Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Great Eastern

On page 213 of American Colossus, I mention the pioneering steel-binned Great Eastern Elevator, built in Buffalo in 1901. Designed by Harry R. Wait and built by the Steel Storage and Elevator Construction Company, with assistance by the Indiana Bridge Company, which was based in Muncie, Indiana, the Great Eastern could store 2.5 million bushels in its sixty-eight different steel tanks, which were freestanding, unenclosed and built in a variety of sizes upon a rhomboidal plot that was situated on the side south of the Buffalo River. The elevator was demolished in 1948.

In the picture above, which was taken in the 1920s or 1930s, we can see (moving from right to left) the some of the Great Eastern's many steel tanks; the Great Eastern's marine towers (both of which were "loose" and connected to the grain tanks behind them through a series of horizontal belts installed high above ground-level); the wood-binned and soon-to-be-demolished version of the Marine Elevator; and the reinforced-concrete grain tanks of the Kellogg Elevator, built in 1912.

The Great Eastern was built upon a raised foundation made of reinforced concrete, which was strong enough to support the combined weight of the steel-tanks themselves and the grain stored within them (see picture above). It was originally built to replace the Eastern Elevator (see picture below), which was built in 1895 with two marine towers (one of which was "loose") and the site of a terrible grain-dust explosion in 1899.

Note that, at roughly the same time that the Great Eastern was built in Buffalo, a Great Eastern Elevator was built in Minneapolis, Minnesota (see picture below). No doubt the large amount of space left between the workhouse in the center and the grain tanks -- made out of tile -- was intended to minimize the possibilities of fires or explosions traveling between them. It appears that the horizontal conveyor-belt that serviced these tanks was installed through the tops of these tanks, not cleanly above or on top of them.

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