Grain Transporting Equipment in Kansas
June 22 through 27, 2009
While we are traveling through Kansas in late June the winter wheat harvest is in full swing. It seems that Kansas received rain in early June that pushed back the harvest. Fields are still wet but harvesters are operating around the clock.
This small grain elevator operation is so very typical of the silos in virtually every small Kansas community. Most of them are coop owned and operated. Local farmers bring grain to the facility and unload it. The coop then sells the grain to buyers who haul it out.
In this picture the red truck to the left is a local farmer bringing his wheat to the elevator operation where he will dump it then quickly return to his field for another load. Many times you will see several delivery trucks lined up waiting their turn. The large 18-wheel rig on the right is a buyer's truck. He is there to get a load of wheat and haul it to wherever the buyer wants it delivered. Note that both operations are going on at the same time. Just sitting here watching the operation for a few minutes we watched a constant flow of trucks hauling the grain in and out. It is constant activity.
I am a city slicker that knows little about farming and what it takes to get bread on the table. Watching this activity was so educational for me. I know that silos are structures for storing bulk materials and in Kansas they are storing grains like wheat, corn, milo and soy beans. But these structures are more than just silos. They are also grain elevators which are specially designed silos, in this area the natives just refer to them as grain elevators. Most of the ones I see are bucket elevators that are used to lift grain to a distributor (at the very top of a series of silos) where it flows by gravity or auger through spouts or conveyors and into one of a number of silos at the facility. The grain elevator's are then emptied by either gravity flow, augers or a conveyor system.
Farmer delivering grain to a local grain elevator in Kansas
What you see are trucks delivering grain to the grain facility. The red truck is about to enter that opening in the brown building where another truck is unloading (make that dumping) his load of grain. These are essentially dump trucks hauling grain. They get into position then literally dump their grain. They dump it into a bin that is located under that brown building. The trucks drive over a grate that covers that large bin. It is a quick operation and one truck after another drives in and dumps then heads back to the field for another load.
The bottom of that bin is beveled so that the grain flows down to the "elevator" which is a conveyor belt with "buckets" on it. Look closely and you can see the "elevator" (that conveyor belt with buckets on it. It is those shafts that are on the left side of the silos. In this picture they look pale blue. The conveyor belt is going up on the extreme left side then returning (going down) after it goes around the roller at the top. The conveyor belt & buckets are totally enclosed and move at an incredible speed. When the buckets on that conveyor belt get to the bottom and start back up they are filled with grain from that bin where it was just dumped. The buckets whisk the unloaded grain to the top of those silos where it is dumped and a distribution system directs the grain to the silo it is to be dropped into.
That is how the grain gets from the field into the silo. Now look at the hole at the bottom of that large white silo. That is an 18-wheeler grain trailer you see. It is being loaded with grain to take to a mill or some other place. It is being loaded by gravity or a combination gravity and auger system.
Big semi hauling Kansas wheat to market
This big 18-wheeler is hauling a load of grain out of the field and heading to a nearby silo.
This nice rig belongs to one of the custom cutters who follow the grain harvest with harvesting equipment. Local farmers generally have much smaller equipment that the large scale "custom cutter" operations.
Combine dumping a load of grain in a Kansas wheat field
Harvesters do not stop very often. Usually the tractor driver just drives the bin alongside the harvester while the combine is making a pass. However, this harvester has stopped and is unloading his wheat.
These bins can hold 1,000 bushels of grain according to one of the folks in this operation.
Small town grain elevators in Kansas
This large transport truck is getting a load of grain. As quickly as local farmers deliver grain to the small town grain elevators these large transport trucks are there to haul it away. They are delivering the grain to mills or to other grain elevator operations where the grain will be loaded into rail cars.
Rail cars being loaded with grain at a Kansas grain elevator
Grain comes in and grain goes out, that is the function of grain elevators. Here grain is being loaded into RR hopper cars. On the other side of these silos trucks are lined up to unload their grain. This is a busy place.
Delivering grain to the local grain elevator
This large truck was delivering wheat to the grain elevator operation that was filling the RR car above. One after another these trucks pull through and dump their grain. It only takes a few minutes and they are on their way. Some of the large harvest operations operate all night.
Harvesting Kansas wheat
This is the common way for the harvester to discharge its load of grain. As you can see the combine is cutting grain as it moves down the row. At the same time that snoot, on the combine, is dumping grain into the bin being pulled by the tractor. The operation does not slow down.
In the background you can see another harvester that has turned the corner in this field.
Transporting the wheat harvest in Kansas
Here you can see where that tractor with the bin is unloading grain into the waiting truck. The other truck is loaded with grain and is headed to nearby grain elevators. The process is like watching ants. The activity is at a feverish pace
Grain transporting equipment on side of Kansas highway
We took this close up of one of those "bins" that we see the tractors pulling alongside the combines in the fields. Hopefully, it will show the size of these monsters. This thing holds a 1,000 bushels of grain and it is the piece of equipment that enables the expensive combines to keep harvesting without stopping.
The folks operating this bin and the accompanying combines were staying in the RV park with us and I got to talk with them about their operation. They are "custom cutters" out of Nebraska. They move from town to town as the grain becomes ready for harvest. This group of "custom cutters" did not cross the border into Canada. They said North Dakota was as far as they went.
Here are some of our other Kansas Travel Adventures:
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