This here fine spring day finds us in Mossleigh Alberta, a pint-sized town just a bit southeast of Calgary. There’s all kinds of railway themed stuff here and old grain elevators – this is what we’ve come for. Today, we’re here to act as a guide for a train buff in from Europe to tour said subjects. We often “host”. Access is courtesy Aspen Crossing, a popular train themed attraction, with a museum-like collection of railway cars, located a stone’s throw away – shout out to the head fellow there, Jason Thornhill.
But our guests no-showed. Ouch, not even a call…so a repeat of my dating life in the 1980s.
Wait a sec…we still have the trains. Yes, we have the TRAINS! And grain elevators. Heck, let’s explore. Hanging out in Mossleigh. Go! Of course, you’re welcome to tag along. This won’t be touching on the in-depth history of things seen – we’ve done that already (links throughout the post) – just something fun and silly. Nothing more.
1) Some 1940s/1950s vintage baggage cars, ex-CPR, part of Aspen Crossing’s “Train of Terror”, haunted fun on the rails. These used to sit here…DeWinton De Winton Dewinton
2) A look down the branch used by the tour trains. This line was put in about 1930, closed in the early 2000s, sitting moribund for a spell before finding new lease on life a few years back with these current owners. The rails are shiny again.
3) This is a 1950s Montreal Locomotive Works “Alco” S3 switcher, #8454. It once belonged to Canadian National Railways later finding work at various industrial concerns across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, prior to coming here. We recorded it being brought into Aspen Crossing, by truck oddly enough…Aspen Crossing’s new locomotive gets delivered.
4) A “Train of Terror” car. Aspen Crossing runs a number of theme trains, this being one of the more popular runs with adult set. This car was also in maintenance-of-way service on the CPR for a time.
5) Aspen Crossing owns two of the three elevators here, and hopes to fix them up, making them a stop on the tour train runs. Here we’re looking out the office window of one.
6) The sky was alive this day, the clouds boiling overhead. Your author, later in the year, got to ride in this very locomotive, a fantastic experience, on an Aspen Crossing Twilight Train run.
7) Baggage car details, the truck or bogie. Can-Car aka Canadian Car and Foundry, as seen in the casting, was the builder. This car carried traveller’s suitcases and trunks and express packages.
8) This box car was limited to carrying “high class merchandise” – IE commodities that was relatively clean in nature.
9) A freight car truck/bogie details. Note the maker’s mark.
10) The locomotive truck/bogie. Image all the miles its travelled.
11) Don’t have a drone, so we’ll shoot from Mount Mossleigh, in reality a big pile of gravel. We’re looking south here, the line in front heading down to Aspen Crossing Proper not far away. Boxcars are some eighty plus years old.
12) The tour trains makes an appearance, running caboose first on the outbound leg. This here car used to sit in front of the Canadian Legion in the neighbourhood of Ogden for many years. It dates from the the 1940s.
13) Across the road, a very A-Team like van. Say it with me…you want to…”Pity the fool!”
14) The tour train includes an eclectic selection of cars. It’s runs a bit east, almost to the town of Arrowwood, before returning locomotive first on reaching the end of track there.
15) Team BIGDoer got to ride in this locomotive (see: Train Day at Aspen Crossing). The blue car in behind has a generator and provides electricity (head end power) for the train.
16) These boxcars – circa 1950s/1960s – are no stranger to us. Like the “Train of Terror” cars spoken of earlier, they used to sit here…DeWinton De Winton Dewinton. Just managed to catch the locomotive in this shot.
17) As the train heads away. In an hour and a bit, it’ll be back. More cars down the track will be looked at soon enough, as will the grain elevators. Lots to see.
18) The locomotive is a General Motors (London Ontario) model GP9 built in the 1950s. It once worked the Canadian Pacific Railway, of course the paint giving that away, before coming here. This model was the most popular locomotive of the era and even today once can find them hard at work all over the country. We rode in another GP9, employed by a short line in the mountains of BC, here…The Railway.
19) Inside one of the elevators, the “driveway” where trucks would come to unload. Grate in front was where the grain was dumped. Lots of lumber here, a huge number of 2x6s laid flat and many big beams, and so many smells, that of musty grain and well seasoned timber.
20) Grain passed though the hopper seen here before being loaded into rail cars. The inner workings of a grain elevator are amazing. We’ve been in many, and they never cease to amaze.
21) Paperwork left behind when the elevator closed, concurrent with the rail line being shut down. This is a ledger book documenting an inbound delivery of Flax and Rapeseed (known as Canola today), circa 1970-something-ish. Couldn’t read the whole date.
22) More stuff discarded on closing. Packets held sample grain to be sent away for testing. Parrish and Heimbecker once owned all three elevators. The firm is still in business today, just not here.
23) These are the rules of which an elevator operator much abide by. Think of them as a bible commandments, those failing to follow regulations destined to burn in hell…or at least get a good stern talking too.
24) Boxcars block the view out – the door to the rail car loading area.
25) Yellow was P&H company colours – each grain firm picked one that made them stand out and you always knew the company by that alone. Those clouds – so much drama. To know more about these buildings, go here…Prairie Sentinels – Mossleigh Alberta
26) We’ve been to Mossleigh many times – like that isn’t clear enough already – but always find new angles to shoot. Here, we’re jammed between rail cars and the elevators. Just enough room for a person to move.
27) An annex is an addition to a grain elevator, a separate add-on structure used to increase its capacity. These were quite common. The building on left served just such a purpose, and is a rare “Loxstave” design. Most were rectangular in shape. The little shed to the right was for coal, sold by elevator firms as a “domestic” heating and cooking fuel. It was a good sideline business during the quieter winters months. The material arrived in boxcars and was shovelled into the shed awaiting sale. Hard dirty work.
28) A whistlepost, a reminder to train crews to blow their horn. Typically these get placed ahead of a road crossing or other areas where people might need to be warned of an approaching train.
29) The two grain elevators in front are connected to Aspen Crossing. The furthest is owned by a farmer who uses it to store his grain. Notice the Pioneer Grain markings on the middle structure bleeding through. Grain elevator often changed hands over the years.
30) These boxcars are no strangers to hanging out near grain elevators. Before coming to Mossleigh, they were here…DeWinton De Winton Dewinton.
31) The caboose also came from DeWinton (link above). The car in front hangs with a railway crane. Track was a for a rolling dolly that supported the boom.
32) Like a monster ready to devour, this old snowplow from the 1920s. It was used for tackling the big drifts! The CPR still has several cars like this in service, and all real old ones too. They don’t get used much, so last a looooong time.
33) These blue passenger cars once worked for Canadian National Railways, then Via Rail Canada, the nation’s passenger rail carrier, and are still in those company colours. They last were used by the Okanagan Wine Train out of Kelowna BC and today are in the hands of a private collector. Aspen is storing the cars for that person till they find a more permanent home.
34) A lot of things need lifting on the railway and this is the machine for the job.
35a) This little locomotive is used for maintenance trains. Your author had a run in with it in the 1970s – back them it worked at a sugar plant in Winnipeg Manitoba, just behind where I lived at the time. Memories of watching it shunt cars are still strong. BTW, sugar beets, from which they obtained the sugar, tastes awful. We sneaked into the plant and stole a couple to try. Yuck! The locomotive was built in the 1950s and come from maker General Electric. After Winnipeg, it worked at another sugar plant in Taber Alberta before coming here.
35b) Wedgie shot! This is the three-quarter angle view favoured by many railway photographers and despised by others. It’s often overdone and leads to what most people see as a boring pic. Here though, it works real well, what with that sky and featureless background.
36) This car dumps ballast. Doors on the underside allow the material to be deposited anywhere in between or outside the rails. It was built in the 1950s and as you can see, once belonged to the CPR. These old cars keep going and going and going.
37) The train returns! Track speed is a leisurely pace, so for those on board there’s enough time to really take in the experience. Team BIGDoer has rode a few times – and loved it! To know more about the vintage cars seen in the consist, refer to this article…Train Day at Aspen Crossing
38) Off in the distance – thank goodness for super-zooms – this old farm. The owner let us in once but we never did do a piece on it. In fact, there’s dozen of places we visited, where for some reason or another, nothing came of it article wise. It’s complicated.
39) A smile, wave and horn salute from the locomotive. We’re friends with a couple of the fellows who are engineers for the train.
40) And a similar “Hi, how are you, nice to see you!” treatment from those in the caboose. Right back at ya! The caboose is a great place from which to view the passing countryside.
41) This is a generator car – like the blue one – and as you can see once belonged to the Ontario Northland Railway. In back, Gary Southgate’s “Via” Cars. Stored for now, they’ll hopefully find a use in the future.
42) The siding is chock full of cars, space at a premium. Self propelled railways crane and another ex-CPR caboose in front.
43) We will never ever be as good as the master, but we can dream and aspire. Here, our take on a “Seph Lawless”* chair shot.
44) View from the snow plow cupola. Someone sits up here while bucking snow, a locomotive or two in behind pushing. That would be both exciting and at times, I bet, terrifying.
45) Built in the 1930s, this boxcar and the one to the right have seen a lot of miles (millions maybe). These old cars lasted many, many decades in service before being retired. The railway, CPR in this case, saw their historical value and kept them from the scrappers torch. The railway caught in a benevolent moment…
46) This here thingy is used when there’s been a minor derailment – it’s a called a re-railer. Go figure! It’s anchored to the track ahead of a wheel that’s left the rails, the device acting as a guide while the car or locomotive is inched forward. The wheel rides up, meets the track and gets gingerly coaxed into place. Search Youtube to see how it’s done.
47) A parting shot, our last of the day. Our ego’s still a bit bruised, we say our goodbyes. Geez, this was a long one. Goodbye Mossleigh. Get this feeling we’ll be back though.
* Seph Lawless, one of a more well known abandoned stuff explorers, whose “thing” seems to be shooting lone chairs in creepy and forgotten places. Another signature move of his is cyber-bully. He done it to us many times. So we poke back every now and then. Nicely, that is.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2017.
Location: Mossleigh, AB.
Article references (and thanks): Jason Thornhill/Aspen Crossing, Book: Furrows of time – a history of Arrowwood, Shouldice, Mossleigh and Farrow, 1883-1982, Nakina.net, Canadian Trackside Guides.
Please view the rail cars and buildings from the grassy area by the elevators. BIGDoer.com had permission to be inside the buildings and cars.