Jan 222013
Stavely AB grain elevator

The town of Stavely Alberta is located some one hundred kilometres south of Calgary and to those travelling on Highway #2, is most noteworthy for its huge grain elevator that sits just east of the busy thoroughfare. The building can’t be missed and the tall blue structure looms over the town, the passing cars and the surrounding prairie. You can spot it long before you arrive here.

I’ve passed by this town a million times but have never taken the initiative to pay it a visit. Until now that is and since we needed a break we thought it a good idea to do a walk-around, taking in some of the history of the place, while at the same time giving our legs a good stretch.

One of the first things we notice is that the town is celebrating 100 years in 2012. Congratulations Stavely!

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The next thing we see is a yard full of tractors – bright yellow tractors – meaning we are looking at examples from the maker Minneapolis-Moline (aka M-M). That yellow (almost a Caterpillar yellow) was that organization’s signature colour. Each tractor maker had their own company colours, green for John Deere, red for International Harvester…well you get the picture. This brand is not one I have seen much of, so I think overall they were not terribly common in Canada. Or at least in this area. The way the sun was shining sure made that yellow stand out.

Minneapolis Moline was formed in the late 1920s through a merger of several companies. White Motors then bought it up in the early 1960s and eventfully phased the name out over the next ten years. White also purchased a number of other tractor makers, Oliver and Canada’s Cockshutt for example. This maker was advertised as the “World’s Finest Tractors”. One machine sported a hand crank – that must have been hard work!

Amongst the sea of yellow was a John Deere looking rather out of place.

Many of of buildings seen in town are rather substantial looking structures made from brick. These date from the mid 1920s and were built after a fire swept through town, destroying most of the business district. The hotel in particular is interesting – I just love old hotels, especially if they are made from this material. I must stop in one day and have a beer and wings at the pub and soak it all up. It looks to be a real cowboy tavern.

At the end of the main street (actually 50th Ave – more on this below) and blocking the highway from being seen (and heard) is a very imposing grain elevator. The last one here, it’s framed perfectly by rows of buildings leading down the street to it. Now privately owned, it was formerly an Alberta Wheat Pool elevator (later Agricore) and you can tell by the light blue colour.

In the past Stavely was also home to many other elevators as this author has seen pictures from the 1970s showing another smaller AWP elevator and two Pioneers just north of this one. The others were likely torn down at the time the rail line was abandoned (2000-ish) but it’s nice this one was saved. As you may know, standing grain elevators are a pretty rare and where these used to be close to two thousand in the province now there are hundreds. This one is interesting in that it has two large integrated annexes flanking each side – aka a “double composite” elevator.

We walk around the front and strand where the old rail line used to be. One can easily imagine trains passing through and grain cars being loaded. But it’s only in dreams as the last train passed by here a dozen years ago. Stavely sits along the CPR’s MacLeod Subdivision, a former grain gathering branch that travelled from Calgary south to Fort MacLeod, connecting with the CPR’s southern mainline there.

Found in one back yard is a very cool late 1930s Ford truck. It has such nice lines and appears compete and in good shape. I hope to look so good when I am over seventy! Small towns always seems to be home to old trucks like this. Also seen in back is a El-Camino – an odd vehicle that is useless as a truck and useless as a car.

Be sure to comment on this post (below pictures).

Also seen in this section of town and all housed in nice brick buildings is a saddlery shop, an antique shop of course (all small towns have one) and the town’s office. Also seen is Unc’s machine shop, who repairs boat propellers. Odd, how may boats can there be on the almost lake-less prairies.

Found just off of downtown is what appears to be an old garage and service station. At least that what it looks like – heck I am pretty sure it is. It has some nice fieldstone work and it would be easy to see where the glass globe pumps would have fit under the awning.

An unusual thing about Stavely are the street numbers. Downtown is at the corner of 50th Avenue and 52nd Street. Odd, where’s First Street, or Main, or Railway Avenue? In fact almost all the streets in town are numbered in the 50s. This begs the question, why?

Update: May 2013. The elevator we see was a late one on the scene, being constructed in the early 1980s. This makes it one of the last of the traditional wooden elevators built.

The next town north of Stavely in Nanton, and they also have some elevators, two of them actually. To see a report we did on them, follow this link…
Nanton Alberta, elevators and old things.

To see some other grain elevators we’ve explored, refer to these links…
Prairie sentinels – Big Valley Alberta.
Prairie sentinels – Oberlin Alberta.

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

Date: December 2012.
Location: Stavely, AB.


One of many Minneapolis-Molines in this yard.

Minneapolis-Moline tractor

In my travels I have not seen many tractors from this maker.

Minneapolis Moline tractor

Every tractor brand had its own company colour and for M-M it’s this pleasant yellow.

Minneapolis Moline

Note the hand crank.

John Deere tractor

One lonely John Deere…

Tractor Minneapolis-Moline

Minneapolis Moline was advertised as the “World’s Finest Tractors”.

Stavely Saddlery Shop

An old building now occupied by a saddlery shop.

Stavely Hotel

The Stavely Hotel was built in place of a an earlier wooden one which burned down.

Stavely antique store

After a fire swept through town many of the replacement buildings were made of brick.

Stavely town office

The Stavely town office dates from 1920.

Stavely Alberta elevator

The elevator is now owned by a private individual.

Stavely AB grain elevator

Standing on the old rail line, abandoned in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Stavely grain elevator

In addition to this elevator Stavely was home to a number of others.

1930s Ford pickup

Gorgeous lines on this old pickup. Note the El Camino in back.

1930s Ford truck

This Ford truck is from 1938 or 1939.

Downtown Stavely Alberta

Downtown Stavely looks much like any other small prairie town.

Unc's Machine Shop Stavely

Unc’s Machine Shop repairs propellers.

Stavely AB old building

I pretty certain this may have been a garage and gas station.

Stavely AB gas station

I love the fieldstone work.

Stavely Alberta garage

The back of the building.

Stavely AB service station

I can just picture a couple glass globe pumps here.

Stavely Alberta main street

Main street in Stavely, actually 50th Ave (huh?).

Stavely AB 100 years old

The town celebrated 100 years in 2012.


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9 Comments on "Stavely Alberta"

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Coal Man
Coal Man

I love that shot with the sun and the elevator. Great report!

Scott the Scot
Scott the Scot

Amazing shots, I love your blog!

dick now
dick now

Hi, I hopped over to your blog page via your lillian lake post on reddit and was surprised to see another article on stavely. I’m from there there, left in the 70’s and now retired in Palm Springs. Thanks for putting together something worthy of reading!

unc ferguson
unc ferguson
I enjoyed the photos and kind words about Stavely. I own the shop where the pictures of the tractors were taken. The tractor collecting fraternity maintains that one does not choose a brand of tractor, but that a brand will choose you. I always fancied myself a John Deere man, yet I seem to have a yard full of Minnies. You have done your homework on the corporate history of the company. Minnies were not the biggest seller in our area, but had a loyal following and were regarded as solid and reliable machines. There was a MM dealer in Nanton, and he supplied a number of tractors that ran on propane. Our museum is open in June, July, and August, tues, thurs, and saturday afternoons from about 1:30 to 4:30, and other times by appointment. There is a sign near the door with contact numbers. Have a look at… Read more »

Thanks so much for this. When I was a kid, I always used to ask my dad about the Depression and he always told me about his visits to Stavely. My dad emigrated to Canada in 1929 (bad timing!) and had Danish friends there and I always used to think of it as “the Danish town.” He would ride the rods and catch prairie dogs and do whatever he had to to survive but always ended up going back to visit his friends in Stavely. I’ve never been there but it’s always been a kind of magical place of hope in my mind. Thank you for the description and photos.