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Model Grain Elevator System Thrilling Visitors for over a Decade

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In a time when elevators are disappearing from the landscape and agricultural education is on the decline, one man’s labour of love continues to show the inner workings of farm staples.
Brian Harvey began his project 13 years ago, when he got involved with Down on the Farm.
“I was just helping out and they asked if I could build some sort of elevator, so that’s how it all started,” he said.
The project would be used as a learning demonstration for the public during the NorthWest Round-up and Exhibition (NWRE).
Harvey began work in February 2005, on a model grain elevator, with no plans, and a short deadline - July.
He enlisted the help of his brother Jerry, his daughter Meredith, his wife Shirley, and Geoff Child.
The intention was for visitors to the exhibit to be able to see what was going on inside the elevator, and have it be controlled and monitored by a switchboard and advanced computer program.
“You can see how the grain moves in the elevator,” said Harvey. “That was a big deal - it needed to be open so you could see how things worked and watch the grain move into a particular bin.
“There is a computer that operates the divide and you are able to move the garber spout into the appropriate bin.”
The elevator itself took hours of time, including individually cutting, sanding, and gluing on all 2,200 shingles.
“My daughter Meredith took that on as one of her projects,” said Harvey. “It helps make the model look more lifelike.”
With most elevators having changed their storage systems, Harvey was forced to go by memory to build this specific style.
“We’ve been around elevators a long time, so I had a good understanding of how they worked,” he said.
“There’s no elevators left around here that have all the components on the inside. Most of them have all the bins outside of the building these days.”
A look inside the cutouts reveals a pulley system with tiny cups that carries grain, which was cut and welded all by hand.
“The timing of the pulley system had to be exact in order to work properly,” explained Harvey.
But, the elevator is not the only part of the exhibit.
“We have a quarter-sized scale threshing machine that threshes the grain,” said Harvey. “(The grain) then moves out to a bin, where remote control trucks can gather the grain.
“Then, the trucks go to the farmyard, and have to back into the auger, which is really tough. The box is then lifted remotely, grain dumps, and is augered into another bin.
“Another truck comes along and picks up the grain you auger out of the farm bins, and takes it to the elevator,” Harvey continued.
“Once at the elevator, it can be picked up by a model train, and the cycle can start all over again.”
As with any project, especially one without a template or plans to follow, Harvey and his crew did experience some setbacks, but were still able to finish the project in time for the 2005 NWRE.
In total, the project has taken approximately 5,500 hours to build.
“We’ve added bits here and there,” said Harvey. “We built the threshing machine about seven years ago, and have added more trucks and more bins.
“Everything had to be made from scratch. You can’t buy the pieces because there just isn’t anything for sale that you can use. In the threshing machine and elevator, nothing worked unless we made it from scratch.”
Most of the raw parts were donated from various Swan Valley businesses, while others opted to donate cash to cover the extra costs. The system is estimated to be worth more than $40,000.
The model grain system is one that many folks look forward to each year, children and adults alike.
“The children really seem to like it, and there’s new ones coming along that are old enough to run the trucks, so each year there are new people who see what farming is like,” said Harvey.
“They enjoy driving the trucks and lots of the children love the trains.”
Harvey also noted that farmers who have hauled grain their whole lives are fascinated by the inner workings of the machines, and he finds that it helps teach some adults who haven’t had the privilege of receiving a farm education.
“At one show, a young couple asked about the type of grain we threshed, and what it was used for,” said Harvey.
“Farm education is lacking and that’s part of why this system was built.”
Hauling the pieces in a cattle trailer, Harvey has shown his project at the NWRE since 2005, and has also taken it to Yorkton and Brandon.
“I’ve had a call from as far away as Nova Scotia, but I didn’t go,” he said. “It’s quite a process to get it moved and set up.”
Once again, Harvey will be showcasing the system at the NWRE in the Down on the Farm exhibit this weekend (July 27-29), so check it out!

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Jessica Bergen
REPORTER
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