Monday, August 21, 2017

Elevate your mind

Frank writes...

My wife and I just got back from the St. Louis area, where we went to see the eclipse. But more on that later. On the way down on Sunday, we stopped at the J.H. Hawes Elevator Museum in Atlanta, Illinois. I'm not certain how many grain elevators are preserved as museums but it's not very many. This one is very nicely done but unfortunately it's only open two hours a week, 1pm-3pm on Sundays. Lucky for us we finagled our schedule to make it work! Admittedly, this is only tangentially related to trains, but you may find it interesting anyway. If not, you'll get a full refund.

Here it is in all its glory. Left to right are the scale house, engine house, and elevator, though the scale house and engine house are replicas built on the original foundations. There's also a recently-built pavilion behind the scale house and a carriage house that was moved from another location just last year located off-camera to the left. The elevator is a classic small-town wood-cribbed design built  around 1904, which interests me because it's a contemporary of the ones located along the Macomb Industry & Littleton, a favorite railroad of mine. The Hawes elevator was abandoned in 1976 but in 1988, when the town was about to burn it as a fire department exercise, a local group banded together to fix it up and preserve it as a museum. It opened in 1999.
It's located along the abandoned ROW of the Pennsy (Vandalia Railroad) Terre Haute-to-Peoria line and a 40' outside-braced radial-roof boxcar dating to 1927, 47194, is on display adjacent to the structure. The boxcar was just recently repainted and hadn't yet been lettered when we were there.
The engine house has a contemporary gas engine installed in it. To reduce the risk of explosions, always a serious concern in grain elevators, engines were placed in separate buildings. This engine is still fully operational, as is the elevator itself.
The grain leg inside the elevator is driven through a shaft that goes from the engine house into the basement of the elevator itself. The first floor of the elevator is probably 5' off the ground, give or take.
Looking into the carriage bay (?) of the elevator from the doorway visible in the first photo, you can see how grain was brought in. A cart, such as the one shown, would be driven in after being weighed and would be spotted in a tilting bed. The cart would then be tilted, the grain would be poured through a trapdoor (foreground) into a bin in the basement of the elevator, and then would be hoisted up the leg (through one of those doorways to the left of the cart) to the distributor at the top where it would be deposited into one of nine bins located in the elevator's interior.
A slightly better view of the cart tilting mechanism. There's very little steel in the elevator structure itself (other than the leg and distributor mechanisms) with the exception of tie rods through the structure to keep the weight of the grain from bowing the walls outwards; these can be seen on the wall to the right as well as on the exterior of the elevator.
Here we are standing next to the cart looking through one of those doorways from the carriage bay into the interior of the elevator; through the doorway straight ahead is the door of the Wabash boxcar. In the right foreground are the two sides of the grain leg, with some of the wooden panels replaced by Plexiglas to show the steel buckets that are attached to the leather strap to make up the hoist. Beyond it is an open area just inside from where they would spot boxcars; overhead in this spot is a bin fitted with a scale where grain to be shipped out would be weighed. The grain would be poured from its bin into the basement; lifted up the leg to the top of the elevator; routed via the distributor to the weighing bin; weighed; poured back into the basement; lifted up the leg again; and routed via the distributor to a chute into the boxcar. The entire thing functions through gravity and a single grain leg.
Here's the view looking straight up the elevator. At upper right are the ropes that drive the leg at top and bottom; the pulley visible nearest the camera just hangs, with a weight suspended, and acts as the tensioning device. To the left is the weighing bin and at the bottom of the photo are the stairs to the top, unfortunately but understandably off-limits to visitors.

So now that grain elevator class is concluded, it's on to the eclipse. We had planned to view it from the vicinity of Marthasville, Missouri, some 50 miles west of St. Louis along the north side of the Missouri River. Little did I know that Marthasville was along the MKT, now abandoned and known as the Katy Trail. I did snap the below photo of a shelter built along the trail; unfortunately I neglected to get a picture of the depot, fixed up and standing nearby as the chamber of commerce! What would Dave's Depots say?
Oh well, the eclipse was still awfully cool. The photo below was taken at 1:16pm, about an hour after the above photo, during the brief period of total eclipse.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the grain elevator lesson; I have never seen the interior of one before.
the partial eclipse here in San Francisco was fogged out; so Arlene and I made do with the TV and the NASA web site. She watched one live in Kenya in 1980; there sure was a lot more multi-media looking at this one!

You folks in Illinois only have to wait to 2014 to see the next eclipse; lucky people!

Ted and Arlene Miles

Joel Ahrendt said...

I've never been able to get there when it was open.