Story and photos by Gary Rich
I spent a couple days during October 2012 photographing grain elevators in southwestern Kansas. Arriving in tiny Moscow, Kan., I saw a concrete elevator with a curved headhouse and had a hunch it was built by Tillotson Construction Company.
My problem was that it was operated by Archer Daniels Midland. ADM has a strict policy of not allowing anyone on their property. I went inside and had a conservation with the elevator manager. I didn’t have any hope getting into the elevator. He told me that it was built by Chalmers & Borton. I knew this was not the case, since Chalmers & Borton never built an elevator with a curved headhouse. He told me I could take all the photos I wanted. However, it would be across the street from the elevator.
I have wondered since this trip how I would ever find the true builder for this Moscow elevator.
The recently discovered records of Tillotson Construction Company show that Tillotson indeed built this elevator in 1948. Capacity was 100,000 bushels with 14 tanks and a 13-foot-wide center driveway. Six bins were over the driveway.
The Moscow elevator was a very small one for anything made of slip-formed concrete. Tillotson built another relatively small elevator in Rolla, Kan., that had a 140,000-bushel capacity. Most that Tillotson was building in this time frame were of 200,000-bushel capacity or even larger.
The Santa Fe Railroad had a branch line from Dodge City, Kan., to Boise City, Okla. It was about 140 miles in length. Tillotson Construction built elevators in Ensign, Montezuma, Satanta, Moscow, Rolla and Elkhart, Kan.
It’s quite an accomplishment that Tillotson built six elevators along this line.
- The elevator at Bradshaw, Nebraska, still hides the identity of its builder (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)
- The Vinton Street elevator was Tillotson Construction’s 1950 hometown showcase (ourgrandfathersgrainelevators.com)