Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wrentham and the Last Wooden Ogilvie Elevator

How many times have you seen an old church or other old building and though to yourself, 'it'd be cool to own something like that'. Or is that just me and a few of my friends? I have seen old churches converted to businesses and homes and have seen a few for sale recently. I would totally live in one. Renovated, of course. My family does not get it. I always worry for the future of these old places. If I can't buy all the places...WHO WILL?

What about a grain elevator? How cool would it be to own a grain elevator? They are rapidly disappearing from our prairie landscape and there are only a handful of people who seem to care enough to do something about it. I know a few of these people and recently visited their elevator in the hamlet of Wrentham, AB. Wrentham is located in Southern Alberta, less than an hour from the US Border. It is home to a handful of residents, some old buildings, and 2 elevators.

The elevator in question was built in 1925 by the Ogilvie Flour Mills Company. Not familiar with Ogilvie? Neither was I. When Ogilvie sold off their elevators to the bigger grain companies (Alberta Wheat Pool, United Grain Growers, Saskatchewan Pool, or Federal Grain) in the late 1950s, their comparatively small elevators weren't needed and many were demolished, though a few survived being used as additional storage for the larger companies. The one in Wrentham was purchased by Alberta Wheat Pool in 1958 and served as an annex for their adjacent grain elevator until it was then sold to a local farmer in 1968 for him to use as storage for his grain. It remained in his family ownership until his son was ready to retire in the mid 2000s. This set off a chain of events that lead to the elevator being purchased by the Ogilvie Wooden Grain Elevator Society (OWGES) in December of 2014.

The goal of OWGES is to raise money to preserve this unique elevator and awareness of being the last ‘Ogilvie Flour’ branded wooden grain elevator left in the province of Alberta. The intention is to restore the elevator on its original site and create a working museum. Additionally, a Provincial Historic designation is pending for this wooden beauty.  The once dormant Canadian Pacific Railway line to the north of the elevator was re-instated in the fall of 2016 by Forty Mile Rail, a farmer group based out of Foremost, AB that operates a grain train moving grain from Stirling to Foremost.

The East and West faces read
'Ogilvie Flour', still faintly visible.
The South face said 'Miracle Feeds',
a brand sold by Ogilvie.

Once there was 2 more elevators in between these.

Former Alberta Wheat Pool Elevator

There are a few buildings on 'Main Street', including the Wrentham General Store which was opened in 1923 as a gas station and garage. The second building was added in about 1927 and became the store. The inside still has many of the original features. It received it's historic designation in 1997. It is sad to see it in this condition.

Wrentham General Store. 

Formerly Citizens Lumber Co. Ltd. 

Must love trucks.

Want more?! Here are some links regarding the Ogilvie Wooden Grain Elevator:
OWGES Facebook Page
Off the Beaten Path Aug 2014
CBC Article March 2015
Calgary Herald Article March 2015
Confessions of a Train Geek April 2016
Forgotten Alberta August 2016
Off the Beaten Path July 2017
DanOCan September 2017

I'd like to give a special thank you to Jason Paul Sailer for providing invaluable info about the elevator and OWGES and for answering lots and lots of questions. Also, a shout out to Cody Kapscos and Chris Doering for always answering my questions. You guys are all awesome! If it works out next time I am down there, I'd love to see inside the elevator.

Photos taken on November 25th, 2017.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Abandonment Issues

Lace curtains frame the closed windows. The only breeze now blows through a broken window in the door. There's picket fenced yards in the front and back, but no kids play here anymore. 

This homestead is haunting and beautiful. It's isolated location speaks to the tenacity of it's inhabitants. A town used to be nearby along a rail line. That line is gone and a ghost town remains. 

There was much more to see here, that I didn't get photos of. 2 foundations were visible as well as several outbuildings of varying sizes. This places deserves a return trip when I have more time.

Photos taken on November 26th, 2017.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train 2017

Photo from

I was not aware that the CP Holiday Train has been festively rolling across Canada for 19 years! We saw it for the first time last night in Blackfalds, AB and thought it was awesome. I could see us going every year.

The train started in Montreal, QC on November 26th and will end in Port Coquitlam, BC on December 17th. Each stop is a half hour with a musical performance. We were treated to a couple songs by Emma-Lee and then a few songs by the awesome (and underrated in my opinion) Colin James. They also collect food and money and donate to the local food banks.

There is a 2nd Holiday Train that, along with Canadian stops, also stops at points in the US, including New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota. If you are able to catch the train, it's worth it!

My friend Steve over at Confessions of a Train Geek, caught the Holiday Train a few days ago in Portage la Prairie, MB. It was a daytime stop and he got some great photos! Check it out here.

There are some fantastic photos online if you google CP Holiday Train. I took a few photos and a couple videos on my phone below:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Abandoned Automobiles

On my back road outings, I occasionally see abandoned vehicles. I will sometimes see old trucks used as advertising or vehicles placed deliberately as 'lawn ornaments', which I think is cool and a neat way to use these old beauties. Other times, they are just sitting out in a field, nothing else around. How did they get there, why were they left there? Did they break down and the owner just said 'screw it'? However they came to be,  I enjoy finding them. 

My favourite truck, minutes from my house!
Remains of a Datsun

Nordegg work truck

Put out to Pasture

Bulwark beauty
UAC - unidentified abandoned car

Permanent Parking

Out in Left Field

Final Resting Place
If I could own a vintage vehicle, it'd be a 50's era Chevy truck. Not picky though! Are you partial to any vintage/antique vehicle? I was just thinking that my first car, a 1980 Pontiac Lemans, would be considered a 'classic car' now.  I wonder what ever happened to that old beast!

Saturday, December 2, 2017


Heavenly Rays of Light

I saw photos of this beautiful church in September and found out that I would be passing right by it a few days later. How serendipitous, how fortuitous! Everything was falling into place with very little effort on my part.

Not too far off a main highway, those unmistakable 'onion' shaped domes come into view over the trees. Hard to miss whether you're looking or not, however I don't think this road gets much random traffic. We poked around and took pictures here for about an hour without seeing another vehicle pass by. We even rang the bell but that didn't bring anyone either. Not sure who I thought might show up anyway...

The sign in front states this is Ascension of Jesus Christ Ukrainian Catholic Church, Kopernick Parish. It is also called Kopernik (Nowy Sokal) Ascension Parish. The first church on this site was built in 1904, and was tiny at only 18'x30'. It was sold in 1914 and a new, larger church was constructed the same year. Unfortunately that church burned down in 1951. The current, and much larger and taller church was built between 1953-1960.

On one side of the church is the cemetery. On the other side, the Parish Hall that was built in 1933. The church has been closed for regular services since 2009 but it still looked after. It appears that a yearly grave blessing Liturgy takes place. The Parish Hall is no longer in use.

This monument is a cross from the 2nd church that burned down

Bell Tower

H at the Parish Hall

Dramatic sky this way!
Blue skies this way!

I was hoping to see inside but not all churches are open. Luckily, I connected with a lady named Kim Tanasichuk who shared her photos of the inside of the church, her photos of the amazing interior are below:

I truly feel lucky to see these places that have deep roots in the history of our province. I love taking photos and being able to learn a bit of history along the way is priceless. Thank you for reading this blog!

Check out my friends at BigDoer who visited here first and wrote a wonderful article about it. 

My photos taken Sept 15th, 2017
Interior photos courtesy of Kim Tanasichuk

Monday, November 27, 2017

Skiff and the Sweetgrass Hills

I got to enjoy a quick 3 day trip to Lethbridge, AB this weekend. We got to see old friends and celebrate their sons birthday. It turned into a 4 day weekend when my son woke up sick Monday morning and we had to stay home. Such is life. It gave me a chance to blog and catch up on reading blogs while he was resting.

I was able to get out and do some exploring as well this weekend. Exploring in this part of Alberta is different from where I usually haunt. It seems lonelier, buildings and farms are less frequent and towns are small and far apart. Better make sure you have a full tank before heading out. I was expecting snow when I planned this trip but it turns out a chinook blew through and melted all the snow (not global warming). It was windy and the skies were beautiful, with lovely colours of pink and orange on the horizon over the Sweetgrass Hills to the south.

One of my many stops was Skiff, AB. This tiny quiet hamlet has a few streets of houses an old General Store and, the reason I stopped in, a grain elevator. The name Skiff appears to be a nautical reference as there are streets called Rudder, Tiller and Bow.

Minty shed, near Skiff.
Most if not all prairie towns had a grain elevator, usually more than one. Skiff used to have 3. This remaining one is now privately owned. The previous owner was Parrish & Heimbecker. The other elevators were originally Alberta Wheat Pool. They have been gone since around 2000.

The old general store is a block away from the elevator. You can still faintly read 'General Store' and John Deere Farm Equipment'.  

Below is an old photo from 1999 of the elevators courtesy of Chris Stackhouse, who has photographed many wooden grain elevators as well as prairie life and much more, check him out!

I love the painting-like quality of this photo

A photo from the 1970's by Eric Musekamp via Flickr
Photo courtesy of Joe Kuzmiski 

After leaving Skiff, I found an old homestead. All that remains are several sheds and outbuildings. There was also a stone set of steps that once led to a house. It would've been a magnificent view from the front door of that home.

All my photos taken on November 25th, 2017.