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Grain-handling history available online

A train rushes across the Prairies, taking rail cars of grain from country elevators to terminal elevators at Thunder Bay, Ontario. It’s a scene that could be from any year. But this train is a steam engine and the year is 1955, as seen in the documentary “Grain Handling in Canada” which is available for the first time online.

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the Canadian Grain Commission has joined with the National Film Board to make “Grain Handling in Canada” available online. While the film is housed on the National Film Board’s site at, the Canadian Grain Commission offers a link to the film on its 1951-60 timeline at

The 23-minute, colour film follows grain from harvest to export and describes the role of the Board of Grain Commissioners (as the Canadian Grain Commission was known at the time).

“What really struck me when I watched this film is that the Canadian Grain Commission’s role in grain quality, quantity and safety assurance is as important today as it was nearly 50 years ago,” says Elwin Hermanson, chief grain commissioner. “People will enjoy seeing the old harvesting equipment and wooden elevators, but I think the real value is in seeing how our commitment to Canadian producers and the grain sector hasn’t changed.”

Filmed on location in grain elevators, rail yards and terminal elevators, the film is a valuable window into another time. Viewers will be charmed by scenes of life on the Prairies in the 1950s. But they may be surprised to see some of the old practices, such as inspectors and farmers chewing on a few kernels of grain to roughly gauge protein content.

“The NFB collection of over 13,000 titles is an audiovisual legacy for all Canadians, capturing the heart and soul of our nation, for over seven decades. Today, we’re committed to digitizing this unique collection and making it available to Canadians as never before, on the platforms of their choice. To help celebrate the Canadian Grain Commission’s centennial, the NFB is delighted to have worked with our colleagues at the commission to make this historic film available online to a new generation of Canadians,” says Tom Perlmutter, government film commissioner and chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada.

Many services shown in the film remain today. The Canadian Grain Commission still offers Subject to Inspector’s Grade and Dockage to producers who disagree with the grade and dockage received at the elevator. The licensing system still works to protect producers. The grading system is still based in research conducted in the Canadian Grain Commission’s Grain Research Laboratory. As well, as shown in the film’s final scene, Canadian Grain Commission grain inspectors still issue a Certificate Final, detailing grade and weight, for export shipments of grain.

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