Mar 152013
Carmangay Alberta fire bell

Carmangay celebrated it’s 100th birthday in 2010 and while it’s a sleepy little place now, a century ago it was a booming community full of hope and promise. The future was brighter than ever and anything was possible. Standing on main street you can close your eyes and imagine those crazy intoxicating days from a hundred years ago. Fast forward and we see a charming little town with empty streets and closed businesses. A bit melancholy, the town looks to be in its golden years.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that during the winter Connie and I will often pick a small town and simply walk around aimlessly taking in what ever catches our attention.

This perfect day in February, warm and snow free, found us in Carmangay Alberta. It’s a small village that sits south of Calgary, about two thirds of the way to Lethbridge. Of course I am exited to shoot the large railway bridge just north of town, but I know there are many other things to explore that will keep us busy. An added bonus this day was the lovely blue sky, a rare thing in the winter.

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Carmangay was founded in 1910, although there were settlers in the area prior to that, but it was the coming of the railway that brought prosperity and rapid growth. Land was opened up to farming and grain fuelled the economy. Grain is still king but it’s a much calmer place now, in fact quiet and serene. The town takes it name from two early settlers in the area, Carman and Gay.

We start our trek at the entrance to town and immediately we catch a good view of Carmangay’s water tower, its highest landmark since the grain elevators were torn down. And speaking of elevators, we see the towns last one off in the distance and just behind it is the railway bridge I am so eager to explore.

Walking up the street we come across a nice find, The Emmanuel Anglican Church. It’s a photogenic little building and we spend a lot if time poking around it. It was so wonderful in fact we did a full report on it and there is a link below where you can check it out. Right across from the church we find a memorial cross and you can see a picture if it when you scroll down.

Before long we come to a pathway which will conveniently takes us to the bridge. Along the way we can see downtown across the tracks, with the towns most prominent building, The Grange Hotel standing out the most.

Following the top of a bluff we have great views of the Little Bow River in the shallow valley below. Walking along the Glen McFarland Memorial Nature Trail, there are interpretive signs along the way discussing the flora and fauna that live around here and they also talk of natives that frequented the area in times past. Not far away they’ve found evidence of camp sites going back many thousands of years. We spot a rather interesting meat smoker/BBQ from here.

Before long we are at the bridge. What a structure and I was hoping a train would pass by, but we had no such luck. I spent a lot of time examining it from different angles and it too was interesting enough on its own to warrant a full report. Further below there is a link to that article. It was built in 1927, replacing an earlier wooden span, and it supports the CPR’s north/south secondary mainline that travels between Calgary and Lethbridge.

After enjoying lunch under the bridge in the warm sunshine, we head back towards town, this time using a road that parallels the train tracks. Almost right away we pass Carmangay’s last grain elevator. It looks to be a seed cleaning plant or something like that. At one time there were at least five elevators here and this author has seen pictures from the 1970s showing a nice line of them. With the consolidation of the grain industry, most of these prairie sentinels were torn down in the last twenty years. With their loss that’s just one more nail in the coffin.

Not far past the elevator, we come across a bunch of old trucks and other bits. There is a White GMC rig from the 1990s which has been put out to pasture. It’s run its last mile (or kilometre). This truck maker came about in the 1980s though a merger of the GMC Truck Division and Volvo controlled White Motors. Today, the company is known simply as Volvo Heavy Trucks North America, the White GMC name being dropped in the mid 1990s. Volvo also owns Mack Trucks but they remain somewhat autonomous.

And speaking of Mack the next one we see is one. This is an Ultraliner model, which could date from 1982-1990. This was that builder’s last long haul cab-over-engine truck (COE), this style having lost popularity over the years. This truck was used by a house moving company.

Something that caught our attention was an interesting military dolly. This Rube Goldberg looking device is used to move shipping containers around. I am not sure what it’s doing here.

Also in that yard is an old Uhaul on a Ford F600 chassis. This example could date from 1967-1979.

Across the street we glimpse an ex Lethbridge Transit bus. This models is known as as GMC New Look, but it more affectionately refereed to by it’s nickname, “The Fishbowl”. It’s so named due to the angled multi-piece windshield which can give a distorted fishbowl effect when looking out. We did a full report in this bus too and there is a link below where you can read it.

We pass a large pile of tree cuttings and wooden junk and have a good laugh at the no dumping sign in front of it. We also have another laugh – we see a playground sign on a road leading out of town, but there is no playground in sight.

Before long we at the centre of town. There does not appear to be any open business here, except for the Grange Hotel. This Sunday afternoon it was locked up tight but maybe it opens in the evenings or something? This building is now over 100 years old and while it sags and leans a bit, it looks in reasonable shape. On a sidewalk in front we find the date 1986 scratched in the concrete.

We check out the fire station, in particular the old shed with a bell steeple which sits right beside the new hall. Sadly a part of the structure’s top has collapsed and the bell is off its mounting and sitting on its side. I understand there is an old truck inside the shed and I’ve pictures showing it. The “new” fire hall sits right beside the old one.

Heading back to the car now, we pass Carmangay’s now closed grocery store, the loss of which was likely another blow to the town. We also see a building proudly announcing the towns 100th birthday.

Across from the hotel is a very cool building made of brick, constructed with rounded front. It’s plain yet very pleasing and is perhaps an old car dealer or auto related business. Just a guess.

Across the street is a grove of large trees and this I believe was where the trains station stood – probable since these structures were usually at the intersection of a town’s two main streets (Carman and Pacific). Trees were often planed as part of the station’s landscaping and these ones are likely holdovers from that time.

One last look at The Grange and we are on our way home. In our trek we passed perhaps a couple people and saw maybe as many cars. On this day anyway, it was a quiet place. I’m sure we’ll return here at some point. The bridge and that cute little church are always going to draw us in.

We found many things of interest in Carmangay and to see a study we did on the railway bridge, go here…
Bridge hunting – Carmangay Alberta.

To see more of that photogenic little church, follow this link…
Little Church on the Prairie.

If you’d like to learn more about that GMC Fishbowl bus, this post can help…
The GMC Fishbowl.

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

Date: February, 2013.
Location: Calgary, AB.

Carmangay water tower

Carmangay’s water tower.

Carmangay AB memorial

A memorial found on the road into town.

Carmangay AB grain elevator

Carmangay’s last grain elevator and its famous railway bridge are seen in the distance.

Carmangay Emmanuel Anglican Church

The very picturesque Emmanuel Anglican Church.

Carmangay walking path

This trail takes you along a bluff to the train bridge.

Carmangay Alberta pathway

The pathway is paved with red shale.

Carmangay Alberta downtown

Downtown Carmangay from the walking path.

Carmangay Alberta elevator

This seed cleaning plant is now Carmangay’s only grain elevator.

Carmangay AB

A cool barbecue or smoker.

Carmangay AB walking path

There are nice views from the pathway.

Carmangay AB railway bridge

The massive railway bridge was built in 1927 (note date on the pier).

Carmangay CPR bridge

The bridge spans a wide and deep gully.

Carmangay Alberta bridge

Whether we hike or explore we always bring a tasty lunch and wine.

Carmangay AB train bridge

One last look at the bridge, which I found very fascinating.

Grain elevator Carmangay AB

In recent decades Carmangay had five grain elevators, now it has one.

Carmangay AB playground

Here’s the sign but where’s the playground?

Pacific Ave Carmangay Alberta

Looking down Pacific Avenue, a main street in town.

White GMC truck

An old White GMC put out to pasture.

Mack Ulraliner truck

A Mack Ultraliner, a very cool truck (IMO).

Mack Bulldog

Mack’s trademark Bulldog symbol.

Military dolly

A military dolly, which I believe is used to move containers.

Ford F600 Uhaul

An old Uhaul on a Ford F600 chassis.

Lethbridge Transit bus

A former Lethbridge Transit GMC New Look bus, known as a “Fishbowl”.

No dumping

No dumping eh?

Carmangay Alberta

Evidence of an old door and window.

Carmangay AB Fire Department

The original fire station, I understand, has an old truck inside.

Carmangay Alberta fire bell

The steeple has collapsed a bit.

Carmangay AB fire hall

The current fire hall, protected by a nearby fire hydrant.

Carmangay Alberta grocery

The grocery store is now closed.

Carmangay 100th birthday

Carmangay celebrated it’s 100th birthday in 2010.

Date in cement

In front of the Grange Hotel we found this date scratched in the cement.

Carmangay AB garage

An old garage, gas station or auto business?

Carmangay down town

This spot was likely where the train station stood. The tracks are right behind me.

Carmangay Grange Hotel

The Grange is open for business.

Grange Hotel Carmangay

I love these small town hotels, so we’ll one last look before we leave.


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16 Comments on "Carmangay Alberta"

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Monica J
Monica J

Very interesting prairie town. I love that church. And the fire hall, and that amazing bridge. Well done!

Jolly Jack
Jolly Jack

I just stumbled across your site today and already I can’t help but love you guys. You take what to most is just a small unassuming place like this and you make it sound fascinating. I can see the unbridled passion you have with all those things that pass in front of your wide-open eyes. Your writing style is so real and honest and that my friend is refreshing.


In Carmangay where were the 5 grain elevators that were torn down and where could a person see the picture from the 70s?




I just came across your site today. I actually grew up around Carmangay as my family farmed 10 miles south east of the town. I also attended Carmangay school before it shut down in 2001. It is nice to see someone take an interest in exploring my little town!

C Messinger
C Messinger

My Great Grandfather Snyder homesteaded 1 mile south of Carmangay in 1907. His equipment re-aligned the buildings on mainstreet. Not sure what year. Grandfather Messinger moved there in 1911 and he had a farm, farm equipment sales and a clothing store. Was mayor.

Much of the family left in 1922 because of drought and my grandfather in 1934 for the same reason. From what I heard there were good times in Carmangay until 1917 when drought started to choke the life out of it.

Kym Nichols
Kym Nichols
I am the current mayor of Carmangay an I so enjoyed reading your article! Thank you for showcasing our community. I would have love to have given you a tour. I am a fourth generation from here, my great grandfather, Wes Burke came here from Kentucky in the early 1900’s. I thought I would clarify/update a couple things. The grange hotel is open. The restaurant is open 5 days a week and the hotel 7 days but perhaps it was closed at the time you were here. They close in the afternoons sometimes. The bell for the old firehall is being stored in the new hall until we can restore the firehall(we are currently acquiring funds). There is an old firetruck is also being stored in the new firehall. The playground signs is for the camp that is just east of the sign it is a horse riding camp for… Read more »

Our son came a across your site and sent it on to us!!!!the BBQ belongs to us .
Next time you are in Carmangay please stop in and see us. Would love to meet you both

Gail (Stringer) McArthur
Gail (Stringer) McArthur

My late grandfather, Edward Lowe, and his older brother, homesteaded near Carmangay in 1908/9, after leaving their home in Michigan. They followed two uncles, surname Childs, also from Michigan, to Alberta. Although the uncles eventually returned to Michigan, Grandpa and his uncle remained in Alberta for the rest of their lives. I have my grandfather’s brief memoir, in which he talks about living in a tent until they managed to build themselves a home, and about the “ox” which they used to “rent” to other farmers! Grandpa was also a teacher, and I believe he may have taught in Carmangay. I remember my late mother telling me that her dad had taught in a Hutterite community during the depression, and was paid in potatoes.
I really enjoyed reading this post!