Our grandfathers’ construction companies managed to escape the dreaded ‘blowout’

Written on the back of this photo: "This is the Bird City elevator that busted. This is the one Parrish built."

Written on the back of this photo from the Linda Laird Collection: “This is the Bird City elevator that busted. This is the one Parrish built.”

Story by Gary Rich

Vickroy-Mong built the Bird City, Kan., elevator in 1950. It was ready for that year’s wheat harvest. But sometime afterward, the elevator had a blowout.

A nightmare for any elevator builder, a blowout can happen if too little rebar is used when pouring the concrete. There is a lot of pressure on the bins once you put grain in them. And the weakest point is on the outside.

As you see in the photo, part of the outside section fell to the ground. The grain would have spilled out, too. Note that some grain remains inside the bin.

Chalmers & Borton received the contract for the repair work here. It is unknown if they fixed only the damaged bin or found others were flawed.

The Chalmers & Borton superintendent was W. Grammer. The job number was 50-K-62. Work began later in 1950, probably by fall.

The Bird City elevator wouldn’t have been good advertising for Vickroy-Mong. It’s not known if they built any other elevators.

It looks like a Tillotson elevator in Bird City, Kansas, but it’s a surprise instead

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Story and photos by Gary Rich

I wanted some information about the Bird City Equity Co-op elevator that is now operated by Frontier Ag, Inc. Bird City is located on U.S.-36 in Cheyenne County, Kan., which is in the very northwestern corner of the state.

The Bird City elevator features a rounded headhouse.

The Bird City elevator features a rounded headhouse.

I was positive this elevator was built by Tillotson Construction Company, of Omaha, Neb. I called the elevator manager prior to my trip and drove to Bird City on Dec. 7. Upon arriving I went into the office. It was noon, so the whole crew was having lunch. I introduced myself to the manager. One employee told me there was a plaque on the outside of the elevator. I have never seen a plaque on a Tillotson elevator. I guess I should have had some qualms at this point that it wasn’t a Tillotson elevator.

We walked out to the elevator. The plaque, dated 1950, showed the elevator was built by Vickroy-Mong Construction Company, of Salina, Kan. Another interesting thing: the manhole covers in most elevators were produced by the Hutchinson Foundry, of Hutchinson, Kan, but these were made in Salina by Wyatt Manufacturing.

There have been other stories in our blog about elevators that Mayer-Osborn built and another construction company that was building identical elevators. This company was Johnson-Sampson Construction Company, of Salina, Kansas. Now, we have Vickroy-Mong building a Tillotson-lookalike elevator.

It has been demonstrated that the curved headhouse was a Tillotson signature. Did someone leave the Tillotson operation and branch out on his own, or were the plans sold to Vickroy-Mong?

In the future, I plan on photographing the Bird City elevator in more detail and will compare it closely to a Tillotson elevator.

Stay tuned for more information.

Editor’s note on Dec. 14: The reference desk at the Salina Public Library has come through with information that Carl Vickroy and Raymond Mong were partners in a company located on South 9th Street, according to the Salina city directory of 1950. Additionally, it’s possible that the Hutchinson Foundry produced the manhole covers for Wyatt Manufacturing.¬†

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