The twin of the vanished Glidden, Iowa, elevator still stands at Churdan, Iowa

DSC_0476Story and photos by Kristen Cart

Tucked into a nest of grain bins in the west-central Iowa town of Churdan is an old original elevator built by Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha, Neb. The annex hard by its side also boasts the Tillotson name.


It is immediately obvious that the old Tillotson structure has been updated at some time in the past with a leg that extends above the headhouse, thereby keeping the machinery most prone to overheating far from accumulations of grain dust.

DSC_0497DSC_0490The annex beside it shows signs of cracking. Stress cracks are an old enemy of elevators, a problem which eventually spelled the demise of the Churdan elevator’s twin at Glidden, Iowa, and also the Mayer-Osborn elevator at Maywood, Kan.

Manhole covers along the side declare that the annex was built by Tillotson Construction in 1955.

DSC_0486An elevator built by Quad States was added to the Farmers Cooperative complex some years later. (Its trademark stepped headhouse is curved only at the outside margins, a usually reliable indicator of a Quad States design. A manhole cover dated 1969 boasts its provenance.)

A white-painted metal bin, served by the Tillotson elevator headhouse, was also added to the site to increase storage capacity.


Click the photo to witness the demolition

After demolition of two faulty bins in 2013, the concrete remnants were bulldozed into the center of an empty lot across from the co-op office.

A large-capacity shiny metal bin across the street completes the scene.

We are fortunate to have the specifications for the Churdan elevator, which is an early example built in 1949, and for its 198,960-bushel annex. The elevator specifications are detailed below.

The “Churdan Plan” was used for a number of Tillotson elevators, including Glidden, Sanborn, Gilmore City, and Thompson, Iowa; Greenwood and Fairfield, Neb.; and Montevideo, Minn. The construction of elevators using this plan spanned from 1949 to 1952. Specifications varied according to an individual customer’s  requirements.

The “Churdan Plan” consisted of four 14 1/2-foot-diameter bins, 100 feet tall, with a 13-by-17-foot driveway and eight bins over the driveway. It had a 13-foot spread. Notations in the company record said “bin split for drier” and “16 bins and dust bin.”


Capacity per plans (with Dock): 102,000 bushels

Capacity per foot of height: 1,318 bushels

Reinforced concrete per plans (total): 1,083 cubic yards

Plain concrete (hoppers): 25 cubic yards

Reinforcing steel per plans (including jack rods): 57.72 tons

Average steel per cubic yard reinforced concrete: 106.5 pounds

Steel and reinforced concrete itemized per plans:

Below main slab: 3,133 pounds steel, 29 cubic yards concrete

Main slab: 15,937 pounds steel, 113 cubic yards concrete

Drawform walls: 73,405 pounds steel, 760 cubic yards concrete

Work and Driveway floor (including columns): 3,370 pounds steel, 26 cubic yards concrete

Deep bin bottoms: 3,480 pounds steel, 19 cubic yards concrete

Overhead Bin bottoms: 3,752 pounds concrete, 23 cubic yards concrete

Bin roof (or garner): 3,060 pounds steel, 30 cubic yards concrete

Scale floor (complete): 186 pounds steel, 3 cubic yards concrete

Cupola walls: 3,481 pounds steel, 35 cubic yards concrete

Distributor floor: 886 pound steel, 7 cubic yards concrete

Cupola roof: 1,129 pounds steel, 9 cubic yards concrete

Misc. (boot, leg, head, track sink, steps, etc.): 1,036 pounds steel, 20 cubic yards concrete

Attached driveway: 600 pounds steel, 9 cubic yards concrete (driveway extension)

DSC_0494Construction details

Main slab dimensions (drive length first dimension): 48′ x 48′

Main slab area (actual outside on ground): 2,270 square feet

Weight reinforced (total) concrete (4000 pounds per cubic yard plus steel): 2,224 tons

Weight plain concrete (hoppers 4000 pounds per cubic yard): 50 tons

Weight hopper fill sand (3000 pounds per cubic yard): 360 tons

Weight of grain (at 60 pounds per bushel): 3,060 tons

Weight of structural steel and machinery: 15 tons

Gross weight loaded: 5,709 tons

Bearing pressure: 2.52 tons per square foot

Main slab thickness: 18″

Main slab steel: straight 1 1/4″ square at 10″ o. c. spacing

Tank steel and bottom (round tanks): 3/8″ at 8″ o. c. spacing

Lineal feet of drawform walls: 440 excluding extension

Height of drawform walls: 90′

Pit depth below main slab: 12’0″

Cupola dimensions (outside width x length x height): 15′ x 32 1/3′ x 22′

Pulley centers: 115.67′

Number of legs: 1

Distributor floor: yes

Track sink: yes

Full basement: yes

Electrical room: yes

Driveway width clear: 13′

Dump grate size: 2 at 9′ x 5 1/2′ and 9′ x 15′

Column under tanks size: 16″ square

Boot legs and head: concrete

Machinery details

Boot pulley: 60″ x 14″ x 2 3/16″

Head pulley: 60″ x 14″ x 3 15/16″

R.P.M. Head pulley: 44

Belt: 272′, 14″ 6 ply Calumet

Cups: 12″ x 6″ at 9″ o. c. spacing

Head drive: Howell 30 horsepower [3 circled here]

Theoretical leg capacity (cup manufacturers rating): 6,540 bushels per hour

Actual leg capacity (80% of theoretical rating): 5,230 bushels per hour

Horsepower required for leg (based on above actual capacity plus 15% for motor): 19.9 horsepower

Man lift: 2 horsepower Ehr.

Load out scale: 10 Bu. Rich.

Load out spout: 8 1/4″ w.c.

Cupola spouting: 10″ diameter 14 ga.

Truck lift: 7 1/2 horsepower Ehr.

Dust collector system: Fan to bin

Driveway doors: 2 overhead rolling

Conveyor: None


Split bin for dryer

One comment on “The twin of the vanished Glidden, Iowa, elevator still stands at Churdan, Iowa

  1. Teri Osborn says:

    Cool link to the demolition, you’re so tech savvy!! I love your descriptive style of writing, I always feel like I am right there when you are discovering these pieces of our history.

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