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


The Second Silo (Actually silo #1)

Practiced as we were at dismounting a watercraft as it bobbed about, we were more adept at our second "landfall" on silo cribwork.  No cameras lost, no one got dunked.

Just inside the silo, looking at some strut and piping as we survey the best route to get up onto the cribwork.  

This silo was much like the first and we spent a little less time kayaking about on the water's surface before scrambling up the cribwork, eager to see what surprises might lurk above. 

Gaining altitude.  Thanks to the same ladder we were able to reach the catwalk where the going was easy.  Yellow pipe is the RP-1 line leading to the fuel crib.

Looking quite similar in its disposition, the lower (relative to the surface of the water anyway) platforms and catwalks appeared largely the same as those in silo #3, but as always there were small details to draw the eye of two curious explorers like ourselves.

Looking upward at one corner of the cribwork, still perhaps 40 feet below the surface at this point.

Exploring on our own, Walter and I clambered about at random looking over the massive structure of the cribwork searching for interesting details.  The fear of heights was long gone, this was entering obsessive diversion territory.  No time for concern about one's health and safety when there's missile silos to be explored!

Hydraulic and firewater piping follow the curve of the silo's 40' diameter as I look up at the inside of the silo cap and the catwalk level far above.

This silo was salvaged to a similar degree as the other, but as always, in slightly different ways and stages.  Mostly it was just as we had seen in the other silo, but as we would soon find, there were some intriguing features waiting, hidden in the damp dark of silo #1. 

Very large electrical conduit and other fixtures lining the walls of the silo.


At about 120' up the cribwork, a box with a key switch can bee seen on the left side, likely a control station for fold-down work platforms.

Although we were cold and damp from our kayaking to the silo, the long day of walking and clambering had begun to slow us down a bit, but our enthusiasm for exploration pushed us ever higher.  

Fire water and hydraulic piping on the silo walls in bad need of corrosion control.

This silo was less beat up than the other and I had to wonder if it was the first to be salvaged or the last.  I mean, did they take their sweet time here, doing a thorough and careful job and then later when time became tight, they beat the hell out of the other silo in a mad rush to finish?

Remnants of ductwork and more plumbing for fire suppression, hydraulics and fuel for the missile as viewed from about 20 feet above the water level.

High up among the crunchy, rust flake covered platforms, Walter spied something brightly-colored peeking from between the steel girders across the silo.  He homed right in on it as I fiddled with my onerous burden of cheap, crappy camera gear and bulky lights, oblivious as usual.


"What?" I hollered back.

"Look at this."

That was all I needed to hear.  I was on the move, gear rattling, throwing off my balance as I headed up to the catwalk where Walter was inspecting something that just had to be fascinating. 

We spotted a couple of these brightly-colored warnings posted at various levels in the silo.

"Proceed Swiftly" always makes me chuckle inwardly as I imagine rapidly distancing myself (not unlike a rocket) from whatever mayhem might be occurring to warrant the "CLEAR HOLE" alert level.

I arrived at the cramped platform where Walter was leaning in to read a bright orange placard and chuckling to himself.

"What is it? I asked, shouldering my giant boat anchor of a flood light.

"Hazard conditions on a big sticker.  Take a look."

I leaned in, I'd never seen one of these before-- 'course, I'd never seen cribwork up close before either.  "This is great.  I love stuff like this.  I have to get a few pictures of it."

Later on, we'd notice a couple more of these in far-reaching areas of the silo and down by the waterline as well.  It need not be said, if the CLEAR HOLE alert was given, I'd not tarry too long in the silo to see what was wrong.

Above the catwalk level: the very top of the cribwork showing the damaged environmental seal that once bridged the gap between the silo cap and the cribwork.

Once again, there was no elevator motor or hydraulic rams at silo #1, something I was deeply wishing for as we entered this last chance launcher, but no matter, this was a Cold War nuclear missile silo-- I was anything but disappointed to be there, you can be sure of that!

Some of the upper service platforms that cover the topmost portions of the cribwork.  Most of these platforms probably existed chiefly to provide access for lubrication and repairs, while others looked as though they were required simply to maneuver around equipment up at the top.


Back on the catwalk: interrupted hydraulic plumbing for the silo doors.


A twin set of flanged 90's-- more hydraulic lines for the silo doors, looking rather Dr. Seuss as they rise over the lip of the silo.

The catwalk level was much like the other launcher and those I'd seen at Lowry 724-C in Colorado: the same piping, the same flanges, hoses and pneumatic lines and so after a quick look around, I concentrated at checking out the cribwork more closely.

Looking down from the catwalk level: all steel and hydraulics.  This paint color will forever stand out in my mind.  To my color blind eyes it appears blue/gray. 

As much as I'd love to play these upper levels up, they were very similar to launcher #3 in most respects.  I found them fascinating but for you... well, results may vary. 

A devastated environmental seal hangs as a mere tatter.  This very heavy rubberized fabric once protected the inner areas of the silo from rain and snow when the doors were open.


Accordion-style elevator door in the upper levels of the silo cribwork.


Utility air or small hydraulic lines ringing the silo catwalk level.


Lateral crib lock seen from the catwalk level

As before, I could not quit gawking at the giant coil springs supporting the motor elevator platform.  I spent way too much time around these things.

Here on the launcher elevator motor platform, the giant suspension system of insanely heavy coil springs can be seen again.  I still can't get over just how massive these things are!


Both springs at one side of the launcher elevator motor platform. In the background, an upper maintenance platform can be seen high above just about any other space accessible within the silo.

As I trod lightly about on the platform, I saw a remote service platform about 7 or 8 feet above the catwalk level.  It is visible in the upper middle of the photo above.  There was at least one other platform (not shown, sorry) that we couldn't figure out how to get to at all; we guessed that most likely it was accessed from the surface when the doors were open.

Yes, more of the elevator platform springs.


Last one, I promise.

At launcher #3, one of the four spring assemblies was missing, having been cut out and hauled away.  Here at silo #1, all four springs were still present.

Sweeping view of the barren launcher elevator motor platform.  Some so-and-so took the soddy motor out so I never got to see it.  I'd go nuts if I went into a silo and actually found one in place!  Sadly, I am almost certain this is not possible.

My hopes were dashed once more as the motor platform was revealed to be just as barren as it had been in silo #3.  I wonder if these motors found new life performing some useful work somewhere, or if they were simply rendered down to their most valuable metal components and sold as scrap.

If in fact the motors did see use again (which I think is unlikely-- I'm just guessing here, mind you-- because a hydraulically-powered elevator motor seems rather a rare bird.  Where would it find a ready home for service?) I wonder where exactly that might be.  As silo-lift missile configurations (where the missile was lifted via an elevator system such as in the Titan I configuration) had already been phased out of future designs in favor of faster, simpler* and more reliable designs like the Titan II in-silo launch configuration (silo door flies open, pre-fuelled missile launches within seconds from within the protective confines of the silo) it is hard to imagine where these motors might have migrated to useful service once having been from the silos' wombs untimely ripped.

* Simpler in terms of operation and maintenance, not necessarily engineering.

Looking up at the pivot point which once held the door hydraulics for one leaf of the silo doors.  The heavy canvas of the weather seal is still largely intact.


Behind the launcher elevator motor platform.  Those beams are about two feet tall!

There were other features to draw my attention however; the curious stub-rail latches and the attendant counterweight rail and locking mechanisms were interesting to speculate about (we were completely ignorant as to their various functions at the time) as we clambered over and under the motor platform to appreciate them.

The iconic stub rail (at right) and drive platform to silo wall lock (background).


A closer peek at those crazy platform-to-silo-wall locks.  These things are just huge.  Your head would fit easily in those jaws. (I would suggest not putting your head in there however)

Once again, I couldn't resist heading down to the shaky little service platform underneath the motor platform.  There were the guide pins again, only this time they held a signature of sorts-- left decades ago and yet pretty much the same as when it was made.  A lubrication legacy remained in the finger markings left in a heavy coat of what appeared to be lithium grease coating the counterweight guide pins.

A counterweight guide pin-- part of the counterweight to drive base lock system.  Here you can see how this was very obviously hand-lubricated with heavy grease.  I cannot help but wonder whose hands made those marks.  Is he alive today?  Who was it who left this unassuming legacy in this forgotten, dark place?

All these years those pins had been greased and ready for another missile to be emplaced in the silo-- a day I am certain will never arrive.  There it was again, that sudden feeling of presence in an utterly dark and lonely place where now it is difficult to imagine bright lights and a crew of men building, working and maintaining this once-modern weapon of war that has since fallen to such a sad and lonely state.

Guide pin and counterweight stub rail-- located underneath the launcher elevator motor platform.  This photo was taken from a spindly little service platform hanging over empty space above the launcher silo.  Agoraphobes would not like this location, trust me.


Two of the four counterweight guide pins.  These locked the counterweights at the top of the silo when the missile was in "hard" condition at the bottom of the silo with the doors closed.


There on that rickety platform, the seal of AMF barked loudly from amidst the decay even as rust and time worked to devour it.

Every now and then, evidence, like whispers of ghosts, gave small clues about the crews or workers from long ago.  A concrete footer or pedestal, once the base of a railing that was perhaps moved or raised as part of a construction modification (I say "modification" because it appeared to have been added after initial construction) bears some inscriptions revealed under my lights.

Scratched into the concrete while it was still wet, this pedestal reads: Silo Captain 1962 - Bill Timmerman - Kirk ENG.


The exact meaning of these words is unclear.  Was it signed by the silo captain in 1962 along with another man named Bill Timmerman of Kirk Engineering, or was it the captain, Bill T. and someone from Kirk Eng. leaving the captain and the person from K.E. un-named?  

The ghosts faded back into the shadows as we explored the last dark corners of the last missile silo we would see at Larson 568-C.  We both knew our day at the Titan I complex was ending soon and we wondered what time it was.

Was it day or night outside?  

We were sure it must still be light, but deep down I think we just didn't have confidence either way.  We'd just have to wait and see.

Piping and platforms skirting the cribwork locking jacks at the catwalk level.

This lost sense of time made our exploration perhaps a bit more hurried.  We both wanted to look around on the surface a bit before leaving.  We hoped to find equipment taken from the underground site laying about between the piles of junk that were blanketing the ground over our heads in great heaps.

Hydraulics at the catwalk level servicing the doors and cribwork leveling locks.  The curves follows the interior of the silo walls.

I took my parting shots as we prepared to climb back down to our damp craft (this was about the time we had nearly dried off from the trip to the silo!) and take to the quiet waters of the tunnels once more.

Looking down at the cribwork from the catwalk level.


Top of the cribwork at a confluence of hydraulic and pneumatic lines of many sizes and running in all directions.

As we descended to the waterline, I got a few parting shots of silo #1 and as fascinating and enthralling as my first trip to a site where cribwork still populated the launchers, I felt a deep longing to see the rest of it all-- to see a silo that wasn't inundated.

Hydraulic lines for control of the elevator and silo doors and other hydraulic services at the upper level of the launcher.

Far below more secrets lurked beneath the water.  My mind swirled with fantasies (likely far from truth) about what treasures might lay lost at the bottom of these long abandoned silos.  Some equipment perhaps?  Panels and controls from the nearby propellant and equipment terminals discarded out of hand into the maws of the Titan?

It was all too tantalizing for me and for Walter as well.  We both shivered to think about the prospect of seeing the last secrets of the Titans and to go to the only places we had not-- could not, go.

Hydraulic supply and return lines routed up over the lip of the catwalk level.  These lines were about 4 inches in diameter.

Departing in relative silence compared to our excited entrance, we pored over the receding levels of the cribwork, looking for anything we may have missed-- some detail or landmark that might have escaped notice on our way up.

A key control box for...  Well, I'm not sure.  It could be for work platforms, an elevator call station or some other function.  We found this at the left side of the silo-to-cribwork bridge at the personnel tunnel level.

Finding no great hidden mysteries, we carefully boarded our waiting craft and as we drifted toward the exit, my eyes couldn't help but try to pierce the darkness of the water below.  What was down there, and would we ever find out?

Tune in soon for the next installment:

Part Fourteen -  As above, so below


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