Thursday, November 2, 2023

CP's Colonsay Subdivision - Chasing Yesterday

"Whenever we travel along Highway 2, we invariably make a pit stop at the Liberty elevator. On this particular occasion, serendipity led us to meet the owners, Quinn and Julie Wolff. Their hospitality extended to offering us an insightful tour of the inner workings of these historic structures, all while their two little ones accompanied us." So begins a social media post by Susan Smith Brazill and Emery Wolfe on their site 'Chasing Yesterday'. The pair is literally chasing the disappearing early agrarian life of Saskatchewan settlers and farmers and sharing images of their photographic pursuits.

Susan and Emery kindly allowed me to include their evocative photos in this post. I was struck by the photos' composition, lighting, shading and most of all how familiar they seemed to me. Having been inside a handful of elevators, everything was where I remembered it. So much so that when we toured the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, their King Wheat elevator mockup looked just like these photos. Well done! I've supplanted the photos with some of their supporting text as well as memories, left unitalicized, added by those viewing the photos.
"The wooden Liberty elevators, built in 1911 and closed in 2000, stand as enduring symbols of the region's agricultural past. Despite their current state of disrepair, they radiate a sense of resilience and determination. These structures were once the epicentres. This is where local farmers would deliver their hard-earned grain, such as wheat and barley, using a fleet of trucks or, in times gone by, horse-drawn wagons. Here also, the grain underwent meticulous processes, including weighing and quality assessments. Here is a series of photo inside and outside the Liberty elevators. Photo taken with permission by the owners. Chasing yesterday in Liberty, Saskatchewan."

Memories: Turning the wheel near the platform adjusts the delivery spout at the top of the elevator and directs grain into any one of the bins in the elevator. Then the grain goes up in the elevator lift in one those scoops underneath. 

It's called a leg and the little scoops are called cups. The leg is a long endless belt that runs from the bottom ( the pit ) to the top ( the garner or distributor ).

The cups carry to product to the top, the wood lever releases the Gerber, the large wheel selects the bin for the product to go into, it is called THE BINDICATOR.

The man-lift was counter-weighted to the weight of the elevator agent so if a kid got on it the lift would shoot up to the top and you could not get it down Somebody had the climb the ladder on the back of the leg and rescue you. You only ever did that once.

There is a wooden lever you had to step on first to life the spout then turn the wheel to the bin you wanted.

I work in a new modern grain elevator and can say that this picture is still the basis for all grain movement. Wood has been replaced by steel and concrete but the concept is exactly the same!
The ever present No Smoking signs. Smoking is a no-no in a grain elevator and if caught grounds for dismissal. I see a sign advertising hail insurance. A lot of elevator agents sold insurance as a sideline to generate a little income for themselves. Notice the leg cup laying on the floor to the right of the kicker.

This is kind of a dead end line. It was taken out many years ago. Terminal at Nokomis on CP line and terminal south of Watrous on CN spur. The line ends about 9 miles south of Watrous. Simpson, Imperial, Stalwart, Penzance, Liberty, Holdfast have no grain elevators on that line south of P & H terminal. No purchasing elevators I should say.
I'm 72 and your pictures bring back the wonderful smell of the grain elevator. A unique mix of grain dust and wood...the coldest place on earth - the elevator's driveway.
The hopper that all the grain passed through - in, up, down and out - and was weighed one hopper at a timeand weights recorded - unlike the current weigh-in-motion systems. Admittedly, technology and time have made grain-handling more efficient if not as quaint. It's no wonder the above memories were evoked after viewers enjoyed the Chasing Yesterday images. They're like being there and their photos show the staggering amount of lumber that went into building the elevators, the minimal updating and maximal aging that has taken place ever since.
Compare my 1985 view of Liberty (above)  with CP boxcars spotted during track rehabilitation, to the present (below - on a much colder day!). Based on the exterior north wall, Liberty's Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator was at one time painted for United Grain Growers. The UGG logo on the north side of elevator shows through.
Just north of Liberty, Stalwart ex-SWP (below) demolished November, 2023.
South of Liberty (and Penzance!), Holdfast:
The photos above are not my photos. They have been shared on the Chasing Yesterdays Facebook page, garnering the comments above. Chasing Yesterday - "Saskatchewan's Landscape, History and Photography" also has a website with links to its social media pages.

The photos resonated with me since I followed the CP Colonsay Sub, quite randomly, during my grain elevator photography trip around Saskatoon in 1986. I liked the classic Victorian or Edwardian names given to the towns by their English settlers or at least namers!

Chasing Yesterday (Susan Smith Brazill and Emery Wolfe) shares the yesterdays of Saskatchewan life, today. Abandoned homesteads, barnyards, grain elevators, gas stations and more. Or, as it's put on their webpage: "...prairie culture and beauty, a place for all to celebrate just how great the province of Saskatchewan is."

Thanks to Susan and Emery for allowing me to share their excellent work here on Trackside Treasure.

Running extra...

Now available from modeller and author James Hilton, his second book The Art of Railway Modelling. Here's a Youtube flick-through that shows the modelling, concepts, artwork and much more inside. (The flick-through revealed a layout centred on rail-served Canadian grain elevators, probably from James' 1989 visit). My copies of both his books are winging their way here, just as James' copies of my Trains & Grains are heading to the United Kingdom! Also trans-Atlantic is the pan-global, prodigious and productive Hilton and Mears collaboration.
Train 651, train 651 where are you? This article from our nearby Napanee Beaver decries the discontinuance of the vital morning commuter train (just don't tell VIA it's a commuter train!) between Kingston and Toronto. Despite public opposition, political pressure and repeated requests from online communities, the train pair has STILL not resumed despite most commuter trains being reestablished to pre-pandemic levels. This sounds like a future blog post! To the ramparts!


DaveM said...

I've often wondering if part of the troubles getting 651 back is getting a slot that time of day from Metrolinx....


Eric said...

Hi Dave,

Apparently Metrolinx guards their time slots even more closely than CN does. So many excuses from so many entities and the paying passengers sit and wait for the service to resume.

Thanks for your comment,

James H said...

Thanks for the promotion Eric, you're books arrived here this week and I've enjoyed a short flick through but will take a proper read this weekend!

Eric said...

Ny pleasure, James. You'll find some familiar, very English names in there from the Colonsay Subdivision (hello Penzance!) and it definitely attracted me to it in my planning, as did its direct north-south route with elevators all along the way. Glad I visited when I did!

Thanks very much for your comment,

Jason Sailer said...

And the Stalwart, SK grain elevator was just knocked down a couple of days ago!

Eric said...

Hi Jason,

I noted Stalwart's demise this week, and added that update to this post and my Colonsay Sub post as well.
It was a stalwart bulwark in the community as long as it could be, I guess.
Thanks for your comment,