The Tillotson elevator at Vail, Iowa, is fully explained in builder specifications

The ubiquitous curved headhouse exemplifies the Tillotson style at Vail, Iowa

The curved headhouse exemplifies the Tillotson style at Vail, Iowa.

Story and photos by Kristen Cart


An overexposed image brought out the Tillotson name on the blue port cover.

During our travels, we are always on the lookout for a Tillotson elevator, so coming across the Vail elevator in the eastern part of Iowa during a Thanksgiving visit was a pleasant surprise.

The trademark curved headhouse came into sight at a distance, and with some excitement we pulled over near the elevator, hoping to find an embossed manhole cover to confirm the builder. Painted blue, about halfway up the side above a loading spout, was a steel cover with its stamped name, “Tillotson Construction Co., 1955, Omaha Nebr.,” faintly visible in the late afternoon shadow.

We needn’t have looked. The Vail elevator is among the structures detailed in the Tillotson concrete elevator specifications, which span over fifteen years.

In a brisk, chill wind, I took some quick photographs (interrupted briefly when a railroad employee warned me to keep a respectful distance from the tracks), and then I dashed back into the warmth of the truck. “Vail, Iowa,” was a familiar name. When I checked, I found it was listed in the rich store of information that Tim Tillotson provided.


DSC_3006Below are the specifications for the elevator at Vail, Iowa, built in 1955.

The elevator was built using the “Manson plan,” which specified 5 bins with a 16 ft diameter and 120 ft height, a 13 x 17 ft driveway, a dust bin and fan, a dryer bin, and 16 bins and overflow.

Capacity per Plans (with Pack) 152,000 bushels

Capacity per foot of height 1,551 bushels

Reinforced concrete/plans (Total) 1,552 cubic yards

Plain concrete (hoppers) 27 cubic yards

Reinforced steel/Plans (includes jack rods) 69.5 tons

Average steel per cubic yard of reinforced concrete 89.8 pounds


Steel & reinforced concrete itemized per plans

Below main slab 5,457 lb/64 cu yd

Main slab 19,460 lb/186 cu yd

Drawform walls 88,017 lb/1087 cu yd

Work & driveway floor (including columns) 1,988 lb/18.5 cu yd

Deep bin bottoms 5,261 lb/28.5 cu yd

Overhead bin bottoms 2,949 lb/22.1 cu yd

Bin roof & Extens. roofs 5,287 lb/35.8 cu yd

Scale floor (complete) 292 lb/4.8 cu yd

Cupola walls (including leg and head) 5,590 lb/63.0 cu yd

Distributor floor 1,530 lb/11.0 cu yd

Cupola roof 1,760 lb/14.0 cu yd

Miscellaneous (track sink, steps) 1,107 lb/15.0 cu yd

Construction details

Main slab dimensions (Drive length first dimen.) 54 x 51 ft

Main slab area (actual outside on ground, less pit) 2,482 sq ft

Weight of reinforced (total) concrete (4,000 lb/cu yd + steel) 3,173 tons

Weight of plan concrete (hoppers 4,000 lb/cu yd) 96 tons

Weight hopper fill sand (3,000 lb/cu yd) 615 tons

Weight of grain (at 60 lb per bushel) 4,560 tons

Weight of structural steel & machinery 18 tons

Gross weight loaded 8,462 tons

Bearing pressure 3.4 tons per sq ft

Main slab thickness 24 in

Main slab steel (bent) number 9 at 7 inches

Tank steel at bottom (round tanks) number 4 at 12 inches

Lineal feet of drawform walls and extensions 526 ft

Height of drawform walls 120 ft

Pit depth below main slab 16 ft 3 in

Cupola dimensions (W x L x Ht.) 22.25 x 42.5 x 26.5 ft

Pulley centers 152.75 ft

Number of legs 1

Distributor floor Yes

Track sink Yes

Full basement Yes

Electrical room Yes

Driveway width–clear 13 ft

Dump grate size 5 x 9 and 15 x 9 ft

Columns under tanks size 16 inches square

Boot — leg & head Concrete


Machinery Details

Head pulley size 72 x 14 x 4 9/16 in

Boot pulley size 72 x 14 in

Head pulley rpm 42

Belt 330 ft, 14 in 6 ply calumet

Cups 12 x 6 in at 10 1/2 in

Head drive Howell 30 horsepower, 4

Theoretical leg capacity (cup manufacturer rating) 6,440 bushels per hour

Actual leg capacity (80 percent of theoretical) 5,150 bushels per hour

Horsepower required for leg (based on above actual capacity plus 15 percent for motor) 23.8 hp

Man lift 1.5 horsepower Ehr

Load out scale 10 bu

Load out spout 8.25 inch W.C.

Truck lift 7.5 horsepower Ehr

Dust collector system Fan → Bin

Cupola spouting 10 inch diam.

Driveway doors Two overhead rolling

Conveyor Provision


Also Built

Main slab includes 3 in pile cap 23 cu yd

Split one overhead bin

Dust bin and fan

Hang pit 3,126

Special track sink


One comment on “The Tillotson elevator at Vail, Iowa, is fully explained in builder specifications

  1. Kate Oshima says:

    I just visited this elevator today! 12-9-2018

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