Sep 302013
CPR Crossfield AB

There were once many grain elevators in Crossfield Alberta, now there is but one. Standing fast against time and progress, the town’s very last “prairie sentinel” is also its newest, surviving as a private seed cleaning plant. It’s sits along side a busy rail line, as though waiting to load some cars. That’s only an illusion however and the trains pass without stopping.

This elevator was built at some point the 1970s – exact date unknown – I asked the town and they were not sure. This makes it a very late example of the traditional wooden grain elevator, some of which were built into the 1980s! This example has a more modern look, but otherwise is very similar in construction and function as those built decades earlier. The design changed very little over time – it was that good, or perhaps the grain industry resisted change. Who knows?

A faded United Grain Growers logo can still be seen on its flanks, and that company was the elevator’s original owner. The sign was partially painted over at some point with a large green water drop symbol, but the older paint underneath is still quite visible. UGG, by the way, no longer exists as a company. It ceased to be in 2001 having merged with a rival – Agricore, the remains of the Alberta Wheat Pool – becoming Agricore United. That company is gone now too.

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Most recently, the elevator is or was being used as a seed cleaning plant by some unknown company. It’s not clear when the UGG sold it to this other organization, but it would be safe to assume during the great wooden elevator purge at the turn of this century. Roughly concurrent with the closing of this and the other elevators in town, was the opening of a large throughput inland grain terminal north of here, which dates from 1999.

There is still a rail siding in front of the elevator.

There were many other grain elevators in Crossfield at one time or another, and records show that at least a half dozen used to sit nearby. The oldest dated from the early years of the twentieth century, the newest (outside of ours), from the 1950s and 60s. These belonged to such (now defunct) companies as Alberta Pacific Grain, Federal Grain, and the biggest player in the province’s grain industry, the Alberta Wheat Pool. Regardless of who owned them, those still standing by the late 1990s/early 2000s were quickly closed and presumably torn down right afterwards. Research continues.

Two CPR locomotives were spotted down the tracks (to the north) sitting on a siding, no doubt waiting for another train to pass. This was a good guess and one would soon appear, heading south.

These two light engines (so called since they have no train attached), are a model GP-38-2 built by the General Motors Diesel Division plant (GMDD) in London Ontario. The closest one, #3031, was built in 1983 and was from the first order the railway placed for this particular model. The other, #3118, dates from 1986 and was from the railway’s last GP-38-2 order. In total the railway has over a hundred of this model. A light duty locomotive, they can be found doing various odd jobs across the CPR system – like pulling local freights or switching industries.

It’s assumed these locomotives had some work to do in the area and soon after that train mentioned earlier passed by, they headed north.

Back to the passing freight, it was a unit grain train (the irony), headed by a pair of GE model AC4400CW’s in front, with another at the tail end pushing. These are very common, at least in this area, and they are so often seen that most times I won’t even bother documenting them. The CPR rosters several hundred of them, built in in the years 1995-2004.

Spotted in that train was an interesting Alberta Government “Take an Alberta break” grain hopper. These cars (800-900 of them, from 1000 built) have slogans recommending one visit any number of Alberta towns. This one stands out in that it’s suggesting Crossfield! There are two cars out of that number so painted and spotting one in the very town it’s promoting is quite a coincidence. Good catch! We weren’t ready for it however and the picture is not that great.

The track that passes through Crossfield is along the CPR’s Red Deer Subdivision, it’s north/south Alberta mainline. It heads north from Calgary, passing through its namesake town, on the way to Edmonton. This line dates from the 1890s, although it was a number of years after before Crossfield as a town came into being. The CPR refers to Crossfield as Collicutt Siding for some reason.

There used to be a sleepy CPR branch that headed west from Crossfield and to see a report on what’s left of it, click the link below…
Ghosts of the CPR Crossfield Subdivision.

To see some other grain elevators we’ve documented, click any of the links below…
Prairie sentinels – Chancellor Alberta.
Prairie sentinels – Arrowwood Alberta.
A prairie sentinel falls – Torrington Alberta.

If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!

Date: September, 2013.
Location: Crossfield, AB.

Crossfield AB grain elevator

Crossfield’s last remaining grain elevator.

CPR Crossfield AB

Two CPR locomotives were spotted down the tracks.

CPR GP-38-2

These GMDD model GP-38-2s were waiting for a southbound train to pass by so they could presumably get back to work.

Crossfield Alberta grain elevator

This is a fairly modern elevator, built in the 1970s.

UGG elevator Crossfield

The faded United Grain Growers logo can still be seen.

Crossfield grain elevator

A grain train passes by.

Crossfield AB grain hopper

While documenting the elevator, we saw this passing grain hopper, suggesting one visit Crossfield!


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4 Comments on "Prairie Sentinels – Crossfield Alberta"

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Murray Lowe
Murray Lowe

I grew up just north of Crossfield and I hauled grain to this elevator before I even had a driver’s license. We used to walk the tracks from our farm to town, passing the elevator, on our way to the grocery store for some candy. Oh the memories!

Bill Dollard
Bill Dollard

I just found some old slides in my deceased father’s possessions showing the elevator row in Crossfield. Most are dated 1969 and 1970.