UNIVERSITIES established throughout the Dominion each year turn out their quota of trained men and women to engage in the professions, the arts, skilled trades, mining and even domestic pursuits. But for the training of her sons and daughters in the biggest business she has to-day and the business of the most stupendous proportions she will perhaps have for all time to come—the business of handling grain—Canada has no halls of learning and no grave-faced professors to teach the young idea how to do it.
Yet the moving of the western crop from the prairies to the seaboards and the markets of the world is Canada’s mightiest annual undertaking and the system and despatch to which the work is now reduced one of the wonders of modern commerce. This year, as an illustration, approximately two hundred and seventy-five million bushels of wheat alone, not to mention oats, flax and other grain products of the prairies, has to be picked up after it leaves . the threshing-machine, hauled to the country elevators or to the railway terminals, despatched on trains, sampled or graded for marketing, segregated and redeemed if it be low-grade or dirty, elevated for storage at the lake ports and reloaded into boats or grain cars for shipment to waiting ocean boats at the Atlantic seaboard.
Outside of the operation of the railways, where from thirteen hundred to more than two thousand cars of grain a day roar east over the transcontinental lines, a great army of experts and assistants are employed in directing the flow of these golden rivers of wheat.
It is an axiom of the West that wherever wheat pauses in its journey east it leaves cash tribute behind. The men who pioneered modern wheat-handling in Canada have long since become millionaires and multi-millionaires and the experts employed by them in the buying, selling, storing, treating and redeeming of grain are among the highest-salaried in the world. None of these men learned an item of this business at a school or a college; they were pedagogued by the ruffian schoolmaster known as Old Man Experience.
Roaring Down Toward the East
WHEN sample market trading was first broached in the West a leading grain operator, whose elevators scar the skylines from the Rockies to the head of Lake Superior, told me that the great difficulty was not in changing the system and adapting storage houses to new conditions but in securing trained men of the type who could buy and deal in grain on sample. At that time, he declared, men of the calibre and training required were not available.
It takes trained brains of the high-pressure type to direct efficiently the flow of the wheat as it goes surging over the undulating prairies, climbs and descends the Ontario Divide, roars through the wilderness, submerges the giant grain-carriers till their freeboard is creased to the waterlines in the black bosoms of the Great Lakes and till it finally floats down the majestic St. Lawrence and goes sifting into the containers of ocean port elevators with its own peculiar sibilant song, “I Am King Wheat, King Wheat Am I.”
Let’s see what care has to be taken of the grain from the time it leaves its native prairie till it is ready for the millers and the exporters.
In the prairie West the grain-grower does not sack his product, but wagon-hauls it in bulk to the nearest shipping point where he delivers it to an ordered car from the railway company or to the country elevator. If he orders a car he bills the car forward in his own name and to the order of some commission firm in Winnipeg or at the Head of the Lakes. Dr. R. Magill, formerly chief commissioner of the Grain Board of Canada, is authority for the statement that about one-third of the whole crop is shipped on order. The farmer may either sell his grain for cash to the elevator or store or ship his grain through it for a fixed charge per bushel. If he takes advantage of the country elevator he avoids the labor of loading the grain into the car, gets his grade and weight, and also a receipt which he can use for raising cash immediately.
No grain going east can pass Winnipeg without government inspection. Every grain train is held till the inspection department goes through it. An inspection crew consists cf about fourteen men, each of whom has his own particular part to play. One man opens the car and places an empty sample bag in it. The sampler follows and sinks his brass probe into the grain at five or six points, emptying the grain each time on to a cloth spread out for the purpose. The foreman of the crew oversees the sampling, mixes the samples into an average, puts it in the bag, writes the sample ticket, inserts this in the bag and hangs the bag on the car door.
Next comes the car-sealer who reseals the car, collects the sample bags and takes them to the government office in the railway yard. Ticket numbers are there checked with the sheets made out from the waybills and the sample sheets are forwarded to the inspection office.
Grading of grain, of course, essentially depends on quality, and quality is based on soundness, color, weight and freedom from conditions of moisture, heat and admixtures of weeds, dirt and so forth. To settle definitely these points in an official manner there are moisture tests, the sieve and the scale. Government grading must be just and accurate.
The inspector is not allowed even to know who owns the grain he is inspecting, and he must grade from the sample only, and when he is finished his statement is handed to the clerical department, in which full records are made and certificates issued. The samples and tickets are also fyled for future reference, if such should happen to be necessary. Through this inspection being made at the Manitoba capital four hundred and fifty miles away from the storage point at the Canadian Head of the Lakes, time is given for sampting, inspection, issuing of certificates, appeals from the inspector’s verdict and for the sale of the grain before it reaches the terminal elevators.
When the grain arrives at Fort William another crew of government officials seeks it out, looking for signs of leakage or damage which are faithfully recorded if discovered. The depth of the grain in the car is measured, and the unloading, weighing, cleaning, binning and re-shipping are all supervised. Government certificates are there issued as to weight and grade of the grain coming in and going out of the terminals.
There are twenty-nine elevators at the Canadian Head of the Lakes with a total storage capacity of over fifty-four million bushels, and somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty million dollars, or more, was required to build and equip these plants.
GANGWAY FOR KING WHEAT!
A NYWHERE along the Canadian transcontinental lines K i n g Wheat has the right of way. The wheat rush east is at its height, and with the cessation of water-borne traffic the annual congestion on the railways and at the lake ports is reported.
Over the double-track system of the Canadian Pacific, during the present grain “stampede/’ a grain train tears east through storm or sunshine and a returning freight goes west every fifteen minutes of the 24-hour day. The Canadian National railways and the Government Transcontinental are similarly taxed to their utmost capacity.
Do Canadians realize that Canada has the most, efficient and amazing grain-handling system■ in the world; that it and the modern storage and cleaning elevators utilized, in that system have been■ the subject of study by nearly every foreign country having similar problems in grain movement, to meetf
The wheat movement has its genesis in small activities and gradually accumulates its dimensions till their zenith is reached at the point of breaking bulk for water shipment.
A farmer’s wagon is capable of hauling about sixty or seventy bushels of wheat; a railway car about an average of one thousand two hundred bushels—though there are new cars in the building which will carry much more; a whole grain train carries from fifty thousand to sixty thousand bushels; while a large lake boat can take more than three hundred thousand bushels. One of these large boats can be loaded by a modern terminal elevator at the rate of from seventy thousand to one hundred thousand bushels per
Her lake system, providing cheap water haul, was what saved the situation for Canada, whose main wheat-growing areas are so far removed from the Atlantic ports. Small boats with not more than fourteen feet draught clear right through from Fort William to Montreal, while the larger lake boats must break bulk at the elevators at the foot of the Great Lakes. These elevators en route are not so much storage houses as they are part and parcel of the machinery for the handling and movement of grain, their principal function being to accept grain from railway cars and reload it on to boats, and vice versa.
Where A Good Man Rises Fast
TT IS in the elevators that the ingenuity of Canadian . A grain-handlers becomes suddenly and strikingly apparent. These great castles of commerce, which rear their grey concrete hulks into the skyline higher than most big city sky-scrapers, handle the flood of grain during the fall, and winter rush as though it were really a fluid, sucking it up from where it is dumped through the grates from the cars into their yawning containers and disgorging it again by conveyor and force of gravity into the waiting
It is, however, in the intermediate buying, selling,
. segregating and cleaning of the various grades of grain by private enterprises that the utmost skill and experience is demanded. The man who can go out on the terminals and spot cars of grain, give snap options on same and buy to advantage on a market that is constantly fluctuating and dependent on how hungry the world happens to be, or how hungry it is officially expected to be six months hence, can command soon the salary of a railway president, and, if he does not launch out in business for himself, sooner or later gets a block of stock in the grain firm he has been buying for. Most such men are old grainmen, long experienced in judging grain by its “feel and color.”
The mixing of grain is a science by itself. During a visit to a sample room a big western buyer exhibited about a teaspoonful of wheat in the palm of his hand.
“What would you grade that?” he asked me.
“I should take it for No. 1 Northern,” I replied.
“Right,” he affirmed. Then he turned with his back to me a moment before he exhibited an even more attractivelooking sample.
“And this?” he asked with a smile.
“Why, it is even a better sample of No. I than the last,”
“It is and it isn’t,” was his enigmatic comment. “As a matter of fact I merely mixed a lower grade with the real No. 1 I previously showed you and that produced the beautiful blend of color.”
“That,” he explained, “is part of the science of mixing grain about which we have heard so much.”
Wonders Performed By Wheat Physicians
THE part that the “hospital” elevator plays in grainhandling is even more novel and interesting. I have seen carloads come down from the prairies that looked to be nothing more than a mixture of weeds, gravel and common dirt. The hospital elevator takes hold of this and will take from it so much No. 1 hard, perhaps,; several lower grades; a percentage of oats, perhaps; broken grain and mustard seed. Not one of the component parts is wasted. Even the dirt is used as a base for stock-feed. Where once such dirty grain was dumped on the prairies as refuse it now brings a fair measure of cash to the farmer and is salvaged to make foods for man and beast.
The "hospital” elevators are equipped with really wonderful devices for cleaning, segregating and redeeming wet grain, not to mention the drying equipment which drives the moisture out of wet grain and returns it to its normal
And the end is not yet. Inventors to-day are busy on contrivances for further accelerating the despatch with which grain is handled, and big money stands ever ready and waiting for the man who can come forward with ideas that will improve the present methods by which Canadian grainmen hustle the crop from the prairies down to the sounding sea and across to the markets in Europe and elsewhere; ' ’■
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