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Portal Part V

At the bottom of the portal silo I saw the battered and rusty elevator car.  It looked like parts were missing but I couldn't be sure.  Large vault-style doors stood partially open and were streaked with rust.  The floor was wet and covered with rusty mud and it smelled like the inside of an engine block recovered from the bottom of a deep lake down there.


724-A: Looking down the elevator shaft.  The elevator car sets at the bottom strewn with junk.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


724-A: The bottom of the silo coming within sight.  Some of the structural steel beams that would block this view have been removed during salvage.  The 8'x8' portal blast doors stand open and you can see mud and moisture at the bottom.


Note that the doors open outward.  This is a deliberate design that makes the doors resistant to explosions and overpressures.  There is a lip around the doorway that prevents the doors from being blown inward by an explosion.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


The air smelled wet and the incessant dripping of water surrounded me.  What is all this?  I wondered.  I was afraid to move about much because the floor looked like it had holes in it and I was worried I might trip or fall.  I constantly shined my light on the floor to see that it was safe, and making tentative steps in search of solid flooring.


Confident at last of my footing, I looked up to see where I'd just come from.


724-C, 2005: A great long exposure shot of the entry portal.  This test polaroid (yes polaroid in B&W) was discarded after setting up for a photo with a medium-format camera.  This was one of a series of photos of Lowry 724-C to be included in the National Archives.

Photo by Harry Weddington


724-C, 2005: At the bottom of the portal silo.  The sides of the elevator car stand at each side.  The stairs can be seen heading upward.  Behind the wall directly ahead is where the motor for the elevator is located.  I keep kicking myself for not getting a picture of it!


724-C, 2005: Looking straight up the elevator shaft at the closed silo doors.  A temporary power cable runs at an angle across the elevator cables.  This was installed in 2000 to provide power to the underground complex at the time.  More permanent power had been routed in by the time this photo was taken.


The way back to the surface stretched off into the darkness.  I could see the doors far above, at what seemed like 10 stories up even though the reality was that it was much less than that.


724-C, 2005: Looking at the elevator car interior with it's distinctive light fixtures and control panel.


724-C, 1999: Another look at the elevator car.  The extension cord is powering the work lights in the stairs.


724-C, 2005: More of the elevator interior.  The elevator is about 10 feet by 10 feet at had 3 "stops": The surface; just below the surface below the doors; the bottom of the silo.


724-C, 2005: Freight elevator controls inside the car


724-C, 2005: A closer look at the elevator controls


724-C, 2005: The rest of the controls


Larson 568-B: The elevator car setting on the surface

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Larson 568-B: Another shot of the displaced elevator car.  This view shows the special design of the elevator that allowed it to be raised to the surface by having the pulleys run quite a distance underneath the car.  This extra height allowed the car to travel up to ground level.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Larson 568-B: Underside of the elevator car showing the pulleys

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Lowry 725-A, circa 1985: The elevator motor and drive mechanism viewed from the walkway above.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Lowry 725-B, 1978: Elevator motor and mechanism.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Larson 568-B: The freight elevator motor, gear train, cable and cables sheaves.  You can see the large gearbox here that contains a drive gear about 3 feet in diameter.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


Larson 568-B: Another look at the elevator motor assembly which has been removed and abandoned at the surface for some reason.  Yes, it's another fine Otis Elevator product folks.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler


724-C, 2005: Looking out from inside the elevator at the bottom of the portal silo.  The 8'x8' blast doors can be seen framing the figure of the ACoE photographer Harry Weddington, hard at work setting up a shot of the main tunnel junction (T.J.#10).


Harry has worked for the Army Corps. of Engineers for many years documenting ACoE projects around the world.  He was on site at 724-C to take photos of the Titan 1 complex for the National Archives.  Myself and 724-C's former owner were along as consultants and to assist with the work.


There was so much to see that I'm sure we rushed through the portal silo into the unknown tunnels beyond.  The huge blast doors were larger than any bank vault door I'd seen; the wheel was frozen and would not turn.  We peered into the murky water at the bottom of the silo and moved on.


724-C, 2005: Right blast door from the outside


724-C, 2005: Blast door from the inside showing the locking mechanism


724-C, 2005: The very bottom of the portal silo, below the level of the elevator car interior.  There is about 10 feet or more of empty space to accommodate the bottom portion of the elevator car.  As you can see in this photo, all the water that leaks in has been accumulating here.  Through the water you can see a chair and other discarded junk a the bottom.  Floating on the surface of the water you can see several light bulbs that I will confess to having dropped there from far above as I replaced the lights in the stairs.  Also visible are beams supporting the elevator shaft structure.  Back and to the right is where the elevator motor can be found.


A ladder just out of sight toward where I stood provided maintenance access to the area below the elevator (except when it's flooded like this).


Just beyond the blast doors there was a broad tunnel that branched off into the darkness.  We could see more tunnels leading away from this intersection that seemed to go in all directions.  It was then that I began to realize that this place was so much larger than I had ever thought.


724-C, 2005: Looking from the main tunnel junction into the portal silo.  The yellow gate is part of the elevator car, but it appears that it may not be original.  


In the foreground you can see a wooden frame has been fitted to mount two doors taken from the control center into the silo doorway.  You can see these doors wouldn't properly lock and I think they were in fact fitted with a hasp to allow locking with a padlock.  You can also see where the glass was broken out of the right side door so this was not a very effective means of keeping people out.


724-C, 1999: Portal silo entrance with it's awkward plywood door frame at right.  The electrical box is not original and I think it carried an alarm system contact on the doors and perhaps some lighting.


724-C, 2005: Wider view looking into the portal silo from the main tunnel junction.


Historical photo of an unknown Titan 1 site in sparkling new condition.  The old place hasn't looked this good in a long, long time.

Photo courtesy of Fred Epler

Now you're deep inside the complex surrounded by tons of concrete and steel.  Where would you like to go next?  Click on the links below to look around in the main tunnel junction (T.J.#10) or to see the main map to visit elsewhere.


T.J. #10 or Go to Main Map


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