It’s the early fall of 1992 and I am on a road trip Northeast of Calgary. With no particular destination in mind I travel along random roads to see where they take me. Ultimately I end up in the Red Deer River valley near Drumheller, but before that I find myself in the small town of Beiseker looking at the grain elevators along the CPR branch line that passed through the area. That was then and today the tracks are long gone and the elevators demolished.
Beiseker is interesting as it has not one, but two rail lines passing through it. The aforementioned CPR branch, abandoned, and the well used CNR north south mainline between Calgary and Edmonton. I only document the former, for some reason and ignore the later, even though that line too had some elevators of interest. Such was the time when I was far too fickle about what I shot.
The elevators here, three of them, are at this time all painted for the Alberta Wheat Pool (AWP). The one in the foreground with the large annex at one time belonged to the Searle Grain Company (earlier Home Grain – a Searle subsidiary) confirmed in picture from the the 1970s which shows the Searle circle S logo on its side. This elevator was built in 1928 but but we don’t know when it was repainted in AWP colours, or when it was even torn down (assume late 1990s or early 2000s for the latter). Searle Grain amalgamated with Federal Grain in 1967, before being adsorbed by the provincial Wheat Pools in the early 1970s.
Next in line are two more elevators, the smaller one acting an annex for it’s bigger twin. We know that at least one of the pair dates from 1910 but it’s not clear when it (they) were repainted or demolished. That same 1970s era picture mentioned above shows both lettered for the Alberta Pacific Grain Company. This organization was folded into Federal just before that company’s marriage to Searle.
AWP become Agricore after merging with the Manitoba Pool (officially Manitoba Pool Elevators) in 1997, then became Agricore United after merging with United Grain Growers in 2001. After being acquired by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, it became Viterra in 2007. In 2013, the assets of this company were purchased by Richardson Pioneer, a long time player in the industry and one of the last of the independents. Wow, what a ride! It’s possible one or more of these elevators lasted long enough to be painted in one of the successor schemes.
At one time there was yet other elevators here, one located close to the parked rail car in the foreground. It appeared to be a National Grain elevator seen in that old picture I mentioned (from 1912) and it’s not known when it was demolished. After 1972 National become Cargill Grain, but it’s not known if they repainted this elevator.
Plus there was a UGG (United Grain Growers) and P&H (Parrish and Heimbecker) but I have yet to find where they were and when they were torn down. They were built in 1927 and 1957 respectively.
The CNR line had some elevators as well although I did not check them out.
The branch line here is the CPR’s Langdon Subdivision. Once a conduit for coal coming out of the Red Deer River valley, it also handled significant grain from various small towns along the line. By the time I visited it in the early 1990s, the latter was the main commodity moving on the line, although a gas plant on the connecting Acme Subdivision branch also added some traffic. Coal shipments declined throughout the 1950s, ending completely some twenty years later with the closing of the last mine in the late 1970s – the Historic Atlas Mine.
The line came though here in 1910 and was torn up sometime in either the late 1990s or early 2000s. Research is continuing to confirm what dates exactly.
There were no grain cars on the elevator sidings on my visit, but a rail car with ties was seen. Not sure, but they may have been doing track work in the area.
One of the rails on the siding was quite old (even by railway standards), having been rolled by Carnegie Steel in 1899. It’s not unusual to see tracks dated from the early 1900s to the late 1920s, but one this old is fairly rare. Railways sure get good use out their physical plant as demonstrated by the advanced age of this section of track. It’s was doing it’s job in 1992 as well as it did almost a hundred years earlier.
I am glad I shot these elevators but wish I was more thorough in documenting them and the others I did not visit. Well, I got these ones at least.
On this same road trip, I took in the grain elevators at Carbon Alberta and to see that report, go here…
Prairie sentinels – Carbon Alberta.
The ghost town of Sharples Alberta is also along this same branch line, and to see a 2012 report we did on it, follow this link…
Sharples Alberta ghost town.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: September, 1992.
Location: Beiseker, AB.