living in the house. Her grandparents had retired and moved to the State of Washington and often returned to visit. Leona (widowed) and her sister Helene and husband live in Lethbridge.

    • Wow, thank you for sharing! It’s so nice when we can make the connection between the town and those who once lived there.

    • I have heard many stories of Leona & Helenes childhood in Queenstown when Charlie was a grain buyer there. I am Helene’s son and remember Grandpa & Grandma Lund with fond memories. I found Leonas memoirs most interesting as well.

  8. Thanks Chris — I think.
    You left out the nostalgic part of my comment taken from Leona’s memoirs concerning the town’s celebration of V-J day on the “Town green”. Recalled by Leona as a teenager. I neglected to add her written record of the Town’s preparation and supporting war effort as a community. The young men called to duty and shipped overseas. The older men joining the reserves.

    I thought what I submitted to your blog would be of interest to those of the younger generation with connection to Queenstown and certainly a nostalgic nudge for those who lived it and are still around. I thought it even possible that it might generate additional contribution to your blog and further sharing of Queenstown memorability. My cousin Leona’s memoirs “brings to life” the ‘statistical’ preamble of my original comment which of course was my intent.

    I appreciate your response Chris. I envy the “free spirit” approach to life you and Connie have embraced and love.


    • Hi Byron,

      The comment you see was posted verbatim. You had emailed us separately however, which is perhaps were the confusion stems from. In any case that’s not a problem, and we are happy you added to your original post. We always love to hear about Queenstown!

  9. Hi. I just discovered this site and would like to say that I’ve lived around Queenstown all my life. I used to know the Lunds and would be glad to hear more from Leona’s memoirs. My sister went to school with Helene. My brother is doing a history of the town and would love to hear any stories from the old days.

  10. The history of Queenstown can be found in the book: Snake Valley: a history of Lake McGregor and area.

    • Thank you, I’ve read snippets from that book. Very interesting! Looking at Queenstown today, you’d be hard pressed to know anything existed there.

  11. THe garage was built and first run by my dad and his brother.My dads name was Frank Durston and his brother was Lloyd Durston. There is a photo of them and the garage I the Milo archives under Durston font. MArilyn Clemo Durston

    • Marilyn, thank you so much for commenting. I would love to have seen it in the day!

    • Marilyn, thank you so much for commenting. I would love to have seen it in the day!

    • Greetings All:

      I live in Queenstown today and find the history fascinating. There seem to be so many stories. The man who owns the Queenstown garage is my neighbor who lives elsewhere. I know he would love to hear more about the previous ownership of this building. I definitely will try to find the book Snake Valley: a history of Lake McGregor and area.

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