Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Prairie Sentinels

The Grain Elevator in Westlock

So I've recently become fascinated with grain elevators, mainly because Westlock has one, and I'm walking past it every day.  We've all heard the tales by now, about how these once dotted the landscape across western Canada, but now, they're almost gone.  Every small town from about 1850 on had one.  Farmers would bring their grain in there, where it would be loaded up onto rail cars and shipped off to market.

They started going away in the 1990s or so, as it started becoming cheaper and easier to truck the grain off to market.  The railways started pulling up their short lines to all these rural towns, and the grain elevators started getting demolished soon after.  Which is why Westlock's is so fascinating.  It's still operational.  It's still viable.  As you can tell by all the silos next to it, it's so thriving it's been added to several times over the years.

The other side of the Westlock Grain Elevator

I wonder how technologically advanced it is.  How automated and computerized are grain elevators these days?  I mean, the last instance I know of of a new grain elevator is when I drove by one when I was kid in the 1980s.  And since they started going away in the 1990s, I imagine that grain elevator technology really didn't advance much past the 1980s.

Don't get me wrong, I know how they work.  I've spoken with the interpreters who man the grain elevator at the Ukranian Cultural Heritage Centre, I've seen the demonstration of the grain elevators interior at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum.   Hell, working in a grain elevator was one of my Dad's first jobs off the farm and he'll gladly tell you stories.

Grain elevator in Barrhead.  The railway is gone, but the elevator still stands.

So, yeah.  Not much more to say, nothing really profound.  Just as so many begin to feel nostalgic for these old prairie skyscrapers, I just feel lucky that I have one in my own backyard. 

And in case you've never been to one of the many places where they explain how a grain elevator works, here's a neat old documentary about grain elevators I found on the National Film Board of Canada website.  Just play the sound of a 16mm projector in the background, and it's just like movie day in school!

No comments: