Saturday, February 3, 2018

McCallister Pea & Seed Cleaners, Portage la Prairie

Allen McCallister came to Manitoba in 1897 from Grey North County, Ontario. He began growing peas in 1924, purchasing the turn-of-the-century commercial property in Portage in 1944 and constructed storage elevators for the family's bean and pea company, later becoming councillor, reeve and leader of various agricultural organizations. Located near 4th St N.E., just north of CP's yard, CP's Portage switcher is seen switching the operation in these photos kindly shared by Fred Clark. Fred photographed CP 6569 switching CPAA 89966 and two other patched Spruce Falls Power & Paper boxcars on July 11, 1984. Notice the peaked brick building at left.
Faithful Trackside Treasure reader Randy O'Brien sent a link to a fine Lawrence Stuckey photo of the operation, captioned 1987. Notice the assortment of new and old walls, pipes and bins. This photo  from Brandon University archives.
Note the ramp to the drive shed. Apparently, it ran over the CP spur serving the plant. Notice in the photo below that a CP Rail boxcar has been spotted past the ramp! The late Bill Grandin was in Portage on November 26, 1980 and these two photos, kindly shared by Jim Parker show some the building and neighbouring Transx terminal to advantage:

August 22, 1978 finds me and CP 8702-4440-4030 in the yard. McCallister was in the background, as it was in so many photos, but rarely in the foreground.

Find McCallister in these Brian Schuff photos: CP 3028 with McCallister elevator in background (above) and CP 8734 working the Speno railgrinding train in the yard with the brick building visible (below):
The multimillion-dollar plant suffered a three-alarm fire on March 29, 1990. As firefighters arrived, an entire wall gave way. Two large silos were damaged but not burned. Also damaged were the processing area, one elevator and a storage quonset. At the time, the plant was named Canadian Pulse Processors Inc, the McCallister family having sold their last remaining shares in 1985. Damage was 1.7 million dollars. At the time, the Campbell's Soup plant and CFB Portage were slated to close, and this was another economic blow to Portage, and the six employes were also affected. The plant, owned by the Great Canadian Bean Company was a large buyer of local seeds, including peas, beans and lentils, buckwheat and grains, processing 10,000-15,000 tonnes per year, processed into export-oriented products like bird seed by Continental Grain.

A handy little booklet entitled Early Architecture of Portage la Prairie, produced by the Manitoba Department of Cultural Affairs and Historical Resources - Historic Resources Branch in 1983 included these two bits of information on McAllister. A description of the original brick building, the Waterloo Manufacturing Company:
and a north-facing photo of the original brick building with elevators behind. On a model layout, this operation would be 'highly modellable'!
An undated archival booklet  gives this description of the original industry:

A CP track schematic of the wye tail track (at right) and McCallister spur (centre):
An early 20th-century Sanborn-type map showing the McCallister facilities:

Running extra...

Figuratively if not literally, I'm finding myself  'in' Portage la Prairie this week. I'm captioning up to 700 photos for my Trains & Grains two-volume book project. Views of CN, CP and VIA trains from almost every conceivable angle. Grain, hotshot, manifest, coal, roadswitcher and yardswitcher are all represented. You'll even find (OK, just one more) a view of McCallister in the distant background (why didn't I walk over that way at least once, camera in hand??) of this grain train meet on CP, photographed from the Skyline Bridge.
Speaking of the Skyline (easy to remember because it bears the same name as the mid-train Budd-built CPR dome) here's another model/proto photo that Randy shared, just to put to rest rumours that it's not actually officially called Skyline. Thanks, Randy!
My graphics 'expertise' involves pen and paper. It was 1980. My model railway needed a 'brand'. This was back when brands were still used only on cattle. I ended up with seventh row down, second from left, by the way!


Anonymous said...

MWR - Maintenance When Requisitioned
MWR - Mighty Weak Rails
MWR - The "Maybe Wednesday Road"
MWR - The "Many Washouts Road"
MWR - Mostly Wheat and Rust


Eric said...

Mighty Wise Reader!
Eric :)

Anonymous said...

Morale Welfare and Recreation

Tyler said...

Fantastic post! This is the first time I have seen close-ups of the plant.

Eric said...

Thanks very much for your kind comments. McCallister seems to be one of Portage's hidden gems! This helps address the oversight of this very interesting operation.

Hopefully someone out there is 'Googling' McCallister, will come across this post and share a bunch of neat information that will comprise a Postscript to this post!


Anonymous said...

I can't quite make out the number on the CPAA boxcar. It looks prime for modelling.
Are you able to make it out?
CP Rail Down Under

Eric said...

Thanks for your question, Andrew.
Those are former Spruce Falls Power & Paper boxcars. The CPAA number is 89966.

Michael said...

It's good to see that I wasn't the only one who created a corporate brand for a model railway. Mine was CRC - Corunna Railway Company. Not the most geographically ambitious name, but I was in grade school.

Eric said...

We were branding before branding was cool, Michael!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the dad worked there for lots of years..nice to see the place again

Eric said...

Glad to hear it, U.! If I come across more information, I'll add it here.