Thursday, April 9, 2009

Grain elevators in Montreal, continued

In a prior posting concerning page 123 of American Colossus, I mentioned that the first grain elevator in Montreal, Quebec, was built in 1859. On pages 173-174 , I discuss the elevators built in Montreal between 1905 and 1930. In the course of this discussion, I offer excerpts from my translation of an article entitled "Les Mysteres d'un Elevateur a Grains," originally published in the Album Universel on 21 October 1905, and put online by Controleman in 2007. It concerns Elevator #1, which was designed and built by the Steel Storage & Elevator Construction Company between 1902 and 1905. Should my readers desire it, I will translate the entire article into English. In the meantime, I provide translations of the captions to the many pictures that accompany it.

Page 784, upper left: "The elevator unloads a steamer come from the Great Lakes." Note: the unloading is being done by the extended leg of a mobile marine tower.

Page 784, lower left: "The elevator and its three mobile towers." Note: two of these "mobile towers" (the boxes atop riggings) are for loading grain, not unloading.

Page 784, upper right: "The electrician at his post, as if by magic, puts its motion the machines of the immense edifice." Note: he's not an electrician, of course, but a superintendent.

Page 784, middle right: "Grain tanks above the automatic scales." Note: these tanks only "store" the grain they contain for a few minutes before being emptied and then re-filled.

Page 784, lower right: "In a high part of the elevator, enormous tubes distribute the grain at will into the tanks." This would be a place grain dust accumulated.

Page 785, upper left: "Northern part of the basement of the elevator." Note the railroads tracks.

Page 785, middle left: "The enormous scales that can weigh 1,500 bushels of grain at a time." Note: the tank in view is made out of steel, not reinforced concrete.

Page 785, lower left: "The grain, once weighed, runs along large horizontal belts, and falls into the immense cylinder-tanks." We should not take the cylindrical shape of these grain tanks for granted: elevators built out of steel sometimes utilized rectangularly shaped grain bins.

Page 785, upper right: "To unload the ships, a metallic and mobile chute is used." As noted before, we are in fact seeing three "metallic and mobile" devices, but one of them is used to unload the ships (the mobile marine tower, in the center of the picture), while the other two are used to load smaller craft (the mobile loaders on both sides of the marine tower).

Page 785, lower right: "The elevator chute descends as far as the depths of the hold." Yes, provided we understand the "chute" to be the elevating leg, contained in the mobile marine tower.

Page 786, upper right: "Diagram showing a horizontal section of the cylinders of the elevator." Note well that the language used to indicate how much of what grain is stored in which particular bin is English, not French. The text of the article itself mentions that the superintendent of the elevator is an American named M.J. Nehin. From this diagram, we learn that this elevator had 36 main bins, 22 outer bins and 20 interstitials, and used four internal "lofting" legs.

Page 786, middle left: "Grain elevator of the 'Harbor Depot.'" This is clearly a different grain elevator from Elevator #1 and it is not Elevator B, also known as Elevator #5, which was built by the Grand Trunk Railroad between 1904 and 1906. It must be from another Canadian port in which the Dominion government built grain elevators (Port Arthur or Fort William, later known as "Thunder Bay").

Page 786, lower right: "An elevator of wood, such as they are built in the west." A classic wood-cribbed grain elevator of the Canadian West and the American Midwest, circa 1880.

Below is a picture of this same grain elevator, taken from a different source.

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