Drumheller graphic artist aims to preserve the memory of Prairie sentinels

Jim Pearson preserving legacy of fast-disappearing Prairie icons

Man with camera in front of grain elevator.
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Jim Pearson was caught off guard when he heard the Pioneer country grain elevator in Kamsack, Sask., was demolished in July.

He had photographed it three years earlier when it was still a vital service for area farmers.

“This thing was barely 30 years old,” said Pearson, a graphic artist who has established himself over the past decade as the leading authority on the fast-disappearing Prairie grain elevators.

“It was in good shape. Weird.”

This month, the 51-year-old Drumheller resident will photograph more than 40 country grain elevators in the Melfort/Choiceland/Hudson Bay region — the final batch for his latest grain elevator book project.

Now that project is complete with the release of his third book — Vanishing Sentinels Volume III, a 312-page work that took four years to finish.

Pearson has already meticulously documented all of Alberta’s remaining grain elevators, which once numbered more than 1,700, in two self-published books. They’re the most comprehensive work ever produced in Alberta on the subject with beautifully illustrated chapters on how a wooden grain elevator is operated, maps of rail lines and elevators from 1950 to the present, and whether they’re still around or lost to the wrecking ball. He’s also created miniature card stock grain elevators, tiny replicas of long demolished elevators that are skilfully reproduced down to the smallest detail.

Health issues, including a cancer diagnosis, have not deterred Pearson from his work. He updated his 2007 book Vanishing Sentinels: The Remaining Grain Elevators of Alberta and British Columbia in March, produced 2014 wall calendars of Alberta and Saskatchewan elevators, designed 17 card stock elevators for Vulcan’s 100th anniversary, and is planning his next book project on the remaining country grain elevators of Manitoba.

More from the Alberta Farmer Express website: ‘Vatorologists’ hope to give structure a new life and new home

“Seeing the elevators disappear from the skyline is like watching an old friend die,” said Pearson.

“You’re never going to see them again but you will always remember them. Those buildings helped settle the Prairies, for without them, many communities today would have never existed.”

For more information visit http://vanishingalberta.ca/Home.html, or email [email protected].

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