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Missile Silos Part 5


Ascent to the Catwalk Level of Silo #1 - Continued Insanity...


It wasn't long before my curiosity started telling me to do dumb things again and before you knew it, I was plotting to climb another silo.  Sure I'd seen one silo already, but this was a different silo!  Ok, maybe there were essentially no differences whatsoever between silos at the same site, but I had already noticed major differences in how each silo was scrapped and salvaged.  Why there could be something completely different to see at the top of one of the other 2 silos!


As soon as I thought of it, I knew I was crazy enough to do it; I was going to climb another silo.  Since silo #2 had the least amount of water, I decided it would have to be silo #1 that I visited next.  Hell, I had done this once already, it should be easier the 2nd time right?


And so with almost no real planning whatsoever I set out once again to see if I couldn't bring my life to an early conclusion through foolish and unnecessary risks and inadequate safety measures.


The plan was pretty much the same as for silo #3: climb the many and varied pipes and conduits to the launcher elevator motor platform, get some pictures and return to the personnel tunnel alive.


Should be simple I thought, and mostly it was...


I found the first challenge about half way up the silo wall when I found that the flimsy ductwork which was missing in silo #3 was still present in silo #1.  After some careful analysis of what route to take, I managed to get past this hazard alive and arrived at the top of the counterweight rail as before.  From that point I would just need to climb up to the water pipe and grab the handy bolts that I had used to hoist my dead weight onto the safety of the broad ledge of the launcher elevator motor platform.


However, when I pulled myself up onto the water pipe and stood up to locate the bolts that provided such a convenient handhold on the climb up silo #3, I found them completely gone!  Nothing.  The bolts (all 9 of them) had been cut off flush with the smooth, featureless concrete that now shunned my advances.  Only tiny jagged stubs remained.  With nothing to grab onto, I could not safely climb up onto the ledge, or worse yet, climb back down.


Let me point out that I was feeling all the same terror I had experienced on my last idiotic and perilous climb-- my heart was in overdrive and I was breathing like a marathon runner behind my asbestos-rated respirator (the only sensible piece of safety gear I had worn on these climbs) that fogged terribly, clouding my vision.  Once again I felt as though I could suffer some sort of attack at any minute.


Determined to continue no matter what common sense dictated, I found this wrinkle a bit worrisome.  Maybe I should just abort this suicidal exploration and leave well enough alone, I thought.  


Not just yet-- I looked around for another way.


About 20' away I saw a cable tray extending at a steep angle out into space over the silo; its top edge led to the ledge.  I am sure it was once quite sturdy, but what had happened to it during the salvage?  Were its supports still sound?  Would it hold a lone moron long enough for him to climb to safety?


As there was no purchase along the sheer edge of the ledge, my arms were extended out in front of me rather ineffectually as I sidled about 25' over to the cable tray.  If I slipped, there was absolutely nothing to hold onto and I would fall backwards and down over about seven stories to the water below.  


I reached out and tried to shake the cable tray with one hand.  Solid.  Whew.


Placing some weight on the tray I tried again to test its stability.  It remained solid so I quickly stepped up onto its ladder-like frame, eager to get to the ledge because now my entire body was suspended over the open silo at about a 70-degree angle.


In a few quick movements I arrived at the platform, dizzy with anxiety and sat to rest.


These are the pictures I captured once I had recovered a bit, shown in the order they were taken as I circled the silo from one side of the elevator motor platform to the other.


I hope you'll find them interesting though they may not be as exciting as you'd hope with all the build up.  Either way, here is what I saw:


View from the launcher elevator motor platform.  Hydraulic lines abound, and directly over my head is where one of the rams for the doors was located.  Long gone now of course.



This time the yellow cable tray was not conveniently located at the bottom of the catwalk ledge.  I had to climb up and then lower it down for easier access.



Looking up you at the ceiling you can see the mount point for the hydraulic ram to the silo door.  You can also see the steel plating is damaged at this launcher by drilling, just as it was at silo #3.



Looking back towards the other side of the platform.  I have not moved from the spot where I first arrived on the platform yet.



View from the catwalk looking back at the ceiling above the elevator motor platform



A terrible photo looking down into the silo.  You can see the steep slant of the cable tray I climbed to reach the ledge at the lower right.  You can also see the spot where the missing bolts used to be along the edge.



The massive hardware for the spring assemblies for the launcher elevator motor platform; once again the bolts have been cut off by torches.



The clutter of hydraulic lines, connectors, pillow block and other valves, conduit and equipment encountered in the first quadrant of the catwalk area.  The platforms around the pillow blocks were not damaged as they had been in silo #3.  Still I avoided walking on them as much as possible.



Just beyond the first pillow block looking back the way I had just come from



Same position as the previous photo only looking toward the ceiling



The 50-ton hydraulic lifting jack on the pillow block in the 2nd quadrant of the catwalk area



The steps and platform around the 2nd pillow block and hydraulic jack assembly



I encountered the same pipe and flexible connection as I did in silo #3 with the exact same damage that made it appear to have been torn loose.  As before, it simply rested on the railing.



Looking ahead into the third quadrant.  The hydraulic lines to the 2nd ram for the silo doors can be seen leading up the wall at the top of the photo.



The damaged connector.  This one had a lot more apparent water seepage around it.



Looking back towards the 2nd pillow block



Another collection of hydraulic equipment and lines



Looking at the ceiling where the 2nd hydraulic ram was mounted.  You can see stalactites forming on the ceiling where water has been leaking in for the past 4 decades.



Just past the hydraulic lines to the door looking back the way I'd come from



A view of the inside of the silo doors from the 3rd quadrant



Flexible connections and equipment: 3rd quadrant



Once again the same explosion-resistant electrical junction box with the same explosion and fire-resistant stainless steel braid protecting it.  I found the cover to this box nearby, it weighed about 20 pounds.  I could not resist tossing it into the water below.  It seemed to take forever to hit the water; when it did it made tremendous cacophony in the tomb-like quiet of the silo that echoed for a long time afterwards.



Looking at the silo doors from between the 3rd and 4th quadrant



looking back at the 3rd quadrant from the 4th quadrant



A closer look at the 3rd quadrant ceiling showing a very heavy-duty eye-bolt partially torn from the concrete by what I am certain was a tremendous force of multiple tons.  I am not sure what happened but it must have been a hell of a pull to do this!



Another look back towards the 3rd quadrant



Spring assembly mounting point in the 4th quadrant



A closer look at the hardware that once supported the spring assemblies.



Looking at the ceiling over the pillow block in the 4th quadrant



The pillow block and hydraulic lifting jack assembly in the 4th quadrant



The platform around the pillow block in quadrant 4 with a nice view of NOTHINGNESS over the railing.  This is far scarier viewed first hand.  If I hadn't been such a wuss, I might have gotten some good photos down into the silo from these platforms.  Hey, my just being there was crazy enough.  These pictures will have to do.


One last look at quadrant 4 before departure


Obviously I survived the visit to silo #1 and lived to tell this rather dull tale.  I never attempted to scale silo #2 though I must confess, I gave it some thought...


In the next section, I want to show you a rare sight: the silo cribwork.  Long absent from nearly every silo, I can offer a view of what this impressive structure looks like thanks to the invaluable generosity of some missile fanatics who were lucky enough to see the cribwork for themselves and get some pictures.  I am envious to say the least.  Click below to see the cribwork...



Missile Silos Part VI


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