Grain elevators are slowly disappearing and being replaced by large inland terminals. In the 1930s there were over 3200 elevators. By 1999 there were only 304 remaining. The oldest surviving grain elevator is in Fleming which is near the Manitoba border. It was constructed in 1895.
Elevators were built in small towns along the railroad tracks. The first country elevators were made with thick wooden walls and floors.
Prairie farmers haul grain to a local elevator. Then a train transports the grain to a shipping port or to a mill for processing. Some grain is kept for seed for next year or for feeding livestock.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A GRAIN ELEVATOR ?
- The farmer drives his loaded grain truck into an elevator driveshed.
- The elevator agent weighs the loaded truck on a large scale.
- Then the grain is dumped through a floor grate into a tank. (photo)
- The agent takes samples of the grain to check how it should be graded.
The grade determines how much the farmer is paid for the grain.
- After the grain is dumped the empty truck is weighed again. This is how the weight of the grain is determined.
- The grain is raised by conveyor belt to the top of the building where a distributor sends it to a storage bin.
- Later the agent may clean the grain or blend it with other grain.
- Inside the elevator there are many compartments called bins or storage tanks. There may also be extra buildings attached to the elevator which are used for storage. The extra bin is called an annex.
- When the grain is ready to be shipped it is moved to a different bin (boxcar surge bin or hopper car surge bin).
- A large swivelling pipe empties the grain from a bin into box cars or hopper cars which are waiting on the track beside the elevator. (photo)
It takes thousands of rail cars to transport grain to ocean ports in Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Churchill and Thunder Bay. (photo)
THE JOURNEY TO MARKETS
At the ports the grain is transferred to the terminal elevators and then loaded onto freighters (ships). Grain from Canada is shipped to over 60 countries.
The "NEW" ELEVATORS
The old country elevators are being demolished. Modern cylinder-shaped concrete inland terminals are replacing the colorful wooden elevators.
FARMING | SASKATCHEWAN
LINKSEncyclopedia of Saskatchewan grain elevators
Saskatchewan Elevators image gallery of prairie grain elevators
how a grain elevator works
2004 (updated July 2011)
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