Cargill grain elevator - Panoramio

Cargill Elevator

ADDRESS 140 Darrel Street, Thunder Bay, ON., Canada
visual documentation
DEPICTED ITEM Cargill Grain Elevator | Panoramio, Bill Zeleny(source) | August 4, 2014 (date accessed)
1 identity of building, group of buildings, urban scheme, or landscape/garden
variant or former name Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator
2 history of building

Original Brief/Purpose

A terminal grain elevator commissioned by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and constructed from 1908 to 1910 by the Canadian Stewart Co. Ltd. of Montreal. R.H. Folwell was chief engineer in charge of design and W.R. Sinks was construction supervisor.

The capacity as built in 1910 was 3,500,000 bushels with a projected future capacity of 10,000,000 bushels by the extension of the storage annexes.


significant alterations with dates

-1970-1982: additional storage facilities were added
-Also added were new marine legs for transferring the grain from the elevator to the ships.
-Up-to-date grain handling equipment inside the elevator permits the viability of the original structure.

current use Still in use as grain elevator. Current capacity estimated at 6,750,000 bushels.
3 description

general description

The original Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator consisted of a large complex of interconnected buildings and instituted a new arrangement for the components of a grain terminal.

Parallel to the water of the Mission River is the workhouse which is situated above the shipping bins. A concrete wharf 337' (103m) log by 12' (3.7m) wide protects the elevator from the water. Six dock or loading spouts project from the storage bins. The 75 cylindrical working bins are 79' (24m) high and have an interior diameter of 12' (3.7m). The workhouse itself is five stories in height above the working bins; the workhouse contains the hoppers, garners and scales. Below the working bins are the separators and the conveyor belts for moving grain into the storage annex. The entire structure is of reinforced concrete and steel frame construction. To construct the circular bins, the hollow jack-screw invented by Folwell and Sinks was used to raise the wooden forms. The workinghouse above the bins was built with a steel frame to which walls floors and roofs were enclosed with concrete panels. Doors and windows were steel framed and used wired-glass to ensure all materials were fireproof. The height of the structure totaled 196'7" (60m).

The postcard view of the Grand Trunk shows the storage annex of circular bins on the left and the worklnghouse on the right. The two main structures are connected above by an enclosed conveyor belt and at ground level by a four track receiving shed for trains. The shed is open at either end for the continuous flow of rail stock. Below the train shed are the receiving pits; grain was hand shoveled from the grain cars into the pits; from the pits the grain was moved by conveyor belts and elevator legs into the working house. The 70 circular bins in the storage annex were 95' (29m) high and each had an interior diametre of 23'3" (701). As with the workinghouse, all circular bins are arranged in straight rows, 7’ x 10’ bins; the abutting of the bins creates interstice spaces which were also used for grain storage. The annex bins are of poured reinforced concrete, the train shed of steel frame as is the cupola on top of the storage annex. The cupola protects the conveyor belts for moving the grain from the workhouse into the storage bins. All the bins are open at the top, being protected by the steel roof. Below the annex, underground, are further conveyor belts for moving the grain back from the storage into the shipping bins of the workhouse.

A cluster of small independent buildings are arranged around the workinghouse and these house the transformer and switchboard on the east; the boiler equipment and dryer for wet grain on the west. These buildings are constructed of reinforced concrete.

An additional storage annex was built in the 1970's and placed on the east side, beside the original annex. Three raised elevator legs were constructed to the west, connecting with an enclosed conveyor belt to the workinghouse.

4 evaluation


Constructed of reinforced concrete, the elevator was one of the first to use the newly patented jack-and-yoke device invented by Folwell and Sinks for supporting and raising the forms for circular concrete bins (Canada Patent #114,700, 1908). The device allowed for speed in construction and resulted in smooth wall surfaces. Also of importance is the original plan of the elevator which housed each function of the terminal in a separate structure and provided, from the outset, for future expansion. While the storage bins were of reinforced concrete, the other elements, such as the workhouse and the train shed, were constructed of steel. The entire complex was fireproof.


The Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator was a major employer in Fort William (now Thunder Bay). It continues in operation today because of its protected yet accessible site on Lake Superior and because of the continual upgrading of
the grain handling equipment.

cultural & aesthetic

The grain elevator Is often found as a building type in books on Canadian architecture, e.g. Alan Gowans, Looking at Architecture in Canada (Toronto, 1958). Although industrial In use, the terminal grain elevator with its unadorned geometric shapes and concrete construction influenced architectural design. In Thunder Bay, the contractors for elevators, because of ther experience in working with reinforced concrete, built the first open-spandrel concrete bridge in Ontario (1910-12), the first Lakehead "skyscraper" of eight stories, the Whalen Building (1913) and the Royal Edward Hotel (1928-29) using materials and building techniques associated with elevator construction.


The international significance of the Cargill Elevator is due to its Inclusion amcng the illustrations in publications on North American industrial buildings by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier. Their admiration for the functional shapes, enormous scale, concrete construction and unadorned surfaces have been repeated in numerous American and Canadian publications en architecture and industrial building.

general assessment

The design and construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator represents a milestone in the construction of terminal grain elevators. It was not the first in reinforced concrete; Folwell and Sinks experimented with their lifting device for concrete forms on King's Elevator (CPR) at Port Arthur (new also Thunder Bay) in 1903-04. By the time the Grand Trunk was constructed, they had perfected their jackscrew lifting device, increased the amount of steel reinforcing and developed mechanical means for delivering the wet concrete to the construction site. The novel arrangement of the component structures for the elevator was much imitated by later terminal elevators with the shipping bins and workhouse placed parallel to the water access. Additional storage facilities were separated from the workhouse by a connecting four-track train receiving shed. The original plans also indicated the placement of future storage annexes.

5 documentation

principal references

drawings, photographs, etc

Photographs of construction process in Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 219 South May Street, Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7E 1B5 tel. (807) 623-0801 fax (807) 622-6880
-#976.70.1 a-y construction
-#972.23.8 postcard (undated) issued by Valentine & Co. Dundee, Scotland

other sources, film, video, etc

The photograph made famous by Le Corbusier was previously published by Talbot and Gropius and the undated postcard issued by Valentine & Co., Ltd.

principal publications (chronological order)

-"Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator at Fort William," The Daily Times Journal (Fort William), 3 January 1911.
-"Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Reinforced Concrete Grain Elevator, Fort William, Ont.," Engineering News, 65 (23 February 1911), pp. 221-223 (photos, plans, sections)
-Talbot, Frederick A. The Making of a Great Canadian Railway. London: Seeley, Service & Co. Ltd., 1912, pp.144•148 (photoopp. p.144)
-Gropius, Walter, "Die entwicklungmoderner industrie-baukunst." Die Kunst in Industrie und Handel (Jahrbuch des deutschen werkbundes). Eugen Diederichs, Jena, Germany, pp. 17-22, illustrations unpaged, 1913
-Clark, Charles S., ed. "Grand Trunk Pacific Elevator, Fort William, ant." Plans of Grain Eleyators 4th edition Chicago: Grain Dealers Journal, 1918, pp. 17•23 [anthology of undated articles from The Grain Dealers Journal (photos, sections, diagrams)
-Jeanneret-Gris, Charles Edouard, Vers une architecture, Paris: Les Edilions G. Cres et Cie, 1923.
-Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architcture. trans. Frederick Etchells. revised format printed 1946 onward.
-Joedicke, Jurgen. A History of Modern Architecture. trans. James C. Palmes. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1959
-Vervoort, Patricia, "Factors Affecting theSuryival of Terminal Elevators in Thunder Bay, " Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada Selected Papers, v. 5 (1982), pp. 30-40
-Banham, Reyner, A Concrete Atlantis: U,S. Industrial Building and European Modern Architecture1900-1925, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, pp. 12, 206, 1986
-Vervoort, Patricia "Cribbing and Slipping: A Look at Thunder Bay Elevators" Proceedings: The Engineering Heritage of Northwestern Ontario. Thunder Bay: Lakehead University School of Engineering 1987, pp.23-26
-Vervoort, Patricia "Lakehead Terminals: Aspects of their Engineering History," The Canadian Society for Civil Engineering proceedings of Annual Meeting 1988 Calgary Vol 2, pp. 815-833, 1988
Vervoort, Patricia "Lakehead terminal elevators," Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, 17 (1990) 404-412

image source:


online resources:

Friends of Grain Elevators

rapporteur/date Patricia Vervoort, Ian Panabaker