Grain Elevators - Table of Contents

Grain Elevator Dictionary

On this page, below:

Barley

Bin/ silo

Conditioning grain

Cupola/Headhouse


Drying grain

Elevator / grain elevator

Gallery

Germination

Grain elevator

Headhouse

Hopper

Horizontal conveyor belt

Interspace / Interstitial bins

Kiln

Lofting legs/ lofters

Mainhouse

Malt

Malthouse

Marine tower / Marine leg
Mill

Reinforced concrete

Scooper

Screw conveyor

Silo/bin

Slip form

Steeping tank

Tripping device

Workhouse
Barley
A hardy cereal (genus Hordeum) that has coarse bristles extending from the ears, widely cultivated for use in brewing and stockfeed. In brewing, barley must first be malted (basically, germinated and roasted).  Two malting companies in Buffalo were American Malting at 87 Childs St., and Perot Malting at 100 Childs.
Bin
 Bin and silo are used interchangeably.

"For unlike earlier timber grain elevators, the Electric had no structure sheltering its bins from the elements. Exposed bins and machinery would become common practice for many later elevator builders. And the bin design itself departed from the rectangular shape of previous timber crib bins. Cylindrical bins, it was thought, were stronger than rectangular ones and were less likely to suffer damage when grain was emptied quickly from them."  - Francis R. Kowsky, Buffalo Grain Elevator Multiple Property Submission to the National Register of Historic Places
Conditioning grain
"Clean grain is achieved through a variety of products such as screens, vibrators, scalpers and aspirators. Grain passes over screens while different sized holes allow unwanted pieces to fall through, leaving only the desired size or shape grain behind. Also, grain is screened to remove oversized and foreign materials. Elevator operators determine how much foreign matter, or dockage, to remove based on specifications handed down from their customers or the Federal Grain Inspection Service. These specifications depend on the type of grain and its intended destination." - Elise Schafer, Keeping it Clean, 2008 (online March 2013)

"A system for cleaning grain shipments of chaff and other impurities involved dropping the grain into a large cylinder and drawing off the lighter chaff that rose in the air by means of a steam-powered exhaust fan." - Francis R. Kowsky, Buffalo Grain Elevator Multiple Property Submission to the National Register of Historic Places
Cupola/headhouse
The raised hallway on top of the structure where grain is directed into bins.
The headhouse (cupola) consists of two to five upper stories.
The headhouse is so named because the head drive of the vertical conveyor system is located there.

Cf, cupola
Gallery
A floor in the headhouse known as the "bin deck" at the same level as the silo tops. There were two parallel conveyor belts that carried grain outbound from the headhouse where the grain was diverted off the belt with a "tripper" into a selected silo for storage.

Germination
The process whereby seeds or spores sprout and begin to grow. Part of the malting process.

Grain elevator
"What makes an elevator an elevator is not that it occupies a particular building form, but that it has machinery for raising the grain to the top of the storage vessels." - Reyner Banham, A Concrete Atlantis, M&T Press, 1989, p. 1099

"All grain was once taken from the holds of vessels by the slow process of shoveling it into barrels, hoisting it by a tackle, weighing it in a hopper and scales swung over the hatchway of the craft, and carrying it into the warehouse on men's shoulders.

"The main purpose of the Buffalo elevators is to take the grain from lake vessels and put it into railroad cars or canal boats for transportation to the seaboard.  Many of the elevators can unload into either cars or canal boats, some into canal boats alone.  The apparatus for emptying the grain from the bin into the canal boat or car is very simple.  The grain runs by its own weight from the bin overhead through a tube or chute into the car or boat below." - Buffalo History Gazette (online March 2013)
Hopper
A steel, tapered container found on the bottom of each bin for easy unloading.

Grain stored in the great concrete bins fell through funnel-like steel bottoms into a system of conveyor belts.
Horizontal conveyor belt

"A significant development that made such speed possible and which actually changed the outward form that later elevators would take was the introduction of horizontal transfer systems to move grain to the internal storage bins. The horizontal conveyor system allowed grain to be distributed to bins some distance from a fixed elevator leg." - Francis R. Kowsky, Buffalo Grain Elevator Multiple Property Submission to the National Register of Historic Places

Interspace/Interstitial bins (pronounced inter STISH il)
Smaller bins between main bins. Interstitial bins are not visible on the exterior. Each interstitial bin has its own hopper at basement level.

"But the use of cylindrical bins resulted in about a twenty per cent loss of storage space over the old rectangular bin system. The engineers mitigated this problem by introducing eighteen narrower bins between the forty-eight main bins. (Later, additional bins of smaller diameter yet were added between the main bins and the outer walls.)"  - Francis R. Kowsky, Buffalo Grain Elevator Multiple Property Submission to the National Register of Historic Places
Kiln (oven)
Oven for drying grain, e.g., barley in the malting process.
Leg
Conveyor belt with buckets used to move grain.
Lofting legs/ lofters
Internal legs for the transfer of grain from the lower to the upper systems of horizontal conveyors.
Malt
Barley or other grain that has been steeped, germinated, and dried, used esp. for brewing or distilling and vinegar-making.
Malthouse
Where cereal grain is converted into malt by soaking it in water [steeping tanks], allowing it to sprout [germinate] and then drying [kilns] it to stop further growth. The malt is used in brewing beer, whiskey and in certain foods. The traditional malt house was largely phased out during the twentieth century in favor of more mechanized production.

Marine tower / Marine leg

Tower: A building or part of a building that is exceptionally high in proportion to its width and length.

A marine tower/leg is a complete, independently powered assembly, contained in its own building.

Marine towers, in which the marine leg is housed, can either be in a fixed position  - a "stiff leg" - or movable - a "loose leg" - on car wheels. With a fixed tower the lake boat must be moved so the marine leg can get all the grain from the holds. The movable tower can reach a number of holds.

"Each leg consisted of many buckets mounted on an endless belt that (a) scooped grain from a loaded pit, (b) lifted the grain vertically to the top of the elevator, and (c) dumped the grain into weighing and distributing facilities as it turned over and descended with empty buckets to be reloaded." - US Department of Labor (online March 2013)

"The most innovative feature of the Dart Elevator was the long, vertical conveyor system that replaced human labor as the means of unloading grain from lake vessels. Housed in a tall wooden sleeve, the conveyor could be canted outward at the bottom of the elevator structure and lowered directly into the hold of a waiting boat. When not in use, this loose leg conveyor belt was retracted by means of a steam engine to its original vertical position inside the elevator. A hood or cupola, some twenty feet in height, on the roof of the structure provided the extra room needed to store it upright. It was the most distinctive external feature of Dart's elevator and those that followed its example." - Francis R. Kowsky, Buffalo Grain Elevator Multiple Property Submission to the National Register of Historic Places
Mill
A building equipped with machinery for grinding grain into flour and other cereal products.
Reinforced concrete
A method of taking steel rods and embedding them in the concrete to provide the reinforcement.

The first two grain elevators in the world to be constructed of reinforced concrete were the American and the Perot Malting elevators, respectively.
Scooper
Workers who moved grain from corners in holds of ships over to the marine legs which would remove the grain using a vertical bucket elevator system.

"In 1864, another important mechanical advancement was made in the quest to unload grain more economically. That year a steam shovel was patented, a kind of drag line, to be used in directing grain to the hungry buckets. The shovel was a large metal scoop operated off of the grain elevator's power supply through a complicated system of ropes, which were rigged in the hold of the ship and operated by men who became known as 'grain scoopers.' " - Mark Maio, Against the Grain (online June 2013)

See also: Aaron Heverin, The Grain Elevators: The Scoopers (online June 2013)
Screw conveyor
One way that grain was moved in a grain elevator. The large screw is sometimes referred to as an "auger."
Silo
A tall cylindrical structure, usually beside a barn, in which fodder is stored.
Silo and bin are used interchangeably.
Slip form
"A form usually four feet high was build on the foundation slab. Screw jacks placed at intervals of about seven feet were used to raise the form. Workers operated the jacks at a rate calculated to raise the form about 6 inches an hour giving the concrete time to set at the bottom before being exposed by the slowly rising form... Using this method it took about 10 days ... to reach the height of 125 feet, which was the average height of most bins." -  Aaron Heverin, The Grain Elevators (online 2013)
Steeping tank
In a malting house, the barley is steeped in tanks and is allowed to germinate.

The three main steps of the malting process are steeping, germination, and kilning. Steeping is the first stage of the process, where barley is immersed in water to initiate germination.  Biochemical reactions begin to take place in the steeping stage, as enzymes are released and simple sugars supply energy to the growing embryo.  After this process is completed, the germination stage begins.

Following steeping and germination, “green” malt is dried in a malt kiln.
Tripping device
Grain is moved from the mainhouse to the bins by an overhead horizontal conveyor belt with a tripping device that directs it into the designated bin.
Workhouse/ Headhouse/ Mainhouse
"The workhouse and the headhouse are collectively referred to as the mainhouse... The workhouse contains the lower floors, while the headhouse (cupola) consists of two to five upper stories. The workhouse name is derived from the fact that much of the receiving and unloading operations take place on the work floor of the first story, where the elevating (lifting) process begins. The headhouse is so named because the head drive of the vertical conveyor system is located there." - Encyclopedia of the Great Plains (online March 2013)

In the HABS research articles on Buffalo's grain elevators, "workhouse" is used instead of "mainhouse."


Content and arrangement 2013 Chuck LaChiusa
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