Though a US invention, there’s hardly anything more distinctively Canadian Prairie than the grain elevator. These tall and traditionally wooden grain warehouses were utilitarian in design and built simply to store wheat before its transport by rail. Yet with their clean, functional lines rising high above the plains, they’ve been likened to cathedrals, earned nicknames like “castles of the New World” and “prairie sentinels”, and found their way into many a prairie heart.

The first Canadian grain elevators were built in the 1880s and by 1938 some 5800 dotted the region, each emblazoned with the names of the small towns they marked. But as grain transport switched from rail to road their numbers dwindled to the present seven hundred. In 2000, the Canadian Wheat Board decided to build massive central concrete terminals at main transit points, to which grain now travels by truck, making old-style elevators even more redundant. Some have already been dismantled, threatening to change the prairie landscape irrevocably, but many still hold out; while in Inglis, a tiny town just to the west of Riding Mountain National Park, a row of 1920s wooden elevators beside an abandoned railway line have been preserved as a National Historic Site (w ingliselevators.com).

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The best places to go in spring

The best places to go in spring

Springtime is beautiful, with its big blue skies and flowers in bloom, so there may be no better time to travel. If you're thinking about getting away, here are…

14 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Go solo: the 20 best places to travel alone

Solo travel can be one of the most rewarding ways to explore the world. Whether you'd rather spend it on a desert island or in a frenetic new city, here are th…

21 Dec 2016 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month