Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CN & CP serve Portage la Prairie's Manitoba Pool 'B' grain elevator

The Manitoba Pool 'B' grain elevator in Portage la Prairie (middle above) was a single elevator served by two railways, CN and CP. Each railway had a spur, with CP's on the north side and CN on the south. An earlier photo shows the Cominco Elephant fertilizer elevator, Portage Pool 'A' and Portage Pool 'B':
Built in 1961, with an annex built in 1975, the 4800-tonne capacity elevator was relatively modern. Located across from CN's Portage station, the elevator made a natural backdrop for train photos taken from any side. An eastbound CP grain train passes on its north side in August, 1978:
Shortly thereafter, CN 5104 passes on the south side, westbound. CN sometimes loaded boxcars. Notice the wooden grain doors used for boxcar loading, stacked between the hydro pole and the dust collector bins:
In 1984, a 101-car three-unit CN freight with 5560-9169-9192 passes south of Pool 'B' and underneath the Skyview bridge, which afforded a good view of three sides of the elevator.
Up on the Skyview bridge in 1981, a top view of CNWX covered hoppers (front to rear) 100191 - 108218 - 395121 being loaded. CN engines 1353 - 1354 had just lifted two other cars from the elevator track, a Saskatchewan Grain Car Corporation car and a CNWX silver-and-yellow car just visible at top right, being pushed back towards CN's Portage yard:
In 1979, a CP freight rumbles by with SD's 5536 - 5518 - 5717 - 5758 - and M-630 4568 for power. Pool 'B' was located across from CP's Portage section car sheds:
One drawback to the elevator's central location in town was just that - its central location. Farmers trucked their grain through town, when momentum was already shifting to larger trucks unloaded at larger elevators, located outside town.
An eastbound CP freight passes as three Canadian Wheat Board covered hoppers, CNWX 395552 - 396753 - 396491 are loaded on the CN side:
Here's a view of CP's loading spur, guarded by a classic CP target switchstand. The spur was on a switchback that also served Engro fertilizer, and a small CP freight loading platform, as a CP freight behind 8807 - 4431 - 8493 trundles toward Winnipeg in 1981:
Unfortunately, a fire started at the base of the elevator on Sunday morning, September 30, 1984. Portage's five fire trucks responded, as well as trucks from Carberry and CFB Portage. The fire resulted in $1.75 million in damages, and the loss of the structure:
The elevator's proximity to CP's mainlines caused problems for passing CP trains - heat stress to the rail and grain spillage onto the tracks as the fire spread, and gravity drew the grain downwards. Winds blew burning embers toward the CN station, which received minor damage. By 1986, there's no trace of the elevator behind the trees, as an eastbound CP grain train heads east behind 6041 - 5965. A shout-out to my homeys in Gladstone who spray painted "GRAD 85 GLADSTONE" on that car:
Ironically, Portage Pool 'A' built in 1951 burned on September 9, 1982. Not to worry, Manitoba Pool Elevators was busy building new elevators outside Portage, on CP at Burnside to the west (below), Westroc to the north, and Tucker to the east.
In 1994, the westbound VIA Canadian departs Portage at dusk. A lone cyclist but no Portage 'B' witness its departure in this L.C. Gagnon photo:
Manitoba Pool 'C' burned in August, 1976 (file news photo). The elevator was still standing during our visit there in July, 1976.

Running extra...

I discovered this grain elevator blog today, which has some interesting photography and effects:

Just finished Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields - Discovering America's Hallowed Ground on CD. After the war, several famous artists painted Cycloramas, circular paintings of famous battles such as Second Bull Run and Gettysburg, designed to overwhelm viewers with vivid detail of historical events. This Pool 'B' post also provides a sort of circular view of the elevator a few years before its demise.
Next up on the listening list, W.O. Mitchell's classic 1947 novel Who has Seen the Wind, set in southern Saskatchewan during the years of drought and depression. Mitchell captures not only the sweep of the prairie and the loneliness of skies scoured by unending wind, but the varied richness of human nature and the strength of the human spirit. An excerpt: "My Dad's a conductor," Forbsie said, "on the C.P.R. He has got silver buttons."


Zartok-35 said...

That is a coold elevator! There really aren't many that served 2 roads at once. I like that CN picture with the F-units too!

Eric said...

Hi Elijah, I am unaware of any other primary elevator served by CN/CP. There must be an interesting story as to why it happened in Portage, likely including the location of the elevator between both parallel mains.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Interesting documentation of movements within Canada's Breadbasket. For those of us living out on the Coast, the sight of such flat land is remarkable! Reminded me of a drive across the States, Kansas in particular. First sight on the horizon, and elevator, then a water tower, then a church spire. That about says is all for those small towns!

Eric said...

Hi Robert, true, navigation is pretty easy where it's flat. Really no need for a map or GPS, I would just head for the next visible grain elevator. North Dakota had the same visible landmarks, plus no habitation of any kind in the vicinity of missile silos!

Tyler said...

Great information! I wish I could find a track chart or schematic from the time showing the various side tracks and interconnections in Portage during the 1980s.

Eric said...

Hi Tyler, thought you would like to see more of Pool 'B'. Regarding track schematics, I have CN's but not CP. At Portage I made a sketch of the crossovers at the west end. Sounds like CN doesn't have much trackage left in Portage, but they didn't have too many industries to serve there...CP seemed to have more: Campbell's Soup, McAllister Pea & Seed, and 1 UGG and 2 MPE elevators, plus two fertilizer dealers while I was there. Thanks for stopping by,

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Eric, just re-reading this great post and I thought I'd post two other Manitoba elevators served by both CN and CP. There's the Paterson Grain Morris Terminal, served by the CN Letellier and CP Emerson subdivisions. Also there is the Paterson elevator in northwest Winnipeg, served by the CP Carberry sub and the stub of the CN Oak Point sub, though technically BNSF delivers the cars.

Eric said...

Thanks, Steve. Very interesting to see CN and CP serving the same elevators. Portage Pool B was a little different, with comparatively short (3 cars) loading tracks. Either way, such close proximity of both railways' trackage to serve any industry is indeed rare.
Happy New Year!

Garry said...

Good evening, out for a "Google Walk" and ran across your site. I will return when I have a little more time to wander but I was caught by the 4th picture down (the grain doors stacked beside the tracks). They look like they could be Paget Grain Doors but probably aren't. I'm interested to know if any one has heard of the Paget Grain Door? (last Cdn Patent CA236190...last US Patent US 1,903,065) Garry (Bolton, Ontario)

Eric said...

Thanks for your comment, Garry. Google does indeed pick up photos on my blog frequently, so it's not surprising we're talking now!

Though I don't remember details (or have any close-up photos of the grain doors) I certainly remember them from my earlier visits to Portage, though they were less prevalent as the covered hoppers came on-line.

Please stop by anytime and check out my western posts!

Garry said...

Eric, I actually saw the photo on your site with this title...4th photo down.

"CN & CP serve Portage la Prairie's Manitoba Pool 'B' grain elevator"

The family did a roaring business that I believe extended to Winnipeg and westward.

Please e-mail me and I can fill you in a little, as it seems you enjoy things "of the road" !!


Eric said...

My email is mile179kingstonATyahooDOTca, Garry. Email anytime,

Garry said...


E-mail has arrived.


Eric said...

Thanks, Garry!