Major Locales of the Titan I Complex

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Air Intake

With four large generators to supply, the power house required an air handling system that was a structure all unto itself.  Connected to the north hemisphere of the Power House's mezzanine level by a 9-foot 6-inch diameter tunnel, the filtration and conditioning equipment was located in a 15-foot 6-inch diameter section oriented perpendicular to the access tunnel.


Power House Air Filtration Facility - Top view


The above diagram shows the airflow through the air intake facility-- it descends about 30 feet from the surface and passes through the blast valves (5 valves, each 60 inches in diameter) before entering the filtration facility.  The filtration facility is divided longitudinally on the left half by a large plenum and array of centrifugal dust collectors.  The air would flow through the dust collectors where it would be forced through small cylindrical channels that would cause a vortex motion of the air which would precipitate dust and other particles out so they would drop into a collection hopper below as the air passed out the other side of the array.


Power House Air Filtration Facility - Top view detail


Once on the other side of the dust collectors the partially filtered air would pass through a large set of ethylene glycol heating coils over 2 stories high where it would be heated to around 55 degrees F if the outside temperature was lower.  Next the air would be humidified by a sprayed coil humidifier which simply consisted of a series of 10 spray nozzles which added moisture to the incoming air.


Power House Air Filtration Facility - Side aspect

From the humidifier the air moved into a very large Trane Co. squirrel cage fan with variable inlet vanes to control the rate of flow.  This fan forced the air into the Power House and the generators at a maximum rate of 132,700 cubic feet per minute.


Construction photo of the Power House filtration facility showing the slanted cyclonic dust collector array and the 60" blast valves before the corrugated liner was emplaced.  The Control Center dome is visible toward the upper right and the 30,000 gallon raw water tanks are located just behind the figure walking in the center of the photo.


Silo Gnome inspects some shock-mounted ethylene glycol lines in the tunnel connecting the Power House and the filtration facility.  A very large fan is visible at the end of the tunnel where the structure heads 90 degrees off to the left.


Since the first 2 Titan bases were constructed in Colorado, (or squadrons if you prefer.  Martin Co. designated the Lowry sites as T-1 in their documentation) there were many design modifications in the later Titan facilities.  The largest physical change in the Titan complexes built in California, South Dakota, Idaho and Washington was in the Power House air intake and exhaust facilities.


The air intake and exhaust facilities were changed from a predominantly horizontal configuration to a vertical stack which comprised far less space and materials with a more efficient design.  I have been unable to see this design difference for myself.  I have seen a few photos taken during site remediation by the US Army of Engineers, but they are dreadfully low quality and there are precious few of them.  If anyone has any good pictures of the air handling structures from the other bases I'd be very appreciative if they could contact me.

Looking toward the Power House from inside the filtration facility's connecting tunnel.  The lines here are ethylene glycol supply and return lines used to heat incoming the air.

On an odd side note I am rather interested in the Trane equipment at the Titan sites.  The fan in these pictures were manufactured at the Trane facility in LaCrosse Wisconsin and shipped to Denver by railcar.  The reason for my interest is that I had an uncle who was employed as a welder at the LaCrosse plant during the 60's and 70's (now deceased, may he rest in peace) and I cannot help wondering if he took part in the fabrication of some of the very large air handling equipment installed at the Titan I sites.

Standing beside the Trane Co. squirrel cage fan in full mesothelioma-resistant gear I am dwarfed.  I happen to be just shy of 6 feet tall, so I estimate this unit to stand around 13 feet tall!  The sheave (where the drive belts run) takes an impressive 9 belts so I know this fan is no lightweight.  Interestingly, the bearings still moved smoothly and easily by hand even after 40 years.

Just beyond this point a radiation monitor would detect incoming fallout if it entered the complex.  If detected, an indicator would light on the facilities console in the Control Center indicating radiation in the Power House, alerting the crew to close the blast valves.  Detectors were also located in the Launcher Air Filtration Facility, the Control Center and on the surface to alert the crew of a radiation hazard existing outside the complex.

The entire platform supporting the fan, heat exchanger, expansion tank, large drive motor and other equipment was suspended in a large steel framework such that it "floated".  This was both for shock-mounting and vibration damping, but produced some interesting and unintended effects.

Looking from the fan area into the humidification and heating area.  The door's warning is certainly valid as there would be tremendous pressure on it with the fan running.  To open this door under pressure would be a great way to have your teeth/nose knocked in.  The humidity in this area has greatly accelerated the oxidation and decay of metal and seals.  The neoprene seal which used to occupy the space in the middle of the photo has disintegrated almost completely in contrast with the mostly intact seals found in the rest of the complex.

On windy days (the majority of days in the area of the Lowry complexes) air forced down through the intake tunnel would pass through the structure and set the large steel plenums and threaded struts (one is visible in the above photo) to resonating.  The resulting vibration produced a very disconcerting and eerie low thrumming sound that would make your hair stand on end.  That's precisely what it did the first time I heard it along with a tour group who was visiting 1-C for the first time.  We all froze and listened as a deep rumble reverberated inside the dome of the Power House's ceiling like a huge machine coming to life.  It sounded as though the Titan was waking up around us!

After thoroughly soiling ourselves we tried to locate the source of the spooky noise and traced it to the filtration facility where we found the steel supports and walls vibrating like strings on a bass fiddle.  The tunnels and warrens of the Titan complex make excellent conduits for channeling sound it turns out.

The heating coils, which stand nearly 16 feet in height.  These were heated by hot water from the Power House boilers which passed through a heat exchanger.  Air flow would be from the perspective of this photo and through the coils.  The personnel access door is visible at the lower right.

That deep serenade in the Power House wasn't the first time the acoustic properties of the Titan had freaked me out.  Years earlier I was working to clean dirt, rust, paint chips and other filth out of the Entry Portal stairway using an industrial HEPA vac.  The vacuum looked like an overgrown shop vac and made a hell of a racket as I worked my way down the dark steps cleaning up 40 years' work of crud.

It was deafening in there with the vac on so I had foam earplugs crammed in my skull to preserve what hearing I had, and I was wearing a full-face respirator and full body suit.  I looked suspiciously like the silo gnome in some of the pictures in fact.  Despite the plugs, I could still hear the vacuum running quite well.

As I toiled in the area of the revolving security door, the vacuum seemed to start making a strange noise and changed pitch.  Using my handyman's repertoire, I soundly beat the vacuum with my hand hoping to rectify the trouble.  When this method failed I switched off the unit to inspect it.  To my surprise the industrial roar of the vacuum did not stop.

Puzzled, I flipped the switch on and off several times, but the sound persisted, which confused me greatly.  I felt the vacuum; it was not vibrating so it had to be off.  I stood up and removed my earplugs and the sound became much louder with a deep thumping that I could feel in my chest!

"What the hell?" I said, heading up the steps to the surface.  The more I ascended, the louder the sound became and the more pronounced the staccato pressures buffeted me.

I emerged on the surface in time for about 4 Black Hawk helicopters (undoubtedly from nearby Buckley Air National Guard) to fly low right over the complex and myself.  Dressed as I was, I am not sure who was more surprised.  It's not every day you see a guy dressed like that pop out of the ground!

It was really surprising how well the sound of the choppers channeled its way down into the complex.  I must have been hearing them from more than 10 miles off before I went topside, and then it was through the sound of an industrial vacuum and earplugs while 16 feet underground and surrounded by concrete!


View from between the dust collectors (left) and the heating coils (at right).

This side of the filtration facility is where air enters the cyclonic dust separators through the dampers at the right.  The Blast valves are visible at the end.  This platform is about 7 feet above the lower level where the dust collector's hoppers could be serviced.  The lower level at site 724-C was at different times flooded or mired with very nasty mud.  Needless to say I never ventured below.

Back on track!  The blast valves were still open, but despite the urge to try to pass thru them to the other side, both a long drop and a moat of nasty water stood between me and my curiosity.  I've also been told that the valves are also under tremendous spring pressure and there is no guarantee that disturbing them to squeeze through would not cause them to snap shut.  Not a pretty picture.

A better view of one of the blast valves.  There exists a gap of about 8' or more between the platform on which we stood in this picture and the concrete firewall through which the blast valves penetrate.  The gap, which had several feet of water at the bottom, made for an effective deterrent to keep us from messing with the spring-loaded valves.   This picture gives an idea of the thickness of the concrete slab which protects the interior of the complex.

Apparently, there's not much to see in the air intake shaft anyway-- its simply a corrugated steel liner and a few service conduits running to the surface.  At 724-C, the Power House intake and exhaust shafts have been sealed over using what appears to be scrap steel salvage from the complex to keep intruders out.  A large "cap" covers the approximately 65' deep shaft, which has water of an indeterminate depth at the bottom.  Depending on the season, this water spills over into the filtration facility through the blast valves and makes its way into the Power House and down the two deep wells at the bottom of the pipe trench. 

Another view of the firewall and a blast valve.  On the left you can see a 2" sulfuric acid (H2SO4) fill line which runs to one of the many tanks comprising the process water system in the Power House.  This also shows the effective aforementioned "gap" we were loathe to try and cross.

One more look at a 60" blast valve.  This is the center valve with four more valves arranged at each compass point around it.

This is the exit side of the dust collectors (at left) and is closed off from the blast valves.  These tall steel walls or plenums which achieved this separation are in large part what was creating the unsettling vibrations and sounds detailed earlier in this section.  A large utility air pressure accumulator tank was located here for keeping pressure on the humidification spray heads and probably supplied the pneumatic dampers and inlet vane controls as well.

Air flow moved up out of the dust collectors and on to the heating coils and humidification spray heads before being forced onward to the Power House by the fan and consumed by the generators and supplying the remaining structure with fresh air.  me of the sites were turned over to the original landowners; some sites remained government property until most were sold at auction along with abandoned Atlas sites and other surplus military property.

From here you can head back to the Power House, check out the Power House Exhaust, return to the Main Tunnel Junction (T.J.#10) or visit other points of interest using the map below:

Current Location: Power House Air Intake

Power House Control Center Fuel Entry Portal Power House Air Intake Power House Air Exhaust Main Tunnel Jucntion Main Map To Antenna Tunnel To Blast Lock #2

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