Grain Elevators: Beacons of the Prairies

Photographer Chris Attrell has partnered with author Christine Hanlon to produce a beautiful book featuring Canada’s grain elevators, Grain Elevators: Beacons of the Prairies. This 128 page hardcover book contains numerous full colour images of the grain elevators in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Amazon links on this site are affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission if you purchase something using those links.

The stars of the book are the grain elevators, evocatively photographed in all seasons in night and day. The photographs are large and colourful and are all captioned with details about the elevators and/or the area.

I must disclose that I was the copy editor for this book – and I was paid for it – so I am quite familiar with the book’s contents and I am definitely biased in its favour. It was a pleasure to work with Christine, Chris and Vernon from publisher MacIntyre-Purcell on this book.

You can view the virtual book launch below.

The book includes numerous sidebars describing aspects of grain elevators and the people and companies who built them. It is not “just a picture book”!

Several of the grain elevators featured in the book were photographed by Chris before their demolition, and the elevators at Winnipegosis and Pierson were demolished while the book was being completed. Poignantly, Homewood and Lowe Farm‘s elevators are featured in the book but were demolished soon after this book was released.

This book has been produced to the same level of quality as Chris’ previous book, Forgotten Saskatchewan, which was a best seller in its class on Amazon.

If you like grain elevators, you should get this book. It’s available from McNally Robinson and from Amazon (below).

Buy the book on

Welcome to Richard Woloshyn!

Frontier, SK, Sep 2014. Contributed by Richard Woloshyn.

I’d like to welcome a new contributor to the site – Richard Woloshyn.

Richard contacted me to offer some grain elevator photos to fill some gaps in the list. He supplied images of elevators in places like Duck Lake, SK and Kirriemuir, AB. Thank you very much!

Kirriemuir, AB, Sep 2013. Contributed by Richard Woloshyn.
Kirriemuir, AB, Sep 2013. Contributed by Richard Woloshyn.

If you have some grain elevator photos to contribute, please contact me at We’re looking for photos that you took, or have the copyright for, and especially for photos of grain elevators not present on this site already or showing a different angle than what’s here already. Thanks for your contributions.

Welcome to Ron LePage!

Meadow Lake, SK grain elevators, 1970s. Contributed by Ron LePage.
Meadow Lake, SK grain elevators, 1970s. Contributed by Ron LePage.

Ron LePage has contributed quite a few grain elevator photos recently, mostly from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Much appreciated!

You can see his contributor page and find a few elevators that he has submitted photos of.

If you’d like to contribute your photos of Canadian grain elevators, contact me at Thank you!

Ole Pedersen Kirkhus Photos

Clearwater, MB grain elevator, 1928

Ole Pedersen Kirkhus helped build some of the very early Pool elevators in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He took photos of his work and coworkers and his family has graciously allowed us to post these rare photos.

You can see the full list of elevators on his contributor page, but I have included a few elevator photos here.

We are very grateful to his descendants for sending these photos in.

Alexander, MB grain elevator, 1927
Alexander, MB grain elevator, 1927

See more of his elevator photos


As of today, there are 581 towns featured on this site. 581! It’s thanks to you, the contributors, that we’ve reached this incredible number. That’s 581 pages featuring one or more grain elevator photographs. There are still plenty of towns that had or have elevators that aren’t here yet… so please contact me if you can fill in some blanks!

Here are some statistics.

  • Saskatchewan has the most towns featured, at 275, followed by Manitoba at 178 and Alberta at 113.
  • The most common first letter of towns featured is “B” followed by “S” and “C”.
  • Only Saskatchewan has towns featured starting with “Y” or “Z”, while Manitoba has the only “Q” (Quadra).

Here’s the spreadsheet, for the data nerds like me.

Welcome to Jeff Whyte!

Grain elevators in Naisberry, SK. Contributed by Jeff Whyte.
Grain elevators in Naisberry, SK. Contributed by Jeff Whyte.

Jeff Whyte is a new contributor to Grain Elevators of Canada. He is a Calgary-based photographer and has shared photos of a few elevators so far – see his contributor page for links and a link to his Instagram profile – and we look forward to more contributions in the future.

If you want to become a contributor, please contact me!

Welcome to Marilee Manz!

UGG elevator in Cupar, SK, 2007. Contributed by Marilee Manz.
UGG elevator in Cupar, SK, 2007. Contributed by Marilee Manz.

Marilee Manz is a new contributor to Grain Elevators of Canada. She is a photographer in Alberta and comes from a family of farmers, so grain elevators are especially meaningful to her.

She has shared a few grain elevators so far and we look forward to more contributions in the future.

If you want to contribute photos, contact me at!

The Rise and Fall of United Grain Growers – Review

The book “The Rise and Fall of United Grain Growers” by Paul D. Earl is exactly that – the story of the formation of UGG and its climb to greatness, through its decline in the 1970s and 1980s until it was acquired by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and became Viterra.

There haven’t been many books written about United Grain Growers (UGG). There’s The First Fifty Years by R.D. Colquette and A Farmer’s Company Comes of Age issued by UGG itself. Both cover the rise of UGG but were written decades before the end of UGG. Both were also quite sympathetic toward the company.

Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you buy something using the link, at no additional cost to you.

Author Paul Earl’s book is more objective than the two books mentioned above, and is certainly more critical of the end of UGG than any company-commissioned book would be. One almost gets the feeling that the author was personally offended by the way UGG was taken over by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

“Rise and Fall” provides a great introduction to UGG and the forces at play that caused a small group of farmers to form the Grain Growers Grain Cooperative, which became UGG, and indeed started the farmer’s cooperative movement in western Canada.

The book goes on to describe each of the presidents of UGG in turn, and what happened at the Company during their respective tenures as president. Some served longer than others, but most had a significant impact on the company and helped it to prosper in its first 40 or 50 years of life.

The Canadian grain industry stagnated in the 1970s and 1980s, mostly due to the Crow Rate and the disincentive to improve grain facilities because of it. The railways had no incentive to improve grain handling, as they were already losing money shipping grain. Service degraded, farmers and elevator companies suffered, and no capital was available to improve facilities and make them more efficient. Outwardly UGG seemed okay but its financial information showed that it became less profitable and took on more debt.

By the 1990s the three Pools and UGG were all in significant financial trouble. They had swapped elevators in towns across the Prairies in an attempt to become more efficient, but that wasn’t enough. Eventually they began to merge to try to become more efficient.

A significant amount of the book is dedicated to these mergers, and the eventual fight between the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and James Richardson International to acquire UGG and the rest of Agricore United. The author looks at that effort in detail, and tries to understand why the board made the decisions it did.

I really enjoyed the book, particularly the first two thirds where the history of UGG was discussed in detail. The last third of the book went a little too deep into the mergers and acquisitions for my taste. It is good that this is documented in such detail for future reference.

I learned a lot from this book and I encourage Canadian grain elevator fans to acquire a copy. I purchased mine at McNally Robinson but you can also purchase it on Amazon or on AbeBooks.