Vintage photos show aspects of how a grain elevator works

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Story by Kristen Cart

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Luckily for us, old press photos have come on the market recently that show the inner workings of grain elevators in the past. Not much has changed over the years, since many of the elevators that served in the 1940s and 1950s are still in operation today.

The photo above shows a truck unloading into an elevator pit from the inside of a driveway. A grate covers the pit, and from the pit a leg serves the top of the elevator. A conveyor may also be in operation, delivering grain to the leg, depending on the size of the elevator or annex.

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In the next image, you can see a worker beside the conveyor inside what looks like a run. Conveyors can be used in several places in an elevator complex, but they are normally installed in a run that delivers grain from an elevator headhouse for distribution to an annex, or they’re operating on a basement level that takes grain from an annex to the main elevator served by a headhouse and a leg.

Another place for a conveyor is from an elevator to a hopper or chute where a truck or rail car can be loaded. That is the case with this photo.

When grain is added to or taken from an elevator, it needs to be weighed and checked for moisture content to keep a strict account for the farmer and the elevator operator. Each truck arriving full will be weighed before delivery and also afterward, with the difference subtracted from the loaded weight to give the net weight of grain. Weight will change with moisture content, so that is an important figure to calculate.

When a truck arrives empty, it is weighed before loading, then weighed afterward to determine the net weight of grain. This process has always been an essential part of elevator operations from the earliest days.

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Weighing the grain