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Missile Silos Part 2


Moving forward in time to 2000, you can see the same thorough scrapping in the tunnels leading to the silos.  The following picture is what you would see if you visited the vestibule of Silo #1 of site 724-C today (minus the the light-wielding men of course).  Without light it is utterly pitch black and deathly silent except for the occasional dripping of water from the doors above and from the LOX tunnel.


The personnel tunnel approaching the silo, which is just beyond those doors.


For comparison, here is the same area seen below as it appeared circa 1961: 


Operational photo of A1C Brannon, standing in the personnel tunnel in almost the same angle as the previous photo sometime around 1961.


Reverse angle of previous photo, again showing A1C Brannon using the comm. system with its hands-free headset and a very, very long connecting cable.


The following photo is rather a shock to me-- you would never expect that beyond these simple doors the most destructive weapon (ok, excepting the Hydrogen bomb, smart guys) ever developed resided like a sleeping giant.


All the movies would have you expecting massive doors with perhaps a retinal scanner and other high-tech security devices to stand between you and the missile, but in fact there were only these locked double doors.


The very unassuming doors leading into the missile silo.  Without the labeling, you would never expect a nuclear weapon to stand just beyond these doors.


The hole above the right door is where the RP-1 line was routed into the silo and then to the right toward the fuel crib.


The missile silos as they appear today are typically void of the crib structure which was hoisted by cranes right out the silo doors, often without even disconnecting many of the lines and conduits running to it.  I have noticed both air conditioning ductwork as well as water and hydraulic lines that were clearly just torn loose. 


View into Silo #1 from the personnel tunnel.  The large pipe at the bottom of the tunnel carried water for fire suppression.  The RP-1 line (with its flexible, braided, stainless steel connector removed) is visible at the top center of the picture.


A couple locations are known to still contain either all or a portion of the cribwork, but none of the Colorado sites were spared from what I have found.  It does appear as though the cribwork was about the extent of the silo salvage efforts and much of the rest of the silos were left pretty much as they were.


Looking up toward the silo doors and catwalk level through space that would have been obscured by the cribwork had it not been removed.


Heavy steel cladding affixed to the under side of the doors can be seen hanging downward-- peeled away from the concrete.  This is the result of Army Corps of Engineers water samples obtained in 1999.  Instead of entering the complex to obtain water samples, perhaps for liability reasons, the A.C.o.E drilled down through the huge concrete and steel reinforced doors simply to obtain a water sample from the silo!


You can see in these recent photos that the LOX lines, fuel lines, fire water conduit, air conditioning and silo ductwork, lighting and electrical runs were left intact except where it was easy to salvage cables for copper.  Some features such as the LOX crib are in fact missing in these pictures.  The large amount of stainless steel piping was too valuable to pass up.


Sites in other locations had the walls scoured of all of the above, even removing the counter-weight guide rails and pipe hangers.  I was recently quoted a local price for scrap steel of $10 a ton so I can hardly imagine that it would be worth the cost involved to remove such scrap.  I hope the price made more sense in the 60's and 70's when the scrappers went through what I'm sure was no small amount of trouble to remove it from some sites.


Counterweight guide rails, piping and ductwork inside the silo at about 50' below the surface-- the level where the personnel tunnel entered the silo.


You can see hanging limply one of the flexible HVAC lines (black line at right) that maintained proper operating temperature inside the missile at all times.  Chilled or heated air was supplied at all times to keep the electronics package and gyros at a constant operating range.


The LOX tunnel (at center though not very distinct) with water seepage running down into the silo, flanked by pairs of counterweight support rails.  Each pair of rails once had an enormous steel and lead counterweight trained to it to offset the staggering weight of the fully fueled missile and its support platform when it was raised and lowered.


A construction photo showing the LOX tunnel and LOX crib at 724-C.  This structure and its valuable stainless steel piping is absent in the previous photo and this feature was almost always removed by scrappers.  Note the temporary boardwalk and railings installed for contractor safety and access.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


More conduit and piping taken from about 70' down the silo from the fuel crib of Silo #2.  The red pipes are for fire suppression.  The lower you go in the silos at 724-C the fewer interesting features there are to be found, at least until you reach the water level that is.


In the next section we'll take a look at the construction of the Titan missile silos and look into the Lowry sites' history a bit.  Click below to continue.



Missile Silos Part III


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