Horizontal member on Hereford elevator adds civilizing touch for employees


As we see in these photos from Hereford, Texas, a Tillotson elevator is more than just a collection of tanks and the mechanisms to move grain around inside the structure.

Texas-Okla Logo 04A Tillotson elevator can also come with amenities.

Here we see a lintel above the rear door of the main house. A lintel is a horizontal member that usually bears a load above an opening.

I asked Uncle Chuck Tillotson about it. (He’s also known in these posts as Charles J. Tillotson, son of Reginald Tillotson, of Tillotson Construction Co.)

He responded: “These concrete ‘eyebrows,’ or ‘headers,’ were added above doorways sometimes to provide a bit of shielding from the rainfall sheet flow coming down the vertical face of the wall over the doorway/opening in a rainstorm.”


So it’s a thoughtful touch. An employee won’t get water down his neck when he opens the door. Think of the increased productivity!

“They were not poured integrally with the concrete bin wall during slipping but were added afterwards,” Uncle Chuck continued.

Not only is there the lintel but also the electric light. I saw the same combination over and over at the Tillotson elevators I visited in the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma.

“I don’t recall these eyebrows being standard elements,” Uncle C. says. “I think they were added after the fact but whether Tillotson did the work, or the owner, I’m not sure.”

We do think the electric light was a standard item.

In the uppermost photo, the iron or steel hook and dangling cable remain a bit of a mystery, though.

And the rabbit-eared paintwork is beyond guessing.

Handsome in Hereford, Texas, a Tillotson elevator remains in use

IMG_8842On my road trip to visit my grandfather Reginald Tillotson’s elevators, the first stop was Hereford, Texas. It was toward the end of my second day of driving from California, and I arrived in time for late-afternoon light.

Texas-Okla Logo 04I had departed I-40 on the north and came down U.S. 385 for 28 miles through Deaf Smith County.

The desert scrub ends rather suddenly in the Texas Panhandle, and I found myself amid prosperous-looking farmsteads and cropland irrigated by center-pivots. It looked like corn, wheat, and cotton predominated.


Driveway detail view.

Hereford, which is southwest of Amarillo, is one stinky town. People said it’s because of huge surrounding feedlots. They sounded proud about it.

There were a couple of enormous grain terminals on the horizon as I approached. The Tillotson elevator was evident to their left. It was the smaller one, but the unique curved headhouse gave away its identity.

I drove east on U.S. 60 to what Google Maps identifies as the East End Hereford Grain Corp., which is across the railroad tracks on Dairy Road.

Tillotson Construction Co. built this 300,000-bushel elevator in 1951. Records show it had six tanks, or silos, of 20 feet in diameter. Notes say “Leg-Tunnel-Gallery” and “Top & Bot 30″ belts.”

A semi-truck lift and attached drive were also included.


The elevator looked to be in pretty good shape. There are some horizontal cracks on the silos, but they had been filled in. On the headhouse, traces of letters appeared to say Freeman Grain Corp. The concrete elevator towered over 10 barrel-like steel silos and an ungainly superstructure, along with bins and hoppers that linked to the concrete elevator’s headhouse by means of a spindly looking line.

This kind of annex was in a way preferable to a series of concrete silos. The Hereford elevator is a nice, free-standing example of Tillotson’s signature style.

The elevator’s tanks are 125 feet high. The headhouse, or cupola, is 17 feet wide, 36.75 feet long, and 27 feet high. So the structure reaches 152 feet up. 

No one was around, so I helped myself to photos. The only distractions came when trains went by. 

I was famished after the long day on the road, so I knocked off when I had my photos and checked in at the Hereford Inn just across East 1st Street. As I wrote in the introduction to this series, it was a pretty crummy place.

But after dining at Dakota’s Steakhouse (smothered fried chicken: $10.83), I went back to the motel and slept well despite the fact that the trains seemed to be crossing through the room.

Texas and Oklahoma road trip takes us to 20 elevators (so get ready)

By Ronald Ahrens

This Ford Ranger violated Tesla parking en route to Texas and Oklahoma.

Get ready for a series of posts on Our Grandfathers’ Grain Elevators.

On April 15, I set out on a road trip to the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma to see elevators built there between 1939 and the mid-1950s by Tillotson Construction Co.

This was a long-desired destination, as my grandfather, Reginald Tillotson, and his brother Joe Tillotson (until their partnership dissolved), built at least 10 reinforced-concrete elevators in the Panhandle and closer to 20 in Oklahoma. 

Texas-Okla Logo 04The company’s first concrete elevator, dating to 1939, was built in Goltry, Okla., and I was able to visit it.

So as I say, get ready.

I have 410 photos on one memory card and haven’t even counted those on the other card that’s still in the camera.

I saw a nice range of elevators including a surprise Mayer-Osborn one in Follett, Texas–built by my partner Kristen Osborn Cart’s grandfather after he worked for my grandfather.

Our Grandfathers’ Grain Elevators gets inside the main house at Booker, Texas.

I got inside some elevators, met interesting people whom you will also meet, and even have a few trip notes to share.

For example, avoid the Hereford Inn, in Hereford, Texas. Yes, it’s right across the street from the Tillotson elevator. No, you shouldn’t stay there. The owners have done nothing to update the rooms; flimsy mattress, wilted pillow, skimpy towel. And it sounded like the trains were coming through the room. At least there was hot water.

For the same $60 price, I stayed the next night at the Nursanickel Motel in Spearman, Texas. That place was quite nice and cast its shadow on the dump in Hereford.

And here’s a culinary tip: Smrcka’s Dairy Shack, in Medford, Oklahoma, serves a fantastic Czech sausage sandwich with sauerkraut. And the fries are incredible.

The Czech sausage sandwich in question.

With limeade, it came to $8.38.

If you have the same counter-attendant that I had, don’t try to make small talk because she’s super-crabby.

So stay with us for our Texas-Oklahoma series over the next few weeks.

Our correspondent visits the 1955 Tillotson elevator at Thornton, Iowa


Photos by Rose Ann Fennessy.

So windy it was in Thornton, Iowa, Rose Ann Fennessy was sidestruck by the blast.

“I could barely hold the phone still,” she reported.

Rose Ann had asked about any Tillotson elevators on the route from Omaha to Minneapolis, where the Twins opening day awaited. Maybe Ames, Iowa, for example?

A quick check of records found Thornton (it’s by Swaledale) along I-35. Rose Ann decided to stop there on the way back.

The Thornton elevator offered capacity of 252,000 bushels. The main slab is 62 ft x 74.5 ft, making it 4,360 sq ft in area and 21 inches thick. Altogether, 2,111 cubic yards of concrete were used. 

Gross weight loaded was rated at 12,956 tons. This was a big elevator for the period.

Today the elevator, located at 105 S. 1st St., is operated by North Iowa Cooperative.

Tall, too. The draw-form walls of the silos are 120 feet high. The house is capped by a cupola, as the Tillotsons always said, while others say headhouse. This feature is 23 x 58 x 40.5 ft.  It makes the whole structure 178 ft tall.


The manhole cover is embossed with Tillotson Construction Co.’s name.

“Very bitter cold winds and lowering gray clouds,” Rose Ann said when heading back from Minneapolis. Nevertheless, from the stop at Thornton, as promised, she delivered a fine portfolio of views.

The Tillotson elevator appears to have withstood a nasty case of measles. Otherwise, what a fine bright-faced elevator.

“I’m sorry they are not better,” Rose Ann said, sounding like she’s trapped in a Jane Austen novel. “It was so so windy that I quite truly was almost blown off my feet.”

A little spring gale between Omaha and Minneapolis.

“Home,” she next said. “Snow! 2 inches on the ground here! My poor crocuses are buried!” 


A visit to Omaha’s Vinton Street elevator reveals recent activity by muralists


Our friend Rose Ann Fennessy lives near the Vinton Street elevator in South Omaha. On a recent spring day she took a stroll and recorded these views.

Above we see the elevator and storage annex in a long gaze from the Field Club trail. The Field Club, which bills itself as the oldest private club west of the Mississippi River, is about a mile away from the elevator.


Rose Ann also discovered the silos of the annex are being used by muralists. She calls it “the current artwork.” Since the Stored Potential banners came down in July of 2014, the silos have become more available to artists.


“I like this one,” Rose Ann says.

It’s good indeed. In a way, these murals are like stained glass but at the the wrong end of the towers.

We don’t mind the silos of the annex being painted, but we hope the artists leave the elevator’s main house alone.