By Ronald Ahrens
Too many bad things can happen at a grain elevator. For one, construction crews and elevator workers face the risk of falling. For another, grain dust can explode. And it’s even possible for a worker to be trapped in a silo.
Then there’s the problem of blowouts. We have written before on Our Grandfathers’ Grain Elevators about blowouts.
One had occurred on a Tillotson Construction Co. job, probably in 1955, at Blencoe, Iowa.
And it turned out, during our visit to the 1950 Tillotson elevator run by Consumer’s Supply Co-op in Canyon, Texas, there was the story to tell of a blowout.
Those weren’t just stretch marks on that corner silo. Well, actually, yes, they were.
As Dewayne Powell explained when he showed me around, the blowout in a single silo had occurred sometime before his tenure, which goes back eight years.
Tillotson Construction Co.’s records specify the bearing pressure of the walls at 3.1 tons per square foot. Somehow, the concrete must have deteriorated, leading to the failure.
The elevator’s importance to the Co-op is underscored by the fact that repairs were made. Powell said Gunite was used. I searched for a definition of Gunite and found this passage from the Shotcrete entry on Wikipedia:
“Shotcrete, then known as gunite (/ˈgənīt/), was invented in 1907 by American taxidermist Carl Akeley to repair the crumbling façade of the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago (the old Palace of Fine Arts from the World’s Columbian Exposition).
“In 1911, he was granted a patent for his inventions, the “cement gun”, the equipment used, and ‘gunite,’ the material that was produced.”
Whatever the term, the repair was nicely done. But Powell said he’d heard stories of chaos the blowout caused. Aside from this disaster, the 68-year-old elevator has held up quite well.