Historic UGG elevator falls

Perfect day to lay down old elevator

John Hendry took this amazing video of the old elevator’s final seconds. His photos appear below.

1953 UGG wooden grain elevator demolished Tuesday


Perfect weather conditions earlier this week spelled the end for an historic Main Street elevator.

And while much of the town’s inhabitants had been keeping a sharp eye on the picturesque tower – the old United Grain Growers grain elevator at South Railway and Broadway – it’s final demise on Tuesday afternoon, September 26, was a largely unwitnessed event.

It was only after an enormous cracking boom echoed through downtown, shortly before 2 p.m., that most people realized that the deed was done.

Roy Arnott, positioned across the street at the Manitoba Agriculture office, said he had watched earlier that day, as the thumb of the hydraulic excavator began to paw its way into the eastern corners of the elevator.

And when it finally came down, he captured the image on video.

“I only just caught it,” said Arnott, a business development specialist with Manitoba Agriculture. “They had closed the road, and I could see them working on it. I thought it might be coming down, and it did.”

Demolition assistant Chad McEachern said the decision to bring down the elevator was based primarily on Tuesday’s calm weather.

“It was a spur of the moment thing this morning,” said McEachern, who works for Russell Construction. “The weather was perfect for laying it down. We had to do it when the weather was right. There was no wind, and especially no north wind, and that was the big reason. North winds were forecasted for every day this week, except Friday, and we didn’t want to wait that long.”

Brent Russell, owner of the company, began to prepare the elevator for toppling over the lunch hour that day.

“Brent opened up the two corners at around 12:30,” said McEachern. “The track hoe went in, about halfway through the building, and pulled it out. We had to start with the southeast corner, because the escape route, if we needed it, was across the railway lines. And the track hoe can’t cross over them. It takes just three seconds for an elevator to fall.”

Russell then moved over to the southeast corner, using the track hoe to claw out that lower corner.

Escape would be easier there, right next to South Railway Street, with the building now seriously weakening with each pull of the track hoe.

Then Russell backed out, and drove up a few feet, along the south wall of the elevator, for the final act.

“He pushed the track hoe thumb in, just to nudge it over,” said McEachern. “How did it go? It was too perfect. We wanted it to land exactly where it landed.”

The crown of the old UGG elevator, built in 1953 by the United Growers, and purchased in 1999 to Paterson Grain, now lay toppled on a heap of shattered lumber – all that remained of last week’s demolished annex.

A few pickups began to gather at the site, and pedestrians walked down streets to view the aftermath.

The track hoe worked its way through the remains of the old elevator, the thumb clawing through and pulling apart the old wooden building, with its faded, white-painted sides.

As the thumb eventually reached the first floor level, dust began to sift slowly through the air.

An old fire extinguisher became visible on what was once a wall, now lying horizontal, up to the slightly overcast sky.

Heaps of old grain could be seen in the rubbish, stinking of rot. Pigeons flew in and out, cashing in on the newly-freed feast.

Brent Russell said some of the elevator’s valuable remaining timber was already sold.

“The annex timbers were built with fir, and that was gold,” said Russell. “The elevator has 10 inch by 12 inch timbers, and they’re spruce. It’s all sold.”

Some of the square beams had been loaded onto flat decks, east of the elevator site, ready for hauling.

The elevator rubble itself would now be broken up, said Russell, and added to the existing heap from the annex demolition.

And when the mud eventually dries up, and roads are ready, the two-man crew of Russell Construction will finally begin to haul away the remains of the historic United Grain Growers grain elevator, to its resting grounds in the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain’s waste disposal station.

Photographer John Hendry snapped the following pictures of the old UGG elevator falling down on Tuesday.

John Hendry emigrated from Scotland to Canada 17 years ago, initially residing in North Vancouver. Being an inveterate landscape photographer with a passion for landmarks such as standing stones, yearly visits to the Brandon area quickly cemented grain elevators as his subject matter of choice on the prairies. He moved to live in Brandon with his wife Lauren in 2006, and continues to see these buildings as iconic symbols of this part of the world. Although sad to see the ongoing demolition of these structures, he was glad to be able to document the demise of the Killarney UGG elevator for posterity, having photographed it for the first time only seven weeks previously. A link to his video of the demolition appears at the top of the page. He can be contacted at info@johnhendry.com

Killarney’s Roy Arnott captured the video below of the old elevator going down from just outside his office building. John Hendry can be seen photographing the falling structure.


1977 ELEVATOR SKYLINE – This was the view on the way to school for a young Killarney painter – the north side of a line of elevators, which are all now gone. Killarney’s downtown landscape has now significantly changed, but this painting by Harry Symons immortalizes a time when wooden grain elevators still ruled. Symons, who now lives in Kingston, Ontario, painted this work when he was just 17 for Neil Macaulay, who was a grain merchant in town. The beautiful painting is still in the family, now belonging to Neil’s son Don Macaulay. This picture is also available for viewing and sharing at killarneyguide.ca under the post: Historic UGG elevator falls.