Cloudy skies, cool temperatures and light rain all conspired to make for a gloomy day. It was not a promising outlook and it seemed a waste heading into the hills. With that in mind, perhaps this would be a good time to explore Calgary’s living history museum, Heritage Park. It’s been a few years since we visited and anyway we’ve been talking about returning. Why not?
Expecting huge crowds due to the long weekend, we are pleasantly surprised to find the park near deserted.
Our intentions were to document some specific exhibits, some train stuff in particular, plus we planned do a few of our trademark movie then and now shots – many films have used the park as a setting (the National Dream for one). Be sure to watch for these reports coming soon.
I also wished to check out the grain elevator. One of the parks earlier exhibits, it’s been here since 1966. A real honest to goodness former working elevator, and not simply a modern built exhibit, it was moved here from Shonts Alberta (now ghost town SE of Edmonton). Moving it must have been quite a task – did they cut into pieces or moved it whole?
While this elevator may seem pretty typical, looking much like the countless others that used to dot the prairies, this one is rare one due to its lineage. Painted for the Security Elevator Company Ltd., this is the last so branded in the province and perhaps all of the prairies. This was one of the smaller players in the industry and it was merged and assimilated out of existence by the late 1920s.
Founded in 1908 and with some acquisitions Security owned some 130-ish elevators by the late 1920s. At that time it amalgamated with the Northern Elevator Company but it’s not clear if this was a marriage or a take over and who’s identify was kept. Regardless, this new organization did not last long and the combined company merged with some others (also smaller players) in the 1940s to form the National Elevator Company. Combined they had more clout.
National was then bought out by Cargill Grain in the 1970s. One thing is for certain, mergers and acquisitions are the rule in the grain industry. It’s not clear if it always wore this paint scheme we see now or it was repainted in the colours of one the successor companies.
This author has not been able to find the exact date this structure was built but I have seen photos at the Glenbow photo archives dated 1911-1912 showing this same elevator looking all shiny and new. The rail line here, the former Grand Trunk Pacific (now CNR) main line between Edmonton and Wainwright passed by here in 1910.
While Shonts never seemed to amount to much, and certainly little remains today, there is a second elevator still standing along the rail line there. It’s privately owned now. Both Shonts elevators survive – not bad for a town that itself does not exist any more. It’s nice that a small part of its legacy lives on.
The elevator at Heritage Park sits alongside a working track so there are often good opportunities to capture a train passing it by. I hope they have plans to acquire a suitable grain box car to spot in front of the building, but for now there is a stock car, tank car and railway snow plow in front (???) – not cars ones would expect to find in front of a grain elevator.
I am afraid the dreary sky did nothing to help our pictures, but it did keep the crowds away, and that was nice (for us anyway but not the park who needs the income I guess).
We’ve documented some other Heritage Park exhibits, train themed ones in this case and to see them, click the links below…
Coal mine locomotives.
And at the other end of the scale…
CPR Selkirk locomotive 5931.
To see the National Dream then and now mentioned in this article, go here…
Then and now the National Dream.
If you wish more information about this place, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2013.
Location: Heritage Park, Calgary, AB.