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Prairie Sentinels Amidst Fields of Golden Grain

For the week of Monday November 21, 2005

On November 22, 1922, the sprawling tracks of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) reached the village of Inglis, Manitoba, where the first of five grain elevators was being raised as the town was being built from the rails out.

Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive #5068.
Canadian Pacific Railway locomotive #5068.
© Library and Archives Canada / Andrew Merrilees / PA-143158
The 1920s were a busy time for Inglis. The construction of the CPR branch line began in 1919 and ended with tracks being laid to Cracknell in 1921, and then to Inglis in 1922. Four grain elevators were built between 1920-25, with a fifth constructed in 1941.

The Northern Elevator, United Grain Growers, Matheson-Lindsay and Reliance companies built these elevators during the peak of grain elevator construction in Manitoba. These monumental structures were erected every 12-16 kilometres along the rail lines, the distance horse-drawn wagons could haul grain. They indicated the economic clout of the town to which they belonged.

In the foreground are the Reliance Double Elevators, part of the Inglis row.
In the foreground are the Reliance Double Elevators, part of the Inglis row.
© Inglis Grain Elevators National Historic Site / ingliselevators.com
While a row of grain elevators was hardly rare in Manitoba, few as large as this have survived. The disappearance of country grain elevators can be attributed to the improvement of roads in the 1950s and the mechanization of grain farming. Grain is now shipped by trucks to high-capacity concrete elevators in centralized locations. The wooden grain elevator has become obsolete.

The row of five standard wooden grain elevators in Inglis has become a symbol of the town and of an era. It is apt that this row, one of the last large rows of grain elevators, is preserved in a town that is dedicated to maintaining the lifestyle they represent.

The Inglis Grain Elevators, a rare survivor, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1995, and a plaque was erected in 2001.

For more information about the Inglis Grain Elevators, please visit Inglis National Historic Site website.   

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