Tag Archives: grain elevators

The View from the Bluffs

From the high bluffs that overlook the Republican River, we had a view of a broad stretch of land that was not merely picturesque but that also summed up both history and present reality for the Great Plains, and indeed for much of the rural Midwest: farms, grain elevators, trains, and water for transportation and irrigation.


The sky was hazy with heat and dust. The wind was hot, insistent, and more than a little haunting. The sound of it coming across the prairie evoked for me tales of pioneers, early settlers, and drovers moving across the land.


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Capitol View

Any visit to the Capitol should include a trip to the top of the 362-foot central tower, to get a view out over the city itself and, sprawling into the distance, the  plains that surround the city and define the region–the rich, flat land known as the Great Plains, which contributed so much to making the Midwest the splendid crop region that it is.


As noted in an earlier post (Midwest Classic, Nov. 24, 2014), train tracks and grain elevators mark towns in the Midwest, and the size and number of grain elevators are indicators of both the size of a town and the size of the region it serves. The grain elevators in Lincoln are large and numerous–and easily visible from the tower.


More history, more images, bios of the artist and architect, and information if you want to visit can all be found at the Nebraska State Capital website: http://capitol.nebraska.gov/index.php/building

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Weighing In

The creation of grain elevators made it necessary to switch from measuring grain by bushels to measuring it by weight. If you look at the photo in the previous post of the Cracker Jack Company building, you’ll notice a large, flat area to the side. That was the bed of the  scale used to weigh wagons as they arrived, to determine how much grain they carried.  The wagon would be drawn up so it sat on that bed, and then the clerk would go into the scale house to check the weight.


The weights and measuring device, shown above, were inside the scale house. Once a wagon was situated on the wooden platform (just outside the window behind the scale), the clerk would check the weight on this scale, deduct the known weight of the wagon, and record the amount in the book, along with the price that would be paid for the corn.

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Midwest Classic

As I traveled around the Midwest, I quickly learned that a certain sign that a town’s economy is agriculture based (and most small towns in the Midwest fall into this category) was the presence of two things, always in close proximity to each other—train tracks and grain elevators. In these photos, taken in East Lincoln, Illinois (right next to Atlanta, Illinois), the grain elevators are right at the edge of the small “downtown” area. (In fact, one can almost judge the size of the town by the number and height of the grain elevators. This is a very small town.)


The train tracks are immediately behind them. Storage and transportation are the immutable twins of trade. Note that there is also a road, for trucks bringing corn in, with the train for transporting it out just behind it. The pipes stretching out from the towers can dump grain into a train car with astonishing speed.


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Filed under Agriculture, Corn, Farming, Food, Midwest, Midwest Maize, Travel