Taking it from the top at Tillotson Construction’s annex in Flagler, Colorado

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This photo from the Tillotson Construction Company archives shows the staging deck, on which all formwork was built to ensure it was dead level. The square section was probably the form for a conveyor or bucket shaft, or for a man lift. The triangular section, called a groin form, was made for the void where two rows of bin forms were placed together. The excavation hole for the new annex is seen, lower left, at the foot of the 252,000-bushel elevator the company built in 1950, modeling it after their one in Pond Creek, Okla. 

By Ronald Ahrens

In 1953, my grandfather Reginald Tillotson decided to send his three sons, Charles, 18, Tim, 16, and Mike, 13, to work on an annex to the Flagler, Colo., elevator Tillotson Construction Company had built three years earlier.

My grandmother Margaret didn’t like the idea.”You can’t send those kids out there,” she protested.

“It’s about time they grew up,” Reginald said.

Indeed, my uncles were sent, leaving Omaha in a new Ford and pulling the travel trailer that would be their home for the next few weeks.

“I don’t remember that he even came out,” Uncle Tim said recently of Reginald.

From left, Tim and Chuck Tillotson and La Rose Tillotson Hunt in 2012.

From left, Tim and Chuck Tillotson and La Rose Tillotson Hunt in 2012.

While Charles and Tim labored on the formwork that rose toward the sky, Mike stayed in the trailer, which doubled as their bunkhouse and the job office. His task was that of timekeeper.

“I don’t recall him bein’ out there when we was jackin’ and pourin’,  jackin’ and pourin,'” Tim said, although he did recall him reading hot rod magazines.

Once the pouring started, it couldn’t stop. A cold joint between concrete that had already set and a new pour wasn’t at all desirable, for it would leak.

“You had to treat that damn good when you started over,” Tim said.

Work went on in twelve-hour shifts. As the concrete was dumped out of a Georgia buggy–a V-shaped tub riding on large wheels behind a U-shaped handle–someone with a spud hoe would follow the pour and work the concrete, releasing the air from around the rebar. “The only way you shut down was an emergency,” Tim said. Lightning, for example, was an emergency because it was attracted to the rebar being used to bolster the concrete.

_DSC0033_9425The crew was made up of some trusted old hands and an assortment of locals. “You never knew who you were workin’ next to,” Tim said.

He remembers the local sheriff asking himself why he should put up anyone in the jail when they could work and earn their keep. One of the convicts toiling alongside Tim had a funny thought. “You think you can hang onto that hoist handle hard enough if I push you off?” he said.

Any number of mishaps could occur. “You ought to see one of them Georgia buggies go off the top,” Tim said. “Or the cotter pin come off the wheel and the wheel go off.”

At ground level the pour was made in six-inch increments, but the speed increased as the elevator rose.

To keep the screw jacks on the same plane and maintain plumb, the crew used a water-level system on the deck. A clear hose was fed by water from a 55-gallon drum. Tim said the hose had a level “that you marked before you ever pulled off the ground. And believe it or not, you’d get one hundred and some feet up, and you’d be plumb!”

11 comments on “Taking it from the top at Tillotson Construction’s annex in Flagler, Colorado

  1. kocart says:

    What surprises me about this image is the appearance of two forms that appear to be interstitial bin forms set out on the wooden deck. It surprises me that they were built independently from the round bin forms. It looks like their geometry was perfected by building them inside the circular wood structures in the picture.

    As always the cars are an excellent way to date the image. It seems that the cars were usually late models, since the builders did pretty well in their business. That must be the trailer where Michael whiled away the time when he was not working. The image is fascinating.

  2. Linda Laird says:

    Great article. I’ve got to look through my Chalmers & Borton construction photos to see if they used the interstitial forms. Can’t recall having seen those shapes. It is fascinating that you are documenting the lingo. I’m sure there is more. Keep up your good work.

    • kocart says:

      I just obtained newspaper images of the Chalmers & Borton elevator in Lincoln, Neb. when the elevator was almost finished. I will post those soon. Perhaps a closer look will explain the forms pictured above.

  3. […] Taking it from the top at Tillotson Construction’s annex in Flagler, Colorado (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com) […]

  4. […] Taking it from the top at Tillotson Construction’s annex in Flagler, Colorado (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com) […]

  5. […] Taking it from the top at Tillotson Construction’s annex in Flagler, Colorado (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com) […]

  6. […] Taking it from the top at Tillotson Construction’s annex in Flagler, Colorado (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com) […]

  7. Bob Russell says:

    Real interesting. I worked for Tillotson from 1946 till1958.

  8. Mike Tillotson, Owasso, OK says:

    I really enjoyed the information on the Tillotsons. I have the Tillotson family history all the way back to England. My grandmother Pearl Tillotson did it.

  9. […] at Randall, Iowa (1949); West Bend, Iowa (1949); Pocahontas, Iowa (1949); Bushland, Tex. (1950); Pond Creek, Okla. (1950); Seibert, Colo. (1950); and Flagler, Colo. (1950). They all look like the typical Tillotson […]

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