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


I Wonder What's Under


Chopped-off hydraulic piping on the elevator motor platform between the foot-eating gaps.  These were filled with water?-- but had nasty grease or glycol deposits in them.

These pipes powered the elevator motor which was hydraulic like most everything else in the silos.

After tearing myself away from the platforms and its springs, I headed down below to see what was underneath this thing.

Without the elevator motor and all the equipment that once crowded the platform, the "floor" is really just a series of steel beams that you have to balance on and interspersed with gaps of varying widths inviting you to fall and suffer a memorable injury should you become a bit too distracted by all the interesting scenery.

Mindful of this, I made my way carefully to the edge of the platform and looked for an easy way down to the concrete below.



The curious locking/pivoting mechanism underneath the elevator motor platform.

Down below, hunched over and crab-walking, I saw some strange sights.  I say strange because I couldn't explain it exactly.  Under the platform, I saw this very heavy business that appeared to grip the silo like some mythical roc with its huge steel talons.

Like most everything in the Titan I complex, this is also massive and constructed of very heavy steel.

This set of steel "jaws" or "talons" gripped the silo very firmly and in fact the entire platform seemed to be held in place by this odd-looking set of "jaws" that clamped onto (via some substantial steel mounting points) the concrete of the silo.

We had no idea what to call these things that looked like a set of strange locking hinges for the elevator motor platform.  We couldn't figure out why it was designed the way it was.  Did the platform disengage from the silo in the hard condition? (Yes, it turns out.  It did.)

Ever the curious one, I went hunting through my documents to see if I could find out what they were called and what their function might be exactly.  Luckily, I dredged up the image below up from my Tech Orders (T.O. 21M-HGM25A-6-1WC-1PE, Section II - Lubrication Requirements) which allowed me to at least put a name to these things.

So there it is, the Launcher Platform Drive System Drive Base to Silo Wall Rear Locks.  I knew that.

Now what exactly does this thing do?

Looking at the diagram I found, there appears to be a linear actuator that locks the jaws on this thing down tight on the big steel mount on each side under the platform.  My best guess is that before the missile is elevated, these things bite down and hold the otherwise "mobile" platform in place as the platform springs provide some give on the front side while the weight of the missile pulls down on them.  This allows the spring-suspended platform to flex under the weight of the missile as it is raised or lowered while the locks hold the pivoting platform securely to the silo.

If anyone knows better how this system worked, please contact me and let me know how this complicated mechanism really performed.

We found some other interesting and curious features under the platform.  There was a lot going on down there!

Other peculiar features under the elevator motor platform, this huge steel guide pin interfaces with the top of the counterweights in their fully raised position.

Left of the pin is the 3rd object that had us guessing.  What could it be?

Walter, having disappeared under the platform before me, brought to my attention this mysterious trinity of industrial oddities you see above.  We had already arrived at some theories regarding the giant Grippatrons holding the platform in place, but now these other two items inspired lively debate.

Just under the overhang created by the platform on which we'd both been standing was a large and menacing-looking spike (one of two actually) perhaps 4 inches in diameter.  Next to this was a rather monolithic piece of solid steel that extended up from the counterweight rail to the bottom of the elevator motor platform.  

There were in fact two of these large spikes and each looked as though each of the counterweights would connect to them when they were at the top of the rail extensions (with the missile lowered in the "hard" silo condition).  A hole in the pins looked to be part of a locking mechanism, though it appeared parts of the locking apparatus were missing.

Another peculiar feature under the elevator motor platform, a pair of these huge steel guide pins interface with the top of the counterweights in their fully raised position and then locks them in place to the motor platform.

Looking further at the counterweight rails, we found that this top section of the counterweight guide rails that had some freedom of movement, perhaps providing a bit of shock absorption at the top end.  Identified as "stub rail latches" in the T.O. linked above.

In fact, the entire section was designed to be isolated and supported by the massive springs of the motor elevator platform in the silo hard condition.

The stub rail latches engaged and disengaged the counterweight rails with a pneumatic pin that extended to connect the two rail sections.  The pin indicated by 2 arrows in the diagram above extended to make the physical connection when the missile was ready to be raised.

The illustration above shows how the stub rails interface to the top of the static guide rails on the silo wall, allowing the counterweights to travel up onto the shock isolated section which would then disengage pneumatically leaving the counterweights locked and isolated to protect the system.  Interesting!

The secrets of the cribwork were being laid bare, piece by piece.  I was never able to make the connections as to how some of the system worked or was constructed, even though I'd seen pictures or drawings of some of the parts.  Without context or reference, it had all been very difficult  to make sense of.

Now, things were becoming clear and the fog was lifting.  In my mind I could see how some parts of this huge silo-lift system-- though gone, or partially gone-- were supposed to function.

The precarious platform that hangs in open silo-space beneath the elevator motor platform.  I'd bet money that rusted little container once held heavy grease for application under the platform.

Above it All

Underneath the platform, there was a small ladder leading down to a very small maintenance platform that hung straight down over open air offering an exhilarating view of the 40 foot drop to the water below.  This platform was there for the express purpose of working on the guide pins, stub rails and locking mechanism we had just discovered.  Standing on the slightly swaying platform certainly made us alert.  I'm certain nothing we did could have made it budge, but no matter, fear doesn't rationalize that way.

As the platform was tiny, Walter and I had to take turns being frightened by it.  There was just enough room to turn around really.  I imagined an airmen in his coveralls on that little platform, grease gun in hand, suspended in mid-air as he works down the maintenance checklist with his grease pencil, checking off the list as the platform creaks and sways slightly with his every move.  Just one of many interesting areas the crews would find themselves working with the Titans.

Looking from the motor platform toward the top of the cribwork and silo doors overhead.

Climbing back up onto the motor platform with its large gaps felt far safer with the springs' reassuring strength holding me up.

One of four lateral locking jacks that stabilize the cribwork for raising the missile and launching.

The voyage of discovery continued back at the catwalk that encircled the cribwork at the very top.  There the lateral jacks were just overhead allowing a close inspection of those monsters which were largely intact, though a bit worse for wear.

Diagram of the horizontal jacks.  Top shows the jack extended toward the steel plate on the silo. The end of the jack had a roller system and the plate used guide wedges to keep proper alignment.

Bottom shows the retracted "shoe" with its guide rollers on the left.  A hydraulically-driven worm gear assembly powered the jacks.

I'd only seen these in photos before and it was interesting to note that they were still extended (and present at all).  It makes sense that they would be extended but the absence of the vertical jacks suggests that the entire cribwork structure now rests solely on the gargantuan springs assemblies far below and beneath the water some 100 feet down.

Moving in for a closer look at the horizontal locking jack.  The structure behind the horizontal jack was the interfacing support for the vertical jack at this corner (vertical jack has been removed).

The long arms of the lateral jacks reached out overhead to the silo walls at each corner where the clusters of the three different jacks had once stabilized the entire cribwork structure.

Closer view showing the lateral jack base on the cribwork side.


Large guide brackets on the silo side where the jack secured the cribwork against the silo structure.


The protective sleeve on this jack has been damaged exposing the worm drive underneath.

After some considerable time (I don't know how much, it's impossible to judge such things as time in such a place) we neared the end of all that was launcher silo #3-- at least, what wasn't under water anyway.

Most of what I saw around the catwalk was familiar from my visits to the catwalks of the Lowry 724-C launchers.  Alas, once again, the silo door hydraulic rams were gone; most disappointing, but by no means surprising.

A semi-circular channel in the very top of the silo cap where one of the two hydraulic door rams once nestled when the doors were closed.

The mounts for the hydraulic cylinders are just another bit of hardware that is difficult to appreciate without taking in the sheer mass of the thing.  Each of these "forks" protruding in the photos are really just the bottom half of the hardware which is a very large chunk of solid steel, inches thick and capable of supporting tremendous weight.

Here you can see at the end of the channel, part of the door hydraulic ram pivoting assembly projecting outward like a pair of arms, palms up.  The top half that secured the VERY LARGE ram in place has been removed allowing the valuable salvage to be hoisted out and hauled away.

You could literally hang a couple passenger vehicles (with passengers!) from these things like a giant mobile and it would remain unmoved in the slightest.

The arms-- ever-beckoning for their stolen hydraulics.  

When all is silent in the dark silo, if you listen closely you can sometimes hear a faint and ghostly voice calling for their return: 

"Puuuuut thooose baaack daaammmit!"


Scurrying around the last few areas of the catwalk level, it was clear that we'd seen pretty much all there was to see and now it remained for us to descend the cribwork and do our best to re-board the kayak without taking a bath.

Looking up at the inside of the silo doors.  You can easily make out where the terminal ends of the hydraulics were bolted in place.

Walter was first to brave The Kayak Challenge, the plan being that once he'd given the kayak a bit of draft, I would be less likely to take a camera-killing plunge as I tried to board.

I managed to stave off disaster and took my damp seat on the kayak just as my trousers had dried off somewhat.  As the chill seeped into my undergarments once more, we cast off from the rusted "pier" and charted a course back to the entrance.

Another view of the inside of the doors showing the torn environmental seal, made of a very tough rubberized fabric, hanging at the left of the picture.

Back on the surface, we caught some much-needed warmth in the sun, gulped some much-needed water and had a few more chocolate donuts that had remained disturbingly un-melted after hours in the heat of the car.

My camera, though drier, remained disappointingly destroyed, though I still held out hope it could be revived.

One last peek at the silo doors, looking toward the irregular-shaped portion of the silo opening that made room the umbilical tower when the missile was raised to the surface.

We soaked up the warm sun like two lizards and then trundled back to the underground kayak landing.  We had another silo to explore!

Tune in soon for the next installment:

Part Twelve -  Hidden Danger!

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