By Ronald Ahrens
The next stop on my road trip was Sunray, Tex., which I reached from Dalhart by minor roads through the cotton and grain fields. It was a warm afternoon and very windy, and I had a pleasant drive going east, away from the sun.
I had already heard about Sunray as a key location in the Ag Producers Co-op network.
And I knew Sunray was in the construction records of Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha.
What I didn’t know is that Tillotson only built a storage annex–not the main elevator–at Sunray. This occurred in 1950 or 1951. The record is smudged on that line, but I think it says 1951. Sunray is placed with other 1951 jobs. At the same time, Tillotson was building in Malta Bend, Mo.; Greenwood and David City, Neb.; and Hereford, Tex., which I had visited at the beginning of the trip.
The storage annex was a big one: 550,000-bushel capacity. There were 14 tanks, or silos, of 20 feet in diameter reaching 120 feet in height. A note mentions a full basement.
The job demanded 3,297 cubic yards of reinforced concrete and 196.39 tons of reinforcing steel. Both figures significantly exceed the amounts needed for the 250,000- to 300,000-bushel elevators that Tillotson built.
The 24-inch slab for these 14 tanks was 56 x 148 feet and the main slab area is listed at 7,880 square feet.
All this reinforced concrete weighed 6,790 tons, and the annex’s gross weight when loaded was as much as 15,048 tons.
Up in the run, a conveyor belt turned on two pulleys, one being 16 x 32 inches and the other being 18 x 32 inches. The pulley turned at 127 rpm, so the 30-inch, four-ply belt moved at the rate of 600 feet per minute.
What I found was not one but two annexes by the elevator; both had 14 tanks, and the manhole covers said Tillotson Construction Co. Sunray appears nowhere else in the records, so it’s impossible to say for sure that Tillotson built identical, twin storage annexes.
However it went down, Tillotson contributed substantially to the sprawling elevator and storage complex at Sunray.