The old Parrish and Heimbecker (P&H) grain elevator in Stettler Alberta has seen close to a hundred years pass, boy it looks great, and today is a museum you can tour. Located right across the tracks from the Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions (APRE) station, tour trains, some of them steam powered, assure it a steady stream of visitors dropping by to view the interesting facility.
There is some contradictory information as to when the building was constructed. Most records found by us seem to point to 1915 although a few documents say a bit later. This is being researched further and if anything interesting is uncovered we’ll update this article. By the way, an earlier firm owned the elevator, before P&H acquired it around 1919 or 1920. One of those post 1915 build dates spoken of may have mistakenly reflected this acquisition as a new build – just a guess.
Not seen in our photo is a feed mill connected to the building, it’s out back, built in the 1940s and shut down in the ’70s. We’ll capture it next visit.
The annex, that broad building to the right, dates from the early 1950s. These type of additions were quite common and most elevators over time eventually had one or more added to them, as a way to increase their grain storage capacity.
This elevator was used up until the early 2000s. Shortly after closing it was acquired by a group who since then has been it fixing it up. They recently repainted it in a mineral brown scheme, which was common in the old days and reflects that period well. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was done up in P&H light yellow, that firm’s “company colours”.
There is a coal shed connected to the building – back when many elevator companies sold this fuel for home heating and cooking. It can be seen just peaking out behind the caboose.
The building today is a museum, its interior filled with displays and the like. It’s a must see if you’re in the area. Just don’t go when a train is at the station. Things are pretty busy then.
Parrish and Heimbecker still exists as a firm. It’s a long time participant in the Canadian grain industry, albeit a modest sized one. The once had a network of small town elevators. Those are pretty much all gone now and today they operate a number of large inland grain terminals, none of which are located in this part of Alberta. They’ve sort of abandoned the area.
The track seen here was built in the early 1910s by the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR), which later morphed into Canadian National Railways (CNR) via some mergers, in the early 1920s. Unwanted by the CNR in the mid-1980s, the track was acquired by a short line company, Central Western Railway, who continued to operate it into the 1990s, before calling it quits.
Starting in the late 1980s/early 1990s (reports differ), the railway excursion company mentioned earlier started using the line, eventually buying it outright. The track today runs from Stettler south to Big Valley, but used to go further in the past.
Interestingly Stettler is also served by a competing CPR line that came through a few years before the CNoR arrived. This branch still operates, heading in from a point north of Red Deer, east to Stettler and perhaps a click beyond where it ends at a large grain terminal. This track is the APRE’s only connection to the outside world.
Alberta Prairie Excursions operates mostly in the summer and the trains seem well patronized. Their steam locomotive, #41, well parts of it anyway, and some other miscellaneous cars can be seen in our photo. There is a link further down if you want to check out that fine old steamer.
The group who manages the elevator, the Stettler P&H Elevator Preservation Society, was helpful in researching this report. We spent some time photographing the building however outside the one picture seen in this report, we were not terribly happy with the other shots. We’re usually better then this, much better. That’s a good reason to return I guess.
Read about the steam locomotive…
Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions #41.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: July, 2014.
Location: Stettler, AB.
Article sources: Stettler P&H Elevator Preservation Society.
Permission should be requested prior to visiting the location shown here.