Catching the Canyon, Texas, Tillotson elevator at its doggonedest dawn glory

IMG_8858To make it by dawn to the Tillotson elevator in Canyon, Texas, I hit the road at 6.30 a.m. and hightailed out of Hereford, covering the 30 miles across the plain, traveling east-northeast on U.S. 60.

Texas-Okla Logo 04I was happy at last to see the elevator’s distinguished bulk on the faint horizon. And even happier there was no storage annex–just the classic 320,000-bushel job from 1950.

No one was around to chase me away. The elevator looked very well kept, like a 68-year-old with a natty haircut and fine clothes.

I prowled over the grounds to get my photos, as well as going up and down 6th and 7th streets in the neighborhood looking for a street-view. People inside their bungalows might have thought I was some kind of nut. I wondered if they ever pondered much upon their gigantic concrete neighbor.

IMG_8859By the time I finished with photos, the Consumer’s Supply Co-op store on the premises had opened up. I went inside and introduced myself, feeling proud to say, “My grandfather built your elevator.”

I elaborated about Tillotson Construction Co., of Omaha, and my mission to visit the 10 Tillotson elevators in the Texas Panhandle.

Scott Smith, general manager, and Dewayne Powell were interested to hear it. These bright-faced gents explained, among other things, that the Co-op’s charter goes back to 1926.

Two elevators are on the site. “This is our best elevator here,” Smith said of the Tillotson. The other needs repairs to the floor, among other places.

Much of this, the West Elevator, was original. Alas, the truck lift had been removed “before my time,” Smith said. 

I went out to the truck for the construction record. After my explanation of some of the specifications, Smith took it to the copier.

Powell showed me around, explained how things worked, even posed for some pictures.

The basement was clean and tidy, and Powell mentioned that at one point some of it had been used for office space. It was sure bright enough down there.

Something else that had changed: the augur below ground level had been filled in with concrete.

We went back up, and I made one more circuit around the elevator. The driveway door was open, and the Co-op’s yellow Mack truck sat in the driveway.

IMG_8883The quality of the Co-op’s operation was evident. The only things with the elevator that seemed out of order was a broken basement window, and one of the back doors had been splattered with glop.

Otherwise, things were in nice shape.

When I was ready to leave, they presented me with a cap and T-shirt with the Co-op’s emblem–a real honor. Smith recommended KJ’s Coffee and Cafe for breakfast, so I found my way across town to have an omelet.

Then, a-wondering where Palo Duro canyon–the town’s eponym–was, I set out for Bushland.

In our next post, watch for a surprise about the Tillotson elevator in Canyon.




Specs show capacities of the Tillotson elevator in Hereford, Texas

IMG_8833The single-leg elevator built at Hereford, Texas, by Tillotson Construction Company in 1951 had capacity for 300,000 bushels, according to company records. That worked out to 2,640 bushels per foot of height. The drawform walls of the silos, or tanks, rose 125 feet.

Texas-Okla Logo 04Our calculation produces a total of 330,000 bushels at this rate. There were 2,104 cubic yards of reinforced concrete, 28 cubic yards of plain concrete for hoppers, and 121.47 tons of reinforcing steel including jack rods.

The concrete would be mixed on-site, while the reinforcing steel and the lumber used for scaffolding were probably delivered by train.


The elevator’s main slab covered an area of 76.5 x 56 feet and was 24 inches thick. Below it, the pit depth was 26 feet–unusually deep in comparison to that of other elevators built that year in Greenwood and David City Nebraska and (12 and 17 feet, respectively) and Malta Bend, Missouri (9 feet 3 inches).

The headhouse, or cupola, was 17 feet wide, 36.75 feet long, and 27 feet high. So the structure crested at 152 feet.

That the pulley centers of the leg were 169.5 feet apart reflected the positioning of the lower boot pulley below ground level. That one measured 72 x 14 x 4 15/16 inches. The head pulley was 72 x 14 x 2 3/16. IMG_8823

The head pulley turned at 42 rpm.

The six-ply Calumet belt was 14 inches wide. Cups were 12 x 6 inches and 8.5 inches deep. A 40-hp Howell head-drive turned the leg, and the cups bore a theoretical capacity of 79.2 bushels per hour, although actual capacity–80 percent of theoretical–was 63.4 bushels per hour.

The man-lift operated with a 1.5-hp electric motor.