Grain elevators—often called prairie icons, vanishing sentinels, or prairie cathedrals on the horizon—once symbolized the rural landscape across the Canadian prairies.
Grain elevators signalled the location of the region’s villages and towns. Particularly prosperous communities had multiple elevators which provided better services and a stable tax base.
The town of Vulcan is located along the Canadian Pacific’s Aldersyde Subdivision, a secondary mainline between Lethbridge and Calgary, that opened for traffic in October 1911. During the construction of the railway, the grain elevators were erected at the various sidings along the line to receive grain from the surrounding district.
Vulcan’s first elevator, built by the Terwilliger Grain Company in 1911-1912, boasted a capacity of 25,000 bushels. It was joined in 1912 by the Alberta Grain Company’s (forerunner to Alberta Pacific Grain) 40,000-bushel elevator, and Taylor Milling’s elevator and warehouse, with a combined capacity of 12,000 bushels.
Vulcan was typical of the sidings located every six to ten miles by the railways in the West, the practical distance that grain could be delivered from the farm by horse-drawn means in a day. The railways provided sites at these points at nominal rental where the line companies could erect their elevators.
In February 2018, while looking through eBay, I came across a for-sale post of old black and white railway photos of a train wreck in Alberta. Curiously, I clicked on the ad and saw five or so photos of various wrecked cars, with people milling about around them.
The last photo made my jaw drop, as it had written on the back “1927 – 1 mile west of Jaydot, AB”.
I knew where Jaydot was (basically the middle of nowhere – i.e., extreme southeast Alberta), and was quite surprised to find these photos, especially since the line was completed by the CPR just five years before this derailment.
I made my bid on the photos and I won the auction, so a few weeks afterwards an envelope from a Victoria, BC antique shop ended up in my mailbox. Let’s step back a bit…
I would like to again thank Forgotten Alberta’s Jonathan Koch for inviting me to contribute on his website of the stories, images, and memories of southeastern Alberta. As a “resident” of this region, I am honoured and pleased to add my thoughts and images. My first encounter with Forgotten Alberta was in November 2011, with his web article talking about “Who are the forgotten dead of Vulcan County?” I was searching Google for information on pioneer cemeteries in Alberta, and after finding the article and reading it over, I knew that I should bookmark this site for future reference. I’ll be doing a different take on the “forgotten dead” with my connection to some of the pioneer cemeteries that were located not far from my parent’s farm northwest of Elkwater. That will be for a future post!
My first post on Forgotten Alberta is called “Always Look Back” – I have used the term over the years and it has a meaning that works well in exploration photography / historical research, I’ll explain more in a bit.