ATCO Structures started as a small family business, and
rode the Alberta oil boom of the late 1940s and 1950s to eventually
expand into a worldwide organization of companies engaged in utilities,
power, industrials, technologies and energy services.
More than two generations of workers at remote oil,
gas, forestry and mining sites have stayed in ATCO trailers, and the
structures have been used for many purposes including major
international events like the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and
Expo86 in Vancouver.
The company was founded in 1947 in Calgary when S.D.
and R.D. Southern started renting 15 utility trailers under the company
name Alberta Trailer Hire (now known as ATCO Structures). In 1953, the
company established a manufacturing plant near Edmonton, and after a
1955 fire destroyed the plant, manufacturing was shifted to a site near
Airdrie. Sales of the companys manufactured homes steadily grew,
especially as air defense stations and resource developments in the
Arctic regions of North America spurred demand for pre-built housing
that could be installed without basements.
By the end of the 1960s, ATCO had relocated from
Airdrie to a 54 acre site in southwest Calgary called the ATCO
Industrial Park, and had manufacturing plants in Montreal, Australia and
the United States, supplying a wide range of prefabricated housing to
projects around the globe. The boom in oil and gas exploration and
pipeline construction in the 1970s also meant heady times for ATCO, and
many of the workers on the massive TransAlaska pipeline project stayed
in camps constructed by the company.
During the 1970s, the ATCO corporate portfolio
expanded into oil and gas production, and the firms manufactured
modular structures became a familiar sight around the world. ATCOs
international stature was enhanced when the company supplied support
buildings and athlete accommodations for the 1988 Winter Olympics in
Calgary. Following the Games, the 500 homes used to accommodate the
media and Olympic family, which had been purchased by the Government of
Canada (200) and the Province of Alberta (300), were relocated
throughout western Canada for student housing (Mount Royal College
150), senior citizens and other housing needs. This ATCO solution
ensured that surplus housing from the Olympic Games did not occur in
For many people, ATCOs name has become synonymous
with workforce accommodation, and the familiar white trailers with ATCO
yellow and black trim (and the ATCO logo at the top) have become part of
their working landscape.
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