Shaunavon photographer Chris Attrell has released a new book capturing photos of old grain elevators.
Attrell started compiling the photos of grain elevators across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in 2003 for his latest book, Grain Elevators: Beacons of the Prairies.
“I've always loved the grain elevators and then in 2003, I went for a road trip just as they were tearing down a grain elevator in Champion, Alta. So that's when I began the journey to make sure I capture as many as I can before they're all gone,” Attrell explained.
According to Attrell, there are about 400 of the old-style wooden grain elevators remaining in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and we are losing between five to 10 each year to demolition.
He added that these prairie giants played an important role in the economy for small towns.
“The grain elevator was kind of like the centre of economic activity for most of these places. You usually capture the hotels. That's where they usually had the bar where the farmers used to go and hang out with each other after unloading their grain. So a lot of the pictures I did try to capture the spirit with that,” Attrell said.
Some of his photographs from Saskatchewan include an image of the grain elevator at Climax with a shooting star in the background.
“That one is actually the Neowise comet. If you remember like last July, a year ago we had the Neowise comet for two weeks, so I timed it for the peak time when it was going to be at its brightest and I went and sat because what better place to have a beautiful grain elevator in Climax, Sask. with that massive comet behind it,” described Attrell.
The 106-year-old grain elevator in Gravelbourg was one of Attrell’s favourites.
“That grain elevator in Gravelbourg is special because there was community support to save their oldest grain elevator and they managed to not only fundraise, do it and pull it off, but they've given it a nice paint job and I'm really happy that some communities were able to save one,” he said.
However, not all of the elevators that Attrell captured for the book are still standing, including the elevator at Kipling and the elevators at Mortlach.
He said the elevators that used to stand in Mortlach were likely a landmark for many over the years.
“One of my first trips to Saskatchewan I stopped in Mortlach and I just loved that old grain elevator with the classic Saskatchewan Wheat Pool logo on it,” he said.
“So, I really, really like that one a lot and it's right along the highway, so I'm sure most people in Saskatchewan who drove down Highway 1 remember seeing the Mortlach grain elevators.”
Other Saskatchewan elevators he captured for the book include Thunder Creek, Tuxford and Rex.
Released in September, Grain Elevators: Beacons of the Prairies is available at all bookstores.