Not Sure Why I Found This Compelling...

Been doing research on grain elevators for my model railroad.  Ran across this video that I thought was pretty interesting.  I liked seeing the guy trying to keep the old technology working, and it was interesting to me to see this one guy do everything.  In the city, OSHA and the DOL would probably require 6 different guys on the shift.  The best part was seeing this older dude shoving a boxcar around by hand to position it for loading (around 8:40).


  1. Everitt Mickey:

    That sure brings back some memories..

    Back in the sixties while going to high school I'd work part time and some summers at a local grain elevator. I distinctly remember many things similar to that video. We, however, had several people working....perhaps as many as ten. One full time bookkeeper for sure.

    I don't recall a donkey engine though...we had electric motors for everything.

    They got the dust part exactly right....we wore masks all the time...

    ........being the high school kid and part time...guess who got go clean out the leg when it backflowed?

  2. Bruce Yelen:

    Interesting video. I'd venture to say that it may have been filmed earlier than its 1981 copyright, by virtue of the fact that the box car still has a high-mounted handbrake, and friction bearings (rather than roller bearings).

    Those "come-alongs" made it pretty easy for one man to get a car rolling. You had to be carefull that the car didn't roll backwards on to you. It was usually good to have a 2nd person standy ready with a chock, in case things got out of hand.

  3. Lee Morgan:

    I agree that the film is compelling. There is a minimum of explanation and narrative and an abundance of quiet time that allows the viewer to get a sense of the isolation of the prairie and the complexity of the job. Loved the camera angles and lighting. The filmmaker showed respect for the grain handler's job.

  4. Craig:

    When I was 10 or so, our town burnt down its old wooden grain elevator, as it was structurally unsound. People came from all over to watch it burn.

  5. Russ R.:

    So, philosophical question...

    This film was produced by the National Film Board of Canada; was this a good use of tax dollars?

  6. Rob:

    Even more impressive when he shoves the full boxcar!

    Wow, that old engine still in service including a bent over nail as a cotter pin.


  7. Remus Marsilvia:

    Thanks for the posting video. Made my day.

  8. Colin:

    I know why that's compelling, because most of us want to be self sufficient, have freedom to work the way we see fit, and be responsible for something useful and beneficial to the world around us, even (or maybe especially) if takes hard work. Great video, thanks for sharing.

  9. nena:

    Between 1927-30 my grandfather had the same job in Northern Alberta and my grandma could move the rail cars. She was a little ballerina, but strong.

  10. EarlW:

    The unfortunate part is that all sales have to go through the government monopoly aka Canadian Wheat Board. The farmers work hard and are allowed to collect below-market prices for their products.

    "The $18,000 figure comes from a C. D. Howe Institute study released last week showing that over the past three years, the CWB was paying Western farmers up to $40 a tonne less than what comparable American farmers were being paid by private grain companies."

  11. feeblemind:

    Back in the late 70s I ran one of those car jacks. The difference between moving a car equipped with friction bearings as opposed to roller bearings in cold weather is astounding.

    I noticed an 8-80 reweigh date on one of the boxcars.

    The film leads one to believe that man ran the elevator by himself. If that was the case, from a safety standpoint it would be akin to swimming alone.

    Who answered the telephone when he was working outside?

    The boot pit would not pass inspection for cleanliness either.

    The facility was obsolete by 1980 standards. It was literally a working museum piece.

    One wonders if the line this elevator was located on is still there?

    When I was working in the grain trade in Kansas City in 1979, we still received a lot of grain laden boxcars from the RI, MoP, CNW and BN. All the UP stations were loading only cov. hoppers by then. But by 1980, the only boxcars we received originated in SD. The loading of grain in boxcars in this area ended virtually overnight. I don't know why.

    Due to the Crow's Nest laws in Canada which kept freight rates artificially low, boxcars were used for a few more years until the law was finally repealed. As a result the CP/CN lost money on every car of grain hauled and there was no incentive to buy new rolling stock. I believe there were some wood outside braced boxcars in grain service in Canada into the 80s.