A photographic review of concrete elevator parts and components

Story and photos by Kristen Cart

Some time ago, one of our readers requested the picture of an elevator pit. It is one of the more unglamorous parts of a grain elevator, but as I was going through old photos, I found one. I also found many interior elevator pictures that have not made it to the blog because of their, well, unattractiveness. But a review of the parts and pieces, terms and descriptions, and interior appearance of an elevator is in order.

 The Pit

Pit access by ladder. The leg is visible.

Pit access by ladder. The leg is visible. Hanover, Kan.


Sloped bottom funnels grain to the base of the leg.

The Dump Grate


A smaller grate.


Center driveway truck grates.

The Driveway


McCook, Neb.


St. Francis, Kan.

The Man Lift


The bottom of the lift showing the shaft.


Current safety regulations require a retrofitted cage.

Overhead bin spouts

Bins are numbered to correspond with the bin diagram

Bin Diagram

St. Francis, Kan.

St. Francis, Kan.


This elevator holds beans in two overhead bins.


The bins hold milo, and “F” means the bin is full.

The Leg


Cup dimensions and spacing are given in elevator specifications.


The leg conveys grain from the pit to the top of the bins.

Manhole Cover

Traer, Kan.

Traer, Kan.


An inside look at the J. H. Tillotson elevator at Hanover, Kansas

The J. H. Tillotson straight-up elevator in Hanover, Kan. just after a rain

The J. H. Tillotson straight-up elevator in Hanover, Kan. just after a rain. 

Story and photos by Kristen Cart

One of the loveliest elevators J. H. Tillotson, Contractor ever built is still in use at Hanover, Kansas. Last October, during a visit to this small Washington County town just seven miles south of the Nebraska border, I photographed the elevator under moody skies and marveled at its clean, graceful lines. Then it was time to get to the business of finding out about it.


Ryan Riekenberg takes a moment to show me around the elevator.

Fortunately, Ryan Rieckenberg, a twenty-year employee of the Farmers Cooperative Association, was on hand to show me inside. He had previously worked for the grain department and currently worked as a crop sprayer. He said before the Hanover location joined the Worchester-based Farmers Cooperative, it operated its own association called the Farmers Union of Hanover. He said the elevator was currently used for milo.

The manhole cover identified the builder

Manhole cover

He pulled up in his truck, fished out his keys, and took me into the elevator to look at its interior, including the manhole covers that positively identified the elevator as a J. H. Tillotson project.

As he unlocked the door, Ryan supplied some historical details. The elevator had been built beside an old wooden elevator, which was used as a feed mill until it was demolished about eight years ago. We entered the doorway a couple of steps up from the gravel drive where the old wooden edifice used to stand.


The elevator leg

Once inside, we could see the leg in the center of the elevator. A grate covered the pit, and Ryan opened the grate to display the sloped bottom where the grain would funnel toward the base of the leg, to be scooped up and carried to the top of the elevator for distribution to the bins. The leg extended all the way to the bottom of the pit. A ladder went into the pit from another opening, providing access for cleaning and maintenance.

Nearby, a cage-enclosed man-lift gave access to the integral head-house at the top of the elevator. The cage was almost certainly a later modification, since the old man lifts didn’t have them.


The distribution diagram

Prominently displayed on one of the bins was a diagram of the elevator and its annex. Here the storage assignments for each of the bins were noted, including the neighboring steel bin, which was served by the same integral head-house with a chute from the top of the elevator. Presumably, “M” stood for milo, and a note indicated that the steel bin held corn. Perhaps “F’ indicated feed, but that is just a guess.

I’m not sure why someone wrote “I love #1 house,” but if they meant this lovely elevator that my grandfather, William Osborn, built for Joe Tillotson’s company in 1947, I must share the sentiment. It was a dandy, and it appeared to have a long, useful life ahead of it.


A view from the west side where the feed mill used to stand. 

Edward Koppes injured in fall at Bonner Springs, Kansas

Injured in Fall (The Sun’s Own Service)

Hanover, Kans., Jan. 28—Edward Koppes, son of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Koppes of Hanover, received a fractured right hip and right arm when he fell 20 feet from the roof to a concrete floor of a grain elevator which he was helping to build at Bonner Springs, Kans., on Jan. 19. He was taken to a Kansas City hospital. He is an employee of the Tillotson Construction company.

Beatrice (Neb.) Daily Sun

Wednesday, Jan. 28, 1948