I planned a trip through western Manitoba to revisit some grain elevators that I hadn’t seen since 2014. I also wanted to fly my drone over some of the elevators to get a different perspective. I had a “target list” of a few elevators that I thought would look especially good from the air: Elva, Cameron, Beulah and Silverton among others.
I planned a very ambitious tour of 26 grain elevator sites over almost 24 hours. Some of these elevators would just be a “drive past” but I planned more lengthy stays at a few of them.
August 24 was the day chosen for this epic trip. As the day approached, I saw that the weather forecast was not good. It called for showers and a significant risk of thunderstorms, which is not great for photos and definitely not good for flying a drone. Fortunately, the forecast improved on August 23, with only “scattered” showers, but still a risk of thunderstorms. I decided to make the best of it.
I set off from Winnipeg at 2 AM to arrive at McConnell shortly before sunrise. I took highway 16 up through Gladstone, pausing for an early breakfast in Neepawa before continuing on past Minnedosa.
My phone’s map application led me along route 355 straight west from Minnedosa, which was not the best choice. It was a gravel road, which was not the safest to be driving along in pitch darkness. Occasionally the sky to the south would light up with lightning, but at least it wasn’t raining in my area. A better choice to get to McConnell would have been to stay on highway 16 to Shoal Lake, then head south.
I arrived at McConnell at 5:42 AM. It was still pretty dark, with only enough light to walk outside without stumbling into a ditch. I set up my tripod to take some long exposure photos of the elevators.
By 6:15 AM, it was light enough to fly my drone. I put it up in the air to take some photos, but I wasn’t brave enough to fly it around much in the near dark.
I didn’t have time to wait for actual sunrise, and there was no guarantee that the sun would actually break through the clouds. It was time to move on…
I passed through Shoal Lake quickly. I had been here in 2014 and again in 2017, so I didn’t feel the need to take many photos. See more Shoal Lake grain elevator photos.
I was looking forward to flying my drone in Solsgirth. The town has a few residents still, but much of it is abandoned. I am not sure if the grain elevator is still in use.
I took a moment to take a selfie to document the occasion.
After flying my drone, it was time to move on.
I was slipping a bit behind schedule. Angusville was next on my list, and I thought about skipping it, but Silverton was next and Angusville was directly on the road to Silverton, so… might as well take a few photos.
I hadn’t intended on flying my drone at Angusville, but once I drove past the elevator I could see a large area “behind” it that was OK for flying over. I put the drone up and took a few photos from that angle before landing and moving on.
Silverton’s unique grain elevator was on my list of “most desirable” elevators to fly my drone near. The chequerboard paint pattern on the elevator and the old style UGG logo are unique in Manitoba and I knew it had a lot of open space around it.
The town itself is well kept, but small. It was quiet there at 8:38 when I arrived (ahead of schedule!) and I took my time to fly the drone across the field in front of the elevator.
I was surprised to see that the annex had been repainted since my 2014 visit, and especially surprised to see that the United Grain Growers logo had been repainted on it. Much credit to the owner(s) for maintaining this beautiful elevator!
Continuing on down highway 45, I came to the lovely town of Russell.
The booming town of Russell has one grain elevator remaining, a former Manitoba Pool elevator in the centre of town. I had no intention of flying my drone here, as it’s surrounded by walking paths and houses. As it happened, it started to rain as I parked near the elevator, so flying was definitely out of the question!
I took a few quick photos then hit the road south on highway 16 toward the next few elevators. There was construction on the highway so it was slow going for many kilometres. I don’t understand why the speed limit was so low, given that there was no active work being done and both lanes were open.
Viterra recently expanded their elevator just north of Binscarth with the addition of three huge new bins and associated elevating machinery. I took a photo from the side of the highway to capture this, but I didn’t linger, as it was raining pretty heavily and I wanted to keep moving.
By the time I reached the grain elevator on the outskirts of Birtle, the rain was coming down very hard. I really didn’t want to step outside to take any photos… so I ended up rolling the car window down and taking them from inside the car.
It was definitely not ideal weather for photography now.
There was nothing to do but keep moving on, and hope to break out of the storm at some point. I carefully drove down the gravel road into Birtle, drove through the nice (but wet) downtown, then carried on toward Beulah.
The rain was still coming down hard when I arrived at Beulah. I was disappointed, as I really wanted to fly my drone around this lovely old ex Pool elevator.
There was active thunder and lightning nearby, with only a second or so between the lightning and the sound of thunder, so I knew I was in the heart of the storm and there was no point in lingering here. I briefly considered driving to the nearby town of Isabella to see the two elevators there, but conditions would have been the same there. I decided to continue on my path and hope to get out of the storm’s path.
Read part 2 to see Harmsworth, Reston, Sinclair, Tilston and more!