A reader recalls his youthful days at the grain elevator in Emmetsburg, Iowa

This T.E. Ibberson elevator, foreground, keeps company with a Tillotson elevator, right, in Dallas Center, Iowa. Photo by Kristen Cart

This T.E. Ibberson elevator, foreground, keeps company with a Tillotson elevator, right, in Dallas Center, Iowa. Photo by Kristen Cart

By Paul Grage

Editor’s note: Paul Grage (pronounced “GREGG-ee”) of Rockwell City, Iowa, is a 39-year-old supervisor at North Central Correctional Facility there. In his free time he surfs the Web looking for elevator sites.

I would like to share some memories of Cargill in Emmetsburg, Iowa, during the 1980s.

My fondest memory is of Old Number 2, built by T.E. Ibberson, of Minneapolis. My dad was the manager from 1979 until about 1996, and I would often call after school at harvest to see if I could come hang around. If they were accepting grain at Number 2, that is where I would be.

The alleyway [driveway] was huge. It had one  main grate and two side grates for overflow that all emptied into one  pit. It had a large horn like a fire alarm buzzer. This  sounded for phone calls, when the leg was up to speed, or when a bin ran full. The side entrance inside was flanked by two large aerator fans that roared. As a kid, it was kind of terrifying to exit between these two.

The Ibberson nameplate. Photo by Kristen Cart

The Ibberson nameplate. Photo by Kristen Cart

I remember the rippling of the grates as semis crossed them. I still remember the old portable, homemade, electrically powered, hydraulic pump that raised the old barge box wagons pulled by pickup trucks.

I remember the old gate at the bottom of the pit that accessed the leg. It was moved by a large lever next to the pit, right next to the leg button. You had to hear the buzzer before you opened that gate unless you wanted to plug the leg before it got up to speed. My dad tells horror stories about unplugging the leg. A test of your manhood was to go to the headhouse and hold back the anti-rollback dogs, like a one-way clutch, with a wrench or bar. The whole trunking would shake. The distributor crank was right next to the leg and man lift. It was a lever brake and crank-style bin selector that had belt pulley webbing on it to indicate which bin you had selected.

I remember the first trip to the headhouse with my brother. He was an employee with Cargill before they had nepotism rules. It was a sight to behold: the big open headhouse with all of its huge spouts, the huge gearbox and chain-drive leg and the big distributor. Inside this headhouse was a huge plywood shack. It was explained to me that it was a tripper scale used for loading railroad cars. It was long out of use, as this elevator had no rails and the new elevator did. This tripper scale did have long rods that extended down the man lift shaft to the alley below.

I remember the ride up the man lift with my brother. The dust was so thick on the walls the people had stopped along the way and scratched rather colorful sayings in the dust. (This was long before the days of dust control, so that dust was a good three inches thick in that man lift shaft. Now they have an air chuck so they can blow the dust down.) When I say man lift shaft I mean man lift onlythe leg shafting was built into the concrete.

The T.E. Ibberson name on the manhole cover.

The T.E. Ibberson name on the manhole cover.

The metal trunking only existed between the boot pit up to ceiling of the alleyway and then from the bin deck to the leg-drive pulley in the headhouse. The rest of the leg trunking was made of a cement column inside. The shaft that the rest of the bucket was built into was hopper-bottomed just like all the overhead bins.

If I remember right, this elevator had eighteen overhead bins, one of which was used for rail car/tripper scale.

After learning the elevator inside out, the ironic thing is that I could never go to work in the grain business because I’m allergic to soybean dust. It’s almost lethal to me. When I was a kid, it didn’t faze me a bit. But my last year I hung around there, around 1988, I had to wear a respirator. 

Something else: They don’t paint this elevator any longer because it’s stress-cracked. They quit painting it because it was making the concrete rot. I like the aged look.

Omaha World-Herald went high above the Vinton Street elevator in ’47

Omaha World-Herald photo in 1947 by John S. Savage, from http://www.historicomaha.org

From www.historicomaha.org

During the summer of 1947, the Omaha World-Herald published a series of 45 aerial photographs depicting the city of Omaha. The pictures were later published in a book entitled “Omaha From the Air.” The photographs were taken by World-Herald staff photographer John S. Savage. The plane was piloted by Marion Nelson of the Omaha Aircraft Company.

Omaha is known around the world for many things. Not the least is its giant grain and milling industry.

This view from the Magic Carpet shows just a segment of the industry which employs thousands here, puts bread and cereals on tables over the world.

From the Magic Carpet you are looking south. The large structure in the foreground is the 1,750,000-bushel elevator of the Westcentral Co-operative Grain Company. Seemingly rising out of the elevator at the rear are the buildings of the Maney Milling Company. South of the elevator is the plant of the Famous Molasses Feed Company.

At far left in the background is the Omar, Inc., mill. Nearby, but not shown, is the Allied Mill. The Butler-Welsh Grain Company elevator is behind the span shown in the background. Also not shown is the Kellogg plant. It is off to the right in the foreground.

The span in the foreground is the Bancroft Street viaduct. Behind it is the Vinton Street viaduct. Far in the background is the Dahlman Crossing. The street at far right is Twenty-seventh.

The two sets of tracks shown at left in the foreground are those of the Burlington. The center string belongs to the Union Pacific and the area is known as its Summit yards. At right are yards of the Chicago and Great Western Railroad.

Through the yards shown here come much of the grain that makes Omaha the nation’s fifth largest grain and milling center.

Carload grain shipments so far this year total 46,508.

Most of the grain pours into Omaha through the Omaha Grain Exchange, organized in 1904. Actually, only little pans of samples appear on the floor of the Exchange. The rest stays in box cars until it is bought, or is stored in elevators.

The market’s 18 elevators have a capacity of 28,185,000 bushels. They include one of the largest in the world, the 10 million bushel elevator of Cargill, Inc.

The railroads serve the grain market.

A good share of Omaha grain receipts is turned into food products here. There are three flour mills, with a daily milling capacity of 10,800,000 pounds. Allied Mills, Inc., has a capacity of 1,200 tons daily in its feed and alfalfa meal plant. The Kellogg Company‘s daily corn products capacity is 7,200 bushels.

A major Omaha grain consumer is the Farm Crops Processing Corporation’s alcohol plant. It can gulp up 40 thousand bushels a day.