Monday, November 11, 2013

Elephant Elevators

Cominco Fertilizers Elephant Brand bulk fertilizers were sold to farmers from unique turquoise-coloured elevators that dotted Manitoba. These elevators consisted of an elevating leg and bins with a covered truck-loading pipe. (So though the title is Elephant Elevators, this post has little to do with perpendicularly positioning a pachyderm.) Often, but not always sited on town elevator tracks beside larger grain elevators, these green gems were often found at multi-elevator shipping points served by CP,  one-time owner of Cominco. MacGregor (above and below).
Manitoba locations that hosted Elephants (*photos included in this post/ **still standing):
Altona, Arborg, Brunkild*, Hamiota, MacGregor*, McTavish**, Minto, Niverville**, Oakville*, Portage la Prairie*, Waskada, Westbourne*.
Some locations included covered storage sheds or Quonset huts, such as Munro Farm Supplies served by CP in Portage la Prairie (above and two below in 1980-81, other photos in this post taken in 1984)

Some 'double' elevators were actually enlarged versions of the single Elephant elevator, with a truck loading bay, such as Oakville. The competition, Engro, was set up right next door.
Notice the elevating machinery at rear of Oakville's Elephant elevator. Carloads of ties from CN's P-811 tie machine were stored here in 1984, along with a CN speeder:
Westbourne's plant (three photos below) was also operated by Munro Farm Supplies. Munro Shur-gro now operates several fertilizer locations in Manitoba.
For modelling purposes: notice the signage on the elevators, including the Elephant logo and sometimes the name of the operating agency. Radio antennae and lightning rods sometimes surmounted them. A wide variety of vehicles were usually scattered around: tank trucks, hopper trucks, trailers, pickup trucks, tractors and augers. Coverall-wearing figures should also be working or lounging.
Scribed styrene can be used for siding and roof, with Penn Central-like turquoise paint in fresh or faded shades, all atop a poured concrete floor. My HO scale model served for many years, but did not survive the transition from Prairie to Vancouver modelling intact!
Randy O'Brien kindly sent an updated photo of the Brunkild location which I'd earlier included in a post on modelling the built environment of the Prairies. Now operated by Golden Plains Agro Inc. the double elevator was in disrepair when he photographed it in 2008. The Prairie winds had done some damage:
These Elephant elevators would be compact, colourful, easy-to-model additions to any Prairie layout's elevator track. With a relatively small footprint, Elephants could be placed against a backdrop, or even in the foreground of a narrow shelf layout. Here are some logos from print advertisements, plus my own humble hand-drawn, now faded facsimile (top middle of scan):
Here's an Elephant fertilizer vintage magazine ad from 1963:
Munro Shur-gro still has an Elephant elevator at one of its locations: Westbourne. (Munro Shur-gro website photos) Westbourne's Elephant Brand sign has Agrium lettering along its top:
MacGregor's Elephant elevator was still standing in 2009 (below), though it's now been replaced by a modern, six-tank facility.
UPDATE: Other Elephants are stampeding in...Elijah noted Rosetown SK in his comment. Jason Sailer from Lethbridge provided a link to Jim Pearson's Vanishing Alberta site. Instantly, on Jim's Feed and Seed page, I found Elephant elevators in Bentley, High River, Standard, and Three Hills; Pincher Creek's still stands. Randy O'Brien added Moose Jaw and Rosetown SK, Carman and Souris MB. There's also Carnduff, SK. 

OTHER ELEPHANT ELEVATORS: once stood in Beiseker, AB

Here's one of Randy's photos of Eatonia SK, taken in 2009. This is a slightly different design, without the cupola, but with combined signage:
Running extra...

Why so many yogurt commercials? It's mostly (if not all) Greek to me. How did we survive without it for so long? This incredibly healthful, pro-biotic gooey substance is one floor up from tofu, but it seems to have snafu'd many consumer dollars, not to mention advertising dollars. Well, at least it provides us with some culture. Speaking of health promotion, watch out for this (click to enlarge):
Yo, go Business Class! VIA has just instituted its new meal service in the 3400's - appetizer and entree together. Dessert and buns smaller, and sometimes no hot towels or napkins. Read a couple of recent reports in my Fast Food and Trains blog in the right sidebar. Thanks to Sean for the advance scouting reports, complete with near-Swiss-timing annotations. A more dedicated professional correspondent there may not be.

It's fall, and a recent Jim Parker photo in my Inbox showed a classic New England image - Delaware & Hudson U-boat 709 with leaves stuck in the rear air intakes after a few trips through an Appalachian autumn:


Zartok-35 said...

They have one of these in Rosetown, or atleast an elevator that looks very similar. I know it had an Elephant painted on the side of it at one point. It's interesting, because Rosetown isn't really a CP town, especially nowadays. I know you went through there in the 1980s, perhaps you've seen it yourself?

Thanks for another detailed post about rural industries, Mr. Gagnon. This really is fascinating information!

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Elijah. I have always been interested in not only the big ol' grain elevators but also the other lineside industries along western Canada's CN and CP lines.

That's just my working theory about the CP/Cominco/Elephant linkage. Some of the Elephant towns were definitely CN. I don't remember seeing that elevator during my Rosetown visit. I viewed it on Googlemaps street view and it does indeed look like one, albeit a large, interesting facility.

I was hoping this post might encourage readers to send in word of current or former Elephants, and you did not disappoint!