Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Texas Panhandle, Part 6: Grain Elevators

Until the giant wind turbines came along, the tallest structures on the Texas Panhandle landscape were grain elevators, affectionately known as "Prairie Skyscrapers."

Essentially a series of interconnected silos, these massive structures were placed every few miles along highways . . .

or beside railroad tracks . . .

to facilitate the storage and distribution of harvested grains such as wheat, oats, corn, barley, etc. 

On the level land of the Texas Panhandle, the elevators can be seen for miles:

Grain elevators were invented in 1842 by Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar in Buffalo, NY, to address the need to load and unload massive amounts of grain being shipped via the Erie Canal.  As settlers moved westward and the Great Plains of the central U.S. were used for agriculture, grain elevators followed the growth of the railroads and the advent of the mechanical harvesting equipment.  If you are interested in knowing more about how a grain elevator operates, there's a simple article and diagram here.

The reinforced concrete silo construction that most of us associate with grain elevators came into use in the early 20th century.  But it was preceded by the wood-cribbed elevator structures that continued to be built well into the 1930s.  Here are a couple of abandoned wood-cribbed elevators:

More recently, steel bins have come into use, either as primary storage or as additional "annex" storage adjacent to the larger silo structures:

  . . . all connected by an elaborate system of conveyor belts and spouts to create mixtures or blends of grains drawn from the different interconnected silos:


But the structure that caught my eye was a two-silo concrete elevator and its associated workhouse (office) about 30 miles west of Amarillo that was apparently abandoned in 1990:

The windows are broken . . .

the inspection and weight certificates left behind in a drawer are spattered with bird droppings, as are the scales:

But from a distance, in the pre-dawn and early morning light, it photographs well:

To see these images in a larger format, visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

Next: religious iconography.

1 comment:

  1. Elevators were once a way of life for the Panhandle farm communities. It is sad to see some of these in disrepair. I am sure that everyone who ever drove a grain truck to the Hughes Elevators in Panhandle, Texas, will remember the next stop on the grounds after the empty weight was recorded. That stop was the Coke case stocked with canned refreshments and cold candy bars, given free of charge, for the driver and many still working in the fields. That was a hot summer's afternoon treat, for sure. Everyone knew when the grain truck driver returned to the fields that there would be a cold drink and maybe a cold candy bar for a refreshing and much appreciated treat.