How Toulon elevator will handle more grain

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
A crewman with McPherson Concrete of McPherson hammers a form into place Thursday morning as part of the new silo construction to expand Midland Marketing's Toulon elevator east of Hays on Old Highway 40.
Crewmen with WT Contractors of Ulysses on Thursday morning build the deck of a dump pit as part of the expansion underway of Midland Marketing's Toulon elevator east of Hays on Old Highway 40.
A crewman with McPherson Concrete of McPherson on Thursday morning operates a cart with cement as part of the new silo construction to expand Midland Marketing's Toulon elevator east of Hays on Old Highway 40.

Midland Marketing grain cooperative is expanding its Toulon grain elevator by nearly 1 million bushels.

The expansion means Toulon’s grain capacity will be second only to Plainville out of all 11 of Midland’s area elevators.

The project doubles Toulon’s current capacity of 860,000 bushels, and should be completed in time for wheat harvest, mid-June at the latest, said Wes Martin, central area manager for Midland.

“We’ll be able to store more grain long-term, or just be able to better serve our patrons,” said Martin of the elevator east of Hays on Old Highway 40. “Our biggest thing is during harvest, if a customer wants to bring their grain to us, if we fill up we have to either find a way to get grain out to keep letting them, or we basically have to close the doors.”

That won’t be the case with 1.8 million bushels of total storage, he said. Toulon will have room for more wheat, as well as milo, soybeans and corn in the fall.

“Yields are increasing every year,” Martin said. “There are a lot more fall crops going into the ground now. Last year we took almost 1.2- or 1.3-million bushel of fall crop, which exceeds the actual capacity of the current storage at that elevator. So we were forced to truck grain out just to be able to serve our patrons.”

Toulon typically handles the most grain in the central area, staying consistently a very busy elevator through harvest, Martin said. 

When Toulon’s full, he said, the elevator hauls the excess to storage elsewhere, or sells it down the road to big grain merchandisers like Cargill, Hansen-Mueller or Bartlett Grain.

Five new silos

Of the five new concrete silos under construction, three will hold 220,000 bushels each, while two smaller ones will hold 160,000 bushels each. 

“We’re trying to allow trucks to exit our current elevator, so two are smaller diameter to allow better flow,” Martin said.

Three of the tanks will be 48-feet in diameter, and two will be 42-feet, according to Dustin Heckroth, construction manager with McPherson Concrete Storage Systems of McPherson, which has about 15 employees at the site.

“This is a jump-form silo construction. Basically what it means is when they pour one four-foot ring, they jump their forms from that ring up to the top,” Heckroth said. “They start with 12-feet of rings at the very bottom. They’ll do a 4-foot ring, and then another four-foot ring to get eight foot, and then another to get 12 foot of forms on the silo. And then at that point they start jumping the bottom forms to the top.”

Right now the crew is doing 8- to 12-foot a day. But weather makes a difference, such as the recent extreme cold with below-zero temperatures.

“Generally we will not pour a wall-pour with the forecasted low temperature of 20 degrees or below,” Heckroth said. “You risk freezing the concrete, and then it doesn’t hold strength, and you have to tear it out.”

One bucket at a time

To pour the tanks, cement is raised to the top in a bucket that holds a quarter-yard of cement. A crewman on the ground fills the bucket from a ready-mix truck and hopper, then operates a hydraulic-powered wench that raises and lowers the bucket to a crewman at the top of the silo.

“There’s a scaffold all the way around the tank, and then there’s a safety net inside,” Heckroth said.

A concrete cart up-top pivots around the center and distributes the concrete evenly in the wall, he said.

“It goes a lot faster than you think” to do one ring, Heckroth said. “It’s about 16 yards a pour and they’re doing these pours in about an hour. So it’s pretty quick.”

Building the project will take about 710,000 pounds of rebar and 3,600 yards of concrete, he said. 

Habco Inc. of Salina is millwright, installing the machinery.

Eight employees with WT Contractors, Ulysses, are building the concrete and steel dump pits, where farmers load in their grain for transfer into the silos, said foreman Fabian Garcia.

Besides Toulon and Plainville, Midland’s other elevators are in Palco, Zurich, Natoma, Yocemento, Hays, La Crosse, Hargraves, McCracken and Brownell.