In this then and now series our subject is Rosebud Alberta, specifically the railway line and the town’s grain elevators. In the first image we see a CNR train passing by and for our attempt we do our best to capture that same shot. It’s difficult since all the structures seen are long gone and with them any reference points we could use.
In 1982, the date the first picture was taken, four elevators are seen. On our visit only one remained, although it’s fairly new, having been built two years AFTER that shot. It’s location today is (roughly) to the right of the silver elevator. It’s a fairly modern version of the traditional wooden elevator, a sort of transitional design between the former and the new concrete or steel binned high throughput elevators that would follow. This one was closed at the turn of the century and is now privately owned. The original owners paint and logo is still intact which is a nice touch. This elevator had two loading tracks for more efficient operation.
Of the other elevators seen, the Alberta Wheat Pool (AWP) on the right was built in the late 1920s. The one across from it, painted in the colours of the Alberta Pacific Grain Company (APGC), was by this time also owned by the AWP, but was still painted for its original owner. This one was built ten years or so before the other AWP elevator and for a short time in the late 1960s and early 1970s was owned by the Federal Grain Company who bought out the APGC. Federal was later folded in the AWP, not longer after (grain elevator history can be down right confusing).
The green elevator was painted for Cargill Grain but I have not been able to uncover its lineage but I believe it was built around 1913-14 when the rail line came through Rosebud. It’s not clear what company the last elevator, the silver one, belonged to. I’ve heard there was a National Grain elevator here, so perhaps this is the one (as always, we invite our readers to chime in).
The layout of the elevators here was somewhat unusual. It was always simpler to keep them all on one side of the track but the topography and tight spaces in the valley here prevented that.
All of the structures seen were gone by 2000. I passed here many times in the 1990s, while on oilfield hotshot runs, but I never bothered to photograph the then still standing elevators. Sigh, I guess I thought they’d be around forever and were not worth recording. I think a lot of people felt that in fact.
For my shot, I used what appears to be some of the old elevators foundations to line things up. In hindsight, I think I should have been further back.
The track here, along the CNR’s Drumheller Subdivision, is a route that travelled from Calgary east to Saskatoon Saskatchewan. A secondary main line, it was a rather challenging route in some respects due to the deep winding valleys they had operate through. This also meant it was a costly maintenance nightmare, with numerous bridges to upkeep (dozens and dozens of them) and unstable hillsides to content with.
This line was fully closed by 2010, although the track remains in place for the time being. There must be a reason why, but what? A new operator? There has been talk of this although if the CNR thought the line was a money pit, how could a short line afford to run it. Or maybe, and this is just my hunch, perhaps the line would be costly to remove (remember all this bridges mentioned) and having it sit in place is cheaper than pulling it all up. That’s my guess.
Near the end, the line was home to only a couple trains per day and with the loss of grain traffic, there was little in way of local business. The loss of that was not a big problem I guess and any through freight could easily be rerouted to other lines.
The lead locomotive seen is a GMDD (General Motors Diesel Division, London Ontario – closed 2012) model F7A. Built in 1952 it was result on the mid 1970s it lasted in CNR service until 1989. Passing through many hands afterwards (equipment dealers and such), amazingly this engine may still be around and this author has seen images dated as late as 2012 showing it. It’s looking a bit rough but intact and my understanding is it will be rebuilt again and put to use (with some similar engines) hauling the Norfolk Southern Railroad’s (eastern US) company trains. In 2013 this model locomotive would be a real rarity. In fact in 1982 when the first picture was taken, it would have been a uncommon engine even then. Mostly railways got rid of this model by the late 1970s.
The other locomotives can not be identified but look to be GMDD model GP9s (built mid to late 1950s). Based upon pictures this author has seen, this line was home to many of the CNR’s first generation diesels throughout the 1970s and 80s. Combine that with the grain elevators seen along the line and the overall beauty of the various valley’s the railway travelled though and it’s no wonder train photographers were drawn to this section of track.
The town of Rosebud is located is well know for its resident theatre company. In fact without it, the community would likely be a pretty sleepy place. It’s a great place to take in a play, which we have done once and should do again.
Further down the same rail line is the town of Wayne Alberta and to see a then and now series we did there, click the link below…
Then and now overlooking Wayne Alberta.
If you wish more information about this place, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2013.
Location: Rosebud, AB.