Story and photos by Kristen Cart
I knew there was a small Tillotson elevator in Minneapolis, Kan., when I stopped there last weekend on a quick trip to Nebraska from Wichita.
I had a weekend layover and a rental car, and was headed up to see my folks. The town is right where I-135 gives out when driving north from Wichita. I had to get off anyway to continue north, so when I spotted the elevator down by the railroad bridge, I went to check it out.
The Minneapolis elevator was recorded in the concrete elevator specifications of the Tillostson Construction Company. It was one of the handful of Tillotson projects built in Kansas.
I did not expect what I found. The manhole cover identified the builder, so there was no doubt, but this 1947 creation was unlike any Tillotson elevator I had ever seen.
The elevator was starkly beautiful, balanced, and gracefully situated in its surroundings. Though it was small, its perfect proportions and simplicity made it monumental. A wide-angle, close-quarters view made it look even grander in the photo.
I have a passion for window panes—the more, the better. They look good in photos, and the Tillotson Company must have agreed—the several windows that let light into the headhouse to illuminate the workspace had a multitude of them.
It may be a nostalgic thing for me—I remember as a little kid seeing painted panes left over from the blackout days of the last great war. It took lots of paint and many, many hours to cover the hundreds of panes in an aircraft hangar or gymnasium, but it was the only way to hide every scrap of light from an anticipated airborne menace. Many years later, after the paint was peeled and broken panes were replaced with unpainted ones, an interesting patchwork remained. That image held fast in my childish memory.
Though the cooperative was closed for the weekend, blower noise testified to the elevator’s present utility, along with that of its towering neighbors. After the 1947 elevator was built, more capacity was added—a second elevator and a large annex stood beside the Tillotson structure, and judging by their style, they probably came along not too much later. The whole complex was perfectly neat and tidy.
I took advantage of the quiet and did a thorough job photographing the exterior of the elevator and its companions. Further investigation will have to wait for a time when someone is home at the co-op.
The specifications describe a small, early elevator, of only 100,000 bushels capacity. It was intended to serve a mill operation. The elevator was built using the “Pond Creek plan,” which specified 4 tanks with a 15 1/2 ft diameter, 125 ft drawform walls through the cupola, an attached driveway, no distributor floor, 6 spreads and 9 bins.
Capacity per Plans (with Pack): 100,000 bushels
Capacity per foot of height: 1,020 bushels
Reinforced concrete/plans (Total): 906 cubic yards
Plain concrete (hoppers): 10 cubic yards
Reinforced steel/Plans (includes jack rods): 40.67 tons
Average steel per cubic yard of reinforced concrete: 90.3 pounds
Steel & reinforced concrete itemized per plans
Below main slab: 3,720 lb/34.4 cu yd
Main slab: 12,775 lb/84.7 cu yd
Drawform walls: 56,190 lb/694 cu yd
Work & driveway floor (including columns): 112 lb/1.3 cu yd
Deep bin bottoms: None
Overhead bin bottoms: 910 lb/6.5 cu yd
Bin roof (garner): 730 lb/7.7 cu yd
Scale floor (complete): None
Cupola walls: Drawform walls
Distributor floor: None
Cupola roof: 3,053 lb/21.4 cu yd
Miscellaneous (boot, leg, head, track sink, steps): Included
Attached driveway: 4,250 lb/56.0 cu yd
Main slab dimensions (Drive length first dimen.): 41 x 41 ft
Main slab area (actual outside on ground): 1,626 sq ft
Weight of reinforced (total) concrete (4,000 lb/cu yd + steel): Excluding driveway, 1,752 tons
Weight of plain concrete (hoppers 4,000 lb/cu yd): 20 tons
Weight hopper fill sand (3,000 lb/cu yd): 218 tons
Weight of grain (at 60 lb per bushel): 3,000 tons
Weight of structural steel & machinery: 10 tons
Gross weight loaded: 5,000 tons
Bearing pressure: 3.08 tons per sq ft
Main slab thickness: 18 in
Main slab steel: (straight): 1 in diameter at 9 in o. c. spacing
Tank steel at bottom (round tanks): 1/2 in diameter at 12 in o. c. spacing
Lineal feet of drawform walls: 310 ft with no extensions
Height of drawform walls: 125 ft
Pit depth below main slab 13 ft 3 in
Cupola dimensions (W x L x Ht.): 17 ft 7 in high within drawform walls
Pulley centers: 128.25 ft
Number of legs: 1
Distributor floor: No
Track sink: No
Full basement: No
Electrical room: No
Driveway width–clear 13 ft
Dump grate size: 1 at 5 ft x 9 ft
Columns under tanks-size: None
Boot — leg & head: Concrete
Head pulley size: 72 x 14 x 2 3/16 in
Boot pulley size: 72 x 14 x 3 7/16 in
Head pulley rpm: 36
Belt: 280 ft, 14 in 6 ply calumet
Cups: 12 x 6 in at 10 in o. c. spacing
Head drive: Howell 20 horsepower
Theoretical leg capacity (cup manufacturer rating): 5,780 bushels per hour
Actual leg capacity (80 percent of theoretical): 4,600 bushels per hour
Horsepower required for leg (based on above actual capacity plus 15 percent for motor) 17.9 hp
Man lift: Hand operated
Load out scale: None
Load out spout: None
Cupola Spouting: None
Truck lift: 7.5 horsepower Ehr
Dust collector system: Fan → Air
Driveway doors: One sliding
Cupola in drawform walls
Transfer spout to mill
Thanks for a great post. The photos are wonderful. Just want to let you know that the larger elevator was built by Chalmers & Borton in 1953, Original capacity 192,000 bu., D. Lancaster Supt. In 1958 a 299,000 bu. storage unit was added, D. Joseph Supt. In 2011 a new 80-foot scale and office was added along with four load-out downspouts which reduced the time for loading a truck from 30 minutes to eight.
A 1932 line drawing from the Kansas State Historical society shows a large wood elevator at Minneapolis.
It would be interesting to know the history of that elevator. I wonder if it continued in use with the Tillotson concrete elevator/mill.
It is fairly rare to see C&B elevators with windows in the head house below bin level, in this case architecturally echoing design elements of the Tillotson elevator. That same year, C&B constructed a new elevator at Wright KS with a square head house and windows below the bin level. I think we have to assume that the design of concrete elevators was fluid and innovative in the 40s & 50s, adding elements on the fly!
The mill at the elevator in Minneapolis,KS is still in use and is operated separate from the grain handling.
Thank you for your fascinating comment. I wondered about the Chalmers and Borton elevator, since it looks very similar to the concrete elevator at Linn, Kan., which was built by my grandfather William Osborn when he worked for J. H. Tillotson, Contractor. I suspect you are right when you say that designers borrowed liberally from one another, as styles can be very misleading when you are trying to identify a builder.
Love the photo of the house under renovation and so near to the grand elevator. And thanks for including your “childish memory” of the painted window panes. I always enjoy the history you bring out in your posts.
[…] The two older elevators at Paullina are concrete, but they do not seem to follow the protocol of a continuous pour. The newer-looking elevators deserve a closer look, in spite of their unfamiliar lines–particularly the smaller one on the left. Tillotson Construction set a precedent in 1947, when they built a rectilinear-styled elevator at Minneapolis, Kan. […]
[…] Minneapolis, Kan. (1948) is a site that fooled me on first examination. No manhole covers were evident on any structures except for the mill building. I didn’t expect an elevator with a rectilinear headhouse to be a Tillotson creation, so when we featured the mill building in our post (follow link), I added specifications which describe the elevator beside it! We will publish the mill building specifications in a later post. […]