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The Hanna Roundhouse, and Memories from One’s Past

November / December 1983 "Minnesota Architect" Cover Photo

November / December 1983 "Minnesota Architect" Cover Photo

Many years ago, having just arrived in Washington, DC for my tenure but realizing that I was a long ways from home; an issue of the Minnesota Architect crossed my desk.  The feature story was a photo essay about wooden grain elevators; the front cover photograph was of the “nine in a line” grain elevators from a town I grew up in.  The photo was cropped so as not to show the Canadian Pacific Railway station where we lived, but looking at the grain elevators was comfort enough.  Everyone who visited my desk – wearing crisply pressed shirts with stiffly starched collars – tried to understand what I saw in this.  It seems as though I had an acquired taste for the Canadian Prairies that was difficult for my colleagues to understand.  But for me, it was as soothing as a good cup of tea.

Moving ahead years later, I was waiting in line for a cup of coffee at the Oak Park Village Market.  It was down the street from my office, and an unlikely place to get coffee.  Oak Park Avenue has all sorts of trendy coffee places; they all sell what people believe to be strong coffee but in actuality, it’s simply coffee whose beans were over-roasted to simply taste strong.  That’s the explanation I read in a catalog from Murchie’s Tea and Coffee in Vancouver.  I think that it just tastes burnt, so I go for the regular stuff.  You know – Maxwell House, or Folgers’s.

Back to the story – standing, waiting for coffee, they were playing rock videos.  I never watch rock videos.  But, about a month or so before, when a non-confidence vote in the Canadian House of Commons was being televised on CSPAN, my wife made the unconscionable error of saying that she felt that I had lost my Canadian accent.  So I started listening to webcasts of Canadian radio stations to gain it back.  One radio station from Toronto played the song “Photograph” by “Nickelback” often.  This disk jockey described the video for this song, and how it had been filmed at the lead singer’s high school in Calgary. 

So, this video was playing at the Oak Park Village Market as I was waiting for coffee.  I watched.  They showed a high school gym – I know all eighteen high school gyms that were in Calgary during my day, and this wasn’t one of them.  We Calgarians always suspect the geographical knowledge of our friends from a city on Lake Ontario.  But, this video; it showed a bunch of Canadian Wheat Board grain cars in a railway yard – this video was definitely shot somewhere in Canada, the background looked definitely prairie.  It showed a stucco train station – it had a spray painted sign that read “Hanna”, but anyone could have done that.  Hanna is a town east of Calgary, I recall my father telling me about how it had two different train lines, and that one of those was the Canadian National Railway.  The arch-rival for a Canadian Pacific family.  But they had a roundhouse in Hanna, Dad thought that it had been abandoned or something.  But, back to the video – suddenly it showed one of the band members and a woman running across a turntable bridge – to a roundhouse!  I thought that it had been torn down years before. 

Everyone in the Oak Park Village Market wondered what had just come over me.  I was numbed – kind of like the feeling after drinking a good cup of tea.

There is a website I found that has a link to The Babuk Report,  Forgotten Alberta. The link can be found at   http://forgottenalberta.com/ .  It has a story about the Hanna Roundhouse. It reads like a good cup of tea.

Turntable Bridge, leading to the Hanna Roundhouse
Turntable Bridge, leading to the Hanna Roundhouse

And about the over-roast coffee?  Yeah, that takes a bit of an acquired taste, too.

Posted in Architecture, Current Affairs, History.