How the Tillotson elevator in Booker, Tex., revealed itself to a visitor


By Ronald Ahrens

After a breakfast at La Choza (The Hut) that included a side order of chorizo, I returned to the complex in Booker, Tex., where Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, had built a 216,000-bushel, single-leg elevator in 1945.

Texas-Okla Logo 04It had been sleeping during my visit before breakfast, but now it was alive. The staff had opened up for business.

I walked in through the center-driveway door and told a staffer what I was up to. He welcomed me to look around.

Just then another employee arrived at ground level in the man-lift. This is the secret little elevator inside the main house, just large enough for a single occupant who rides to the top in order to work inside the headhouse or the run.

IMG_9099Power originally came from a 2-hp motor, and for all I knew the original unit was still doing its job.

A bit of clattering ensued as the lift bumped to a stop over a tire that’s laid in the cell to act as a spring. The man let himself out. He had received no explanation why a photographer was present and thrilled to take this picture, but he smiled upon exit and went about his business.

There’s a ladder beside the man-lift. Does it go all the way to the top, too? The electrical conduits seemed to do the same.

It didn’t occur to me to ask. I set about photographing every detail, as if the candy jar had spilled on the floor.

Inside and out, the main house had a well-worn look–maybe I can get away with saying “burnished”–but everything seemed to be in working order. Every door, window, ladder, and passageway tells a story.

IMG_9073Additionally, the elevator has served, and may still serve, as a storm shelter. Some big, powerful twisters blow across these plains, and if anyone needed protection, this was the place to find it.

Tomorrow we’ll have a look at the specs and more details.

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