In the 1990s I was doing oilfield “hotshot” trucking and in my travels I’d pass through many interesting places. Always under time pressures (the nature of that business), I rarely had the opportunity to stop and take in any sights. Once in a while though, things worked in my favour and in those rare instances, I’d photograph what I could. Like what we see here, a line of grain elevators seen in the small town of Consort Alberta.
At the time of my visit, Consort had three elevators – four if you count one annex that was once a stand alone elevator at one time – which for some unexplainable reason only made a minor cameo appearance in my pictures, showing off just its base. I should have shot all of it as it’s far and above the most significant elevator in that line…but I missed it. I was such an amateur then!
All were painted in the company colours of the Alberta Wheat Pool, light blue, except for the old one which was white. Later, prior to them being demolished, some got an Agricore sign on their side, which was the then new name for any AWP properties after it merged with the Manitoba Pool. Not that it matters much in this story, but later Agricore merged yet again, with United Grain Growers becoming Agicore United. After one more merger, with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, it became the company called Viterra. Confusing or what? Anyway by then Consort’s elevators were a distant memory.
This author has not found much about the lineage of these elevators. The small annex elevator dates from at least 1920 – this author has seen a picture at the Glenbow Museum showing it at that time where it was painted for Alberta Pacific Elevators. That’s all I know, at this point anyway, but as I dig up more on the others you’ll surely see updates here (we have updates, see further below).
Beside the middle elevator is what appears to be a coal shed (that small building to its left). These were once a common sight and every town had at least one. Coal for domestic heating and cooking was brought in by boxcar (yes boxcar – a very inefficient way) and hand shovelled into the building via a small door on the track side. From there, it would be hand shovelled (again) into the customer’s wagon or truck, who would then take home, only to hand shovel it once more, usually into the basement via a coal chute. Whew, what a lot of work and by the time they were done those shovelling were usually pretty dirty. It’s no wonder people were so eager to change to natural gas or other methods of heating and cooking.
These coal sheds were common into the 1950s but by the late 1970s they were gone as everyone had converted. To see one in the 1990s was a rare treat and the only reason some still stood is that they were being used as storage sheds and such.
It’s not clear exactly when these elevators were demolished. I have seen pictures as recent as about 1999 showing all of them still standing but I doubt they lasted much longer. A good guess is that they were gone shortly after the turn of the twenty first century.
The rail line seen here, the CPR’s former Coronation Subdivision, arrived at Consort in 1910. This line, always tied to the grain industry, travelled from its namesake town in Alberta to Kerrobert Saskatchewan. Often a marginal operation, it was sold to a short line company in the early 1990s, the Central Western Railway based out of Stettler Alberta. Even with lower operating costs, this little company could not make a go of it and the line was abandoned in bit and pieces in the years that followed.
Consort saw trains into the late 1990s at least, as this author has seen a photo from the summer of 1997 showing grain hoppers being spotted at the elevators and another from 1999 showing tank cars being stored on the siding. Some reports contradict that though and claim the line was totally closed in 1996, which I guess would be wrong. Regardless of date, the tracks remained in place for a number of years after, into 2000-2002 I am told. They were clearly in place on my visit but looked unused.
It’s sad to know that none of these elevators still stand, but I was sure happy I was able to capture at them on my visit. Most of them at least – I wish I had shot the old one better. A town loses something when the elevators get demolished.
These photos were scanned from a 35mm prints.
Update: May 2013. I’ve received some information from a reader in respect to the elevators seen in my shots. However, it’s not complete and I am still uncertain on some things. The small ex-Alberta Pacific annex elevator is the oldest, dating from 1912. It’s twin was built in the mid 1950s and was another of the AWP elevators seen. The next AWP (and we’re not sure which one just that it’s not the one beside the old annex) was moved here from nearby New Brigden Alberta in the 1980s when the rail line it was on was abandoned – I think it’s the furthest one, built in 1928. The last one could be from 1915, the middle one (again, I think). This one lacks company lettering and I believe had sat unused for a number of decades.
On this same trip, I captured nearby Coronation’s grain elevator and it to see that report, go here…
Prairie sentinels – Coronation Alberta.
On a diffident hotshot trip I came across an elevator being torn down and to see it, follow this link…
A prairie sentinels falls – Torrington Alberta.
To see another grain elevator I photographed on one of my hotshot runs, go here…
Prairie sentinels – Queenstown Alberta.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: Late 1997 or early 1998.
Location: Consort, AB.