This Adventure:




    Part 01

    Part 02

    Part 03

    Part 04

    Part 05

    Part 06

    Part 07

    Part 08

    Part 09

    Part 10

    Part 11

    Part 12

    Part 13

    Part 14



    Main Page


Intro/Rant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14


Knocking on Silo's Door


Hydraulic lines to extend the platforms near a large cut open section in the crib structure.

With the great weight of thousands of tons of concrete and steel seeming to bear down on us from the crypt-like vault of the looming silo cap above, we knew we were nearing the terminus of the Titan I silo and its astonishing steel super- structure.

As the water below dropped out of sight into the darkness below, we trod about on the narrow catwalks, beams and platforms that comprised the intricate network of maintenance accessibility pathways that ran to nearly every corner of the cribwork.

Some areas held little more than rust and railings, but I didn't want to overlook anything in haste.  We split up, surveying the structure and getting photos.  At this point, we were at around the 130 foot level of the cribwork, of course most of it was below the water, so effectively we had only seen about 3 stories of the 15-story structure.  Doesn't sound like much until you look down...

While the water below might well allow you to survive a fall unscathed, the complex mesh of beams, pipes and other too, too solid obstructions would most likely scathe you but good on the way down making a floating corpse of your mortal coil.

Looking down at the spot shown in the previous photo from the catwalk level of the silo.

The Upper Regions

Scaling further, we reached the final series of catwalks and access ladders where the landscape became far more conducive to traipsing about without the uneasy feeling that death lurked uncomfortably close at hand, sharpening his scythe.

Walkways and hydraulic lines abound at this face of the cribwork near the very top.  The small lines pre- sumably supplied power to the folding mainten- ance platforms and crib locks.

Here, the world became very hydraulic as the large pipes split, teed and reduced to thin capillaries that perfused the many fluid-powered work platforms, jacks, valves, locks and other mechanical assemblies rife in the area.

To look at all the hydraulics alone, the amount of man-hours that it must have taken to install just those services was daunting and one imagines months of labor being done by crews in the cramped and restrictive spaces of the silo cribwork.

Looking through a huge gap cut through insanely- heavy steel and out over the open silo at the steel structure across the void.

These little pipes were the purview of just one of the many trade disciplines called upon to complete work in this area.  Coordinating all of them so that they had room to move must certainly have been a challenge.

Here you can see the gap mentioned in the previous caption where a heavy cutting torch has taken a Godzilla-sized bite out of the heaviest and topmost structure of the cribwork.  I can only assume this was done to make salvage possible, but I can't fig- ure out what was removed here that required such an effort.  That's Walter there inspecting one of the stabilization assemblies.

The last time I had been in the silo cap area was way back in 2003 when I scaled the walls of 2 silos at 724-C without the benefit of any cribwork or sensible safety gear.  (not recommended, really) 

Back at 724-C there had been no cribwork of course and what remained in the silo left a lot to the imagination.  Still, there was a lot to see and since it was all new to my eyes I was certainly not disappointed.

Now, as we neared the very top of the silo, with the cribwork in attendance, there was essentially a whole new world of details and structures I'd never clapped eyes upon.

Looking at more heavy metal.  This is the top beam structure of the cribwork, it extends to just about 2 feet of the concrete of the silo cap-- the top of the launcher silo.

That heavy steel outcropping near the center of the photo is where one of the inclined locking jacks was mounted.


Diagram of the inclined locking jack

Tip Top

With the red primer-colored ceiling just over our heads, Walter and I set about to trying to make sense of all that we saw.

An intact portion of the heavy environmental seal around the mouth of the silo, covering the gap between the cribwork and the silo cap.

Though technically "floating" on a suspension system of springs within the silo, the cribwork turns out in fact to be attached to the silo cap by an extremely tough-looking weather seal that spans the gap between the crib and the ceiling of the silo cap.

Prompted by a hanging tatter of rubberized fabric, a bit of scrambling about on the steelwork provided a better look at just what was involved with this new discovery. 

A torn section of the environmental seal showing a zippered section.  You can see here where the top edge is riveted to the concrete around the lip of the launcher opening.  The seal's very strong fabric has been torn along the zipper during salvage, suggesting the cribwork was significantly disturbed during the process.

We took turns climbing up to gaze at the extreme top edge of the cribwork steel viewed through a gap in the damaged weather seal.  There was saw accumulated rust from decades of corrosion and bits of steel, bolts and other debris left by salvage operations.

Looking at the seal itself, we could see it had suffered damage during some pronounced disturbances to the disposition of the cribwork.  I could only imagine what salvage work had displaced the cribwork to rent that tough membrane to such a degree: a swaying elevator motor being hoisted out of the silo's mouth; a giant leaden counterweight; an irregular bundle of stainless pipes, rotating as it rises, trailing tag lines and knocking against the crib at intervals...  Who knows?

Walter on the catwalk near one of the vertical jack support blocks.  Another severed beam protrudes into the frame.

This weather seal is riveted to the concrete ceiling on one end and bolted to the steel on the lower end.  It is buffered by a web of bungee-like cords that criss-cross over its face, steadfastly defying their age by staying taut over the ensuing decades.

There on the seal we see the biggest, most rugged-looking zippers I've ever seen holding sections of the seal together.  We marvel at these a bit before being distracted by larger structural features.

Looking along the outside of the cribwork toward the vertical jack support where Walter was seen stand- ing in the previous photo.  The catwalk routes around the support block with a detour on the inside of the open silo-- a feature that can be a bit un- settling the first time through. 


Standing on a small maintenance platform near the cut off beam.  That steel is heavier than it looks in this photo, trust me.


Another chunk of steel removed during salvage.  It must have been in the way of something they wanted.


Cross-sectional view of one of the many chopped-off I-beams in the cribwork.  That steel is about 1.5 inches thick.

All around the silo cap, we see hydraulic lines running everywhere: on the walls, on the floors, up and down the cribwork beams and everywhere in between.  These lines serve valves, actuators, service platforms and many other pieces of this complex construction that is the launcher system.

Now that we were at the top of the cribwork, could see a bunch of these hydraulic lines running to the very top of the structure to service the locking jacks.

To secure the cribwork for launch, it was stabilized by a series of locking jacks that held the entire massive framework steady to the silo structure.  These jacks would extend outward to or from the cribwork (depending on which type of jack) to press against the interior of the silo and firmly hold the entire structure in place.  There were three types of of these jacks to prevent movement in any direction: 

1. Vertical - One at each corner (see next image and photo below)

2. Lateral - Two on one side and two on the other

3. Inclined - Two on one side and two on the other at an angle of perhaps 30 degrees off vertical.

Illustration showing the various locking jacks and their locations.  The vertical jack indicated on the lower left is not visible in this partial cutaway, but its position is refer- enced by the large arrow.


Looking down at the top of one of the vertical jack supports.  All the vertical jacks have been removed at 568-C along with the inclined jacks, but the lateral jacks are still in place as you'll see in the next section.

Pictures of the vertical jacks can be seen in section IV and section V of the missile silos.


Diagram of the vertical jack.  This is a simple hydraulic drive with a worm gear that extended the jack to the silo cribwork.


Hydraulic lines on the catwalk level.  These very large lines power the silo doors.

All these smaller lines were broken out at manifolds from hydraulic mains that encircle the silo cap.  From the manifolds the hydraulic lines extended out to the jacks and platforms and from the largest lines to the silo doors.

Just as I had seen at Lowry 724-C, these lines were left behind, apparently not valuable enough to warrant the trouble required to cut them out and haul them away.

Silo sump discharge line.  This runs to the surface where it terminates at a seal chamber-- a concrete box with an open slot where the water would simply flow out onto the ground and away from the launcher.

Walter headed around the other side of the silo cap as I marveled at the undamaged silo discharge line, still attached to the silo wall.

Another shot of the silo sump discharge line.  Exciting, I know.  Usually when I see this, it's been torn loose from the silo wall during some rather violent phase of salvage operations in the silo.  It was nice to see one intact, silly as that might seem.

This particular feature seems to have failed to survive the removal of the cribwork at all the other silos I've seen firsthand so far.  Since it extends to the very sub-floor of the silo were the sump pits are located, some part of it always seems to get violently knocked about during salvage operations on the silo cribwork.  You may recall from section IV and section V of the missile silos that I observed uncannily similar damage to the sump discharges at those silos-- damage I didn't see here.

More precarious footings around the vertical jack supports.  I know that's all steel, but somehow it just looks insubstantial and cheap when I start walking over it.

Though this silo seemed in far better shape than those I saw at 724-C, I still trod lightly on these flying platforms and spent very little time standing on them.  It wasn't absolutely necessary to use them, but encumbered as I was with cameras, backpack and lights, I felt I risked fewer incidents of loss like the one experienced earlier with my ex-camera by not scrambling up and over the pipes that blocked the catwalk.

A big join in two big, big I-beams at one corner of the cribwork and looking in the direction of the elevator motor platform.

When we climbed up to the very top of the silo, we were at the opposite side from the intriguing and enticing elevator motor platform.  As we obsessed over the other sights of the silo, we were both working our way to the opposite side, saving the best for last.  Walter took one approach and I took the other, effectively cutting off any chance that it might escape!

Moving around another vertical jack support toward the elevator motor platform.

As usual, I got there last due to my photographic and video handicaps, but how could I rush?  I was totally enthralled with all the new things there were to see!  Over near the elevator motor platform I could hear Walter's footsteps crunching on the rusty steel as he cautiously moved to the edge.

A deep booming splash from below followed, echoing throughout the silo seemingly without origin.  Then another, and another.  Walter had found some junk to toss into the silo and now I was itching to do the same.

Standing in a space behind the elevator motor platform.  The whole thing is hinged and was designed to move under load both as suspension (presumably) and to protect it from shock.

I circled around to the ledge by the platform and climbed up, eager to peer over the edge into that dark, scary void that I knew waited below.

Once I had gotten that out of my system and tossed a few bolts and other odds bits of steel into the water, I turned my attention to something else I found irresistible: these giant springs that held up the whole platform!

Standing on the elevator motor platform and looking at one of the enormous spring assemblies that supported it.

Spring Is Here!

I'd never seen anything like them.  These springs could only be compared to the photos I'd seen of Cheyenne Mountain (AKA: former NORAD) showing the massive springs upon which the entire inner sanctum of that place rested.

Looking at the springs' supports, bolted to the ceiling of the silo cap with 10 nuts, each of them larger than my fist. 

Note that one spring has been remove on this side.

I couldn't imagine such springs ever flexing.  I would imagine you could stack a truck or two on that platform and not see much movement out of springs such as those.

I thought these springs were pretty impressive so, yeah, there are a lot of photos of them.  I honestly wish everyone could see for real just how big these things are.

No, I don't think you get it.  I don't think you've grasped the monolithicity (yes, I just made that up, I think) of these springs.  They.  Are.  HUGE.

Looking at the enormous bracket that supports the spring assembly.

Oh sure, in these photos, they may not look that big, but I think that the impact is lost in the translation.  Look at that bracket from which the spring is suspended.  Take a good look.

Moving in for a closer look...

See those nuts holding up the whole affair?  Each of those bloody things is just a bit bigger than my fist (which isn't dainty by any means) and there are ten (10!) of them holding each one of these springs up by a steel bolt nearly 4 inches in diameter!


What's that?  Two and one-half inches doesn't sound like all that much you say?  Well, let me know when you can bend one by ANY means and perhaps I will stop being incredulous about your lack of incredulousness.  

Who makes these damn things anyway?  Oh right, AMF did.  I knew that.  That's the "F" part of American Machine and Foundry.

Closer still, but a sense of scale would be helpful now.

The missile, fully loaded weighs well in excess of 100,000 pounds, which is over 50 TONS of mass--  well, in fact, none of that really matters.  Just trust me, if you could stand right there next to one, you'd be impressed.

Yes, that is about 3.5 inches in diameter.  Insane!


Ok, last couple pics of these, honest!


Don't get your hand caught in one of these.

More cribwork to come as we peer into (and under) more hidden-away areas at the top levels of the silo.

Tune in soon for the next installment:

Part Eleven -  Walter and Pete Hit the Roof

Intro/Rant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14