Searching for the Lousana Grain Elevator

According to research done by our late friend Jim Pearson, there are five Alberta Pacific Grain elevators remaining in the province of Alberta. The company itself disappeared (was bought out) in 1967 so it isn’t surprising there aren’t many examples left for us to see.

I had never given it much thought, but one day I realized we have visited four of the five elevators over the course of our travels. Two are owned and maintained by museums (Castor and Meeting Creek), one is privately owned by a local Hutterite colony (Rayley) and the fourth is abandoned and endangered (Dorothy).

The fifth? It apparently is the newest of the remaining five, having been built in 1928. It stood in the hamlet of Lousana up until 1973 when it was moved to a private farm east of the town.

Lousana itself is a small settlement, counting less than sixty people according to the 2016 census. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway came through the area around 1912 and local settler William Henry Biggs sold some of his land for purposes of establishing a town. Biggs was from Missouri and he suggested they name the new town for Louisiana, Missouri. The postal service eventually decided to name it Lousana instead.1

After taking a quick drive around the town of Lousana, we ventured east of town to see if we could spot the former Lousana grain elevator. It wasn’t hard, for even in this part of the province with a more rolling landscape than around home, we could see the elevator off in the distance for several kilometres.

Being on private property, we could not get close to it nor could we put the drone up in the air to get photos that way. We opted to stay on the public road and capture some images from there. Once we get in the Spring/Summer planting season we might need to make a drive out to On Earth Greenhouses so we can buy some plants and get a closer look.

ABOVE AND BELOW: The former Lousana grain elevator now stands on private property east of the town. Photo taken February 28, 2022.

So, there we have it — we have completed the pentafecta (Is there actually an equivalent to ‘trifecta’ but referring to five achievements instead of three?) of Alberta Pacific Grain elevators. Unless, of course, someone out there knows of more that we have missed. If so, please update me in the comments and we might just have another road trip to complete.

Below you will find our video of our road trip:

And, finally, here are photos of the other four Alberta Pacific Grain elevators we have visited across the province.

ABOVE: Rayley, Alberta as seen in August of 2016. Reportedly the oldest grain elevator in Alberta, built in 1905.

ABOVE: Castor, Alberta as seen in July of 2021. Owned by the Castor & District Museum, built in 1917.

ABOVE: The 1920s-era grain elevator at Dorothy, Alberta as seen in September of 2012. The roof of the elevator was ripped off in a windstorm on July 22, 2015 and it is one of the most endangered abandoned sites in the province.

ABOVE: The Alberta Pacific Grain elevator (left) in Meeting Creek was built circa 1917 and is maintained by the Canadian Northern Society. Photo taken July of 2017.

1 Sanders, Harry M. (2003). In The Story Behind Alberta Place Names (p. 201). Red Deer Press.

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Flashback: A Tour of Graceland in Memphis, TN from 2009

We haven’t had much time to get out and explore these last few weeks so I decided to put together a video from a tour I did of Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion from May of 2009. Come along for a journey back in time and to Memphis, TN.

A sullen DanOCan at Graceland. May 21, 2009

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Cold Weather Drone Tips and a Flight Over Bents, Saskatchewan

Recently we had the chance to take a drive to the ghost town of Bents, Saskatchewan. Bents is home to a relatively famous and oft-photographed grain elevator which has really suffered a lot of damage over the last few years and is very likely to collapse before much longer.

Bents is located on private property so the only legal way for us to check out the townsite was to fly the drone in. Normally this isn’t a big problem as the townsite lies quite close to a public road, however our visit was on a very cold day with the temperature hovering around -27 C and -40 C/F with the windchill. According to DJI, the lower range of the Mavic Pro’s safe operating temperature is freezing so we were well below that threshold.

This gave me the chance to work some cold weather drone tips into the video. I’ll elaborate more on them here than I do in the video.

#1 – Look after yourself first. You can’t safely operate a drone if you, as the pilot, are hampered by the cold. Dress warmly, and take precautions to prevent frostbite. If possible, operate the drone from inside your vehicle — while keeping Transport Canada happy by maintaining visual line-of-sight, of course.

#2 – Launch from a landing pad or other dry surface. You want to prevent snow from being sucked into the internals of the drone when it spins up.

#3 – Keep your batteries warm. Store batteries in your vehicle until you are ready to use them. If I am going to be outside, I’ll keep the spare batteries in the inside pocket of my jacket next to my body to keep them warm.

#4 – Allow drone to hover after takeoff. Not only will this ensure the drone accurately records the Home point, but operating the drone will allow the battery to come up to operating temperature before you put the drone higher into the air or further away from you.

#5 – Plan your shots in advance. Cold weather greatly reduces battery life so you may find your flight time is greatly reduced. You need to be ready to take advantage of your time in the air if you want to capture all the shots you want.

#6 – Bring your drone back with more battery life than you would normally. Cold weather can cause sudden unexpected drops in battery voltage and low voltage can lead to odd operating behaviors or a complete loss of function. If you experience a sudden drop in battery power, you want to have enough “left in the tank” to bring your drone home. Instead of landing with 20% battery capacity remaining, I’ll aim for 40-50% instead.

Some bonus tips which didn’t get mentioned in the video:

Bonus #1 – Weigh the risks. The manufacturer sets safe operating temperature limits for a reason and, while I am sure they build in a healthy margin of error, ask yourself if operating outside those parameters is really worth it. Is the shot you want worth possibly sacrificing your drone?

Bonus #2 – Watch the weather conditions. You do not want ice build-up on your propellers. Ice building up on the props is a sure-fire way to crash. If there is precipitation or ice crystals in the air it is best to wait for a better day to fly.

Bonus #3 – Keep your flight movements gentle. Cold weather puts additional strain on all the components such as the gimbal. Sudden harsh movements in the cold air can lead to failure or damage. Move slowly and gently — this is good advice at the best of times but especially when the cold makes plastic brittle.

Bonus #4 – Watch for condensation. When you bring your gear in from the cold back into the warmth of your vehicle, condensation can form on surfaces inside your drone. Water and electronics are a bad combination. If might be best to not operate the drone for a while after coming in from the cold to allow any condensation to evaporate.

What other advice do you have when it comes to operating your drone in the winter? Let us know!

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A Visit to the Former Grain Elevator Row in Warner, Alberta

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Bowden Hotel Lost to Fire

It’s a new year but the same old story — another old building lost to fire. This time it was the hotel in Bowden, Alberta. I wasn’t able to locate any history as to when the building was built nor when it was last used but most news reports are saying the hotel had been abandoned for “some time”.

We were fortunate enough to photograph the hotel on our last pass through the area back in June of last year, another reminder to photograph these places when you get the chance.

Similar stories we’ve covered previously:


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