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Missile Silo Part 6


The Crib Structure


For me one of the most enigmatic parts of the entire Titan I complex (apart from the silo itself) are the cribwork structures that once resided in the silos and supported the great and terrible force freshly born of the developing nuclear age.  


The cribwork was a wealth of steel and as such was seen as pure dollar signs to the salvage contractor whose profits were measured in sheer tons of cold steel.  It is then little surprise that  nearly every single Titan I site no longer holds this 14-story monolith within its protective confines. 


I do not really know exactly how these structures were removed when it comes down to the gritty details, but I do know it involved a cutting torch and very large cranes.  The planning, which must have been rather complicated to safely and quickly complete such a task, no doubt varied from contractor to contractor and surely took weeks or months to complete.


Some sites were left with some major features of the silo interior intact, such as the fuel terminal or even portions of the valuable stainless steel piped LOX terminal left behind, but few retained some if any portions of the towering cribwork.


In its absence it is difficult to appreciate the size and complexity of the cribwork .  My time at the two Lowry sites I was fortunate enough to get to see revealed nothing of what comprised these features since nothing remained unless it was submerged at the bottom of the flooded launchers.


I held little hope of ever seeing the cribwork-- it was gone from all the sites (so I thought); I could find no detailed operational photos save but a few disjointed and scattered views, and I could find no plans or blueprints showing how they were put together and exactly how they functioned.  The best I could come up with was a few diagrams from the Titan I Operational Manual (AKA: "the dash 1" so named due to the document's trailing digit in the Air Force's Tech Order numbering scheme: 21M-HGM25A-1-1).

PLEASE NOTE: Many images in this section are very high resolution and may take a while to load.  The images are much larger than they are displayed here, so if you save and view them you can see them at full resolution.  Please be patient and enjoy the details.

A "Dash One" diagram of the cribwork leaves many questions unanswered for the terminally curious like myself.


Note: the spiral staircase was a luxury afforded only to the Operational Test Facility at Vandenberg (VAFB) only.  The operational sites had to schlep up and down the ladder or wait for the personnel elevator to arrive.


Another diagram from the dash one showing more intricate details

By sheer good fortune, I was to find out that the cribwork was in fact not gone from all the Titan I sites, and better still that someone had been lucky enough to get inside one such site and get detailed photos of what remained of the underground "high-rise building" that I had not been able to see.

Bigwigs touring the site before site turnover to the Air Force-- Viewed from inside the silo cribwork structure.


This was one of the few existing photos I had been lucky enough to see from before the sites were salvaged.

Eventually time bore a few more pictures of the cribwork, mostly taken during construction such as these following pictures and those in section I, and a few others but I wanted to see more.


cribwork and missile launcher platform being fabricated

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler



The missile launcher platform upon which the missile itself would be installed.  The flame bucket opening is visible at the trailing end of the structure in this photo.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


The top of the personnel elevator and an access ladder near shock mounts close to the bottom of the silo.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Missile launcher and umbilical tower prior to missile emplacement

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler

Eventually I heard that at one or more Titan I sites, the cribwork still existed in whole or in part and I was deeply intrigued.  I really wanted to see the cribwork for myself and get some pictures to remember it and to show others what it looked like.


At that time I was still watching over 724-C and I hoped that someone might let me see one of the sites with cribwork in exchange for a grand tour of 724-C.  Alas, that never happened and I never did get to see the cribwork up close or tour one of the other Titan I sites.  


Finally 724-C was purchased and I could no longer visit the site without permission and about a year later I moved out of Colorado as well.


While it turned out that I would get to visit a Titan I site again, I had given up hope of seeing the cribwork.  


As luck would have it, I would get to see the cribwork after all, just not in person.  First I found pictures of the cribwork at and later I was fortunate enough to be shown pictures of the cribwork and be allowed to show them here for others to see.


Below there follows many of those fascinating pictures I saw.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  These pictures were taken by Lance R. Wright and scanned and provided by Fred Epler.  Additional photos were taken and provided by Walter Silva.  Many thanks to them for their efforts, contributions and for sharing these photos!


The first group of photos all show the very top at the silo cap from below and looking upward from the cribwork itself.  So, working our way from the top down...

Looking straight up here you see one of the four pillow blocks (upper left) that supported the cribwork as well as one of the lateral crib stabilization jacks (top center).  These systems comprised a part of the locking and stabilizing mechanism for the cribwork.


Another view of the east side of the upper cribwork


Looking up from beneath some of the upper maintenance platforms


Another maintenance platform below the hydraulic ram placement for one of the silo doors

The following pictures are photo-montages assembled to give a broader and more complete view of the cribwork.  The pictures were carefully fitted together to achieve this effect of a much larger field of view than the camera could provide.  As I progress though the cribwork there will be more such montages that show a very complete picture of the cribwork.  Some of the individual shots will be recognizable in these images.  The photographer carefully took these photos from one position to allow the images to be assembled in this way.  It is a simple method but it has striking results and I am very happy that the effort was taken to do this.

View showing the entire east side of the cribwork shown from below.  Note the lateral crib jacks that extend out from the structure to secure it in place.



Another view with more cribwork visible

Looking around more, the shape of the cribwork really starts to emerge as well as its size and complexity.  This next group of photos show the catwalk level of the cribwork.

View from the launcher elevator motor platform.  One of its enormous suspension springs is visible on the left.






This steel jaw once bore the entire weight of one of the silo's huge concrete and steel doors-- approximately 220 tons.




Motor platform and suspension at the cap catwalk level.  The former location of this platform is where I was able to climb up onto the catwalk level in my crazy adventures described in sections IV and V.


This platform once held the two very large motors that raised and lowered the missile






The disconcerting cantilevered platforms that circumvent the pillow blocks


Notice how the vertical crib jacks have been removed.  If I am not mistaken, this cribwork is suspended only by the giant rusting spring suspension system far below under the cold, dark water that fills the bottom two-thirds of the silo.

The cribwork is continued in the next large section.  Click below to see more cribwork.



Missile Silos Part VII


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