A recent trip west reveals mystery elevators


Story and photos by Kristen Cart

After our annual trip west to tease the elk (hunting them is perhaps too strong of a term, since our freezer has admitted no elk meat for several years), we took a small detour to look at elevators. I headed the car east onto Hwy 34 in Neb. after stopping to photograph the Grand Island, Neb. elevator, a Johnson Construction project.

This time my dad, Jerry Osborn, went with us, and he humored me, though he was eager to get home. The kids just rolled their eyes and said, “Not another elevator!”

Like pearls on a string, grain elevators line up on Hwy 34 as it stretches from town to town west of Lincoln, Neb. From the look of the rounded headhouses on each elevator,  Tillotson Construction Company of Omaha had free reign there during the construction years, having butted out potential competition as it changed the landscape on the old road.

Only the York and Aurora elevators are recorded in the company construction record pages we have. I will present them more fully in a later post.


The Murphy sign stenciled on the elevator does not seem to be a town name

The Murphy and Hampton elevators present a bit of a mystery. Since I had a full load of family cramped together in a rental car that was barely an SUV, more suited to a terrier dog and a bicycle than the five passengers it claimed to hold, I did not stop to investigate the mystery elevators. I had to be content with a few pictures taken on the fly.

Here they are. I wonder if any of our readers remember these elevators, or can identify the builders? They will get another visit, hopefully soon, but for now, enjoy the photos.


Hampton’s elevator also has a rounded headhouse

9 comments on “A recent trip west reveals mystery elevators

  1. Chandler Thomas says:

    Some elevators, built out in the country, are named for the railroad switch they are near. I built an elevator in a place called Pickering, IA in the early 1970’s. There is no Pickering, IA but the Rock Island RR had a switch there called Pickering Junction. Thus the name of the elevator. Railroads often named switches when they were putting new service into an area. It was their hope that as settlers moved into an area, a town would grow at the switch.

  2. kglinn says:

    I know the elevator in Murphy is a Tillotson built house. It was built in the late 50’s or early 60’s. There was once a town named Murphy at that location, it was gone for the most part when the elevator was built.

  3. Rose Ann Liesen says:

    The Grand Island elevator was built by my dad Darrell Greenlee for Johnson Const. Co. My 84 year old mother still tells stories about Grand Island. Dad was from Tabor Ia and she was from Ipswich SD. So they both got to see their families while we lived there. Mom loved the people said they were the kindest and friendliest people she met and she loved the city. I was young but can still remember living there. Rose Ann

    • kocart says:

      I stopped to see the Grand Island elevator and to photograph it for a future post, because so many of your family have commented here. I will make sure you get to see the elevator pictures. You all have contributed a lot of great information about your dad and the elevator building days.

      • Rose Ann Liesen says:

        that would be great thank you those were the days I love all the pictures you have put on. I have many pictures that dad had taken on the process of building an elevator if you would like to see any of them. Thank you Rose Ann

  4. Collin Quiring says:

    I will be hauling some corn to the Hampton elevator this week and could snap some pictures for you if you’d like.

    • kocart says:

      That would be wonderful! I wonder what company name is on the manhole covers? Sometimes the builder and the year of construction is on the manhole cover.

      • Collin Quiring says:

        It’s funny that you drove through Hampton. I’ve been following this blog for awhile now and started looking at all the manhole covers on elevators that I haul to and sure enough there were a lot of chalmers-bottom, tillotson, and Meyer-Osborn elevators around. Hampton has the manhole covers on the outside of the silos and they’re 10 feet or so off the ground so I’ve been wondering who made it for awhile now! It looks like you just saw the one downtown elevator in aurora though? The other elevator is called aurora south and is on the southwest edge of town. It used to be a cargill elevator but aurora coop purchased it. I’m pretty sure that’s a tillotson elevator too.

  5. kocart says:

    I do have a photo of the other Aurora elevator also, from a distance. When we passed by I wondered if it was a Tillotson. It was different enough that I did not stop on this trip since we were on a pretty tight travel schedule. When we post about Aurora I will make sure to include that picture.

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