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Pioneer Grain Elevator on Stage Coach Road

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Grain elevators are dangerous places. They too often explode, or the unfortunate worker smothers in the interior storage bins.

In the same year the 1916 Union Grain Elevator at Boyd was built, 22 people died because they could not outrun the flames as grain dust exploded at an elevator in the east, at Baltimore.

Boyd sits just off The Dalles California Highway (US 197) on the old stage coach and freight road between the Columbia River and the gold fields at John Day. It was the main road between California and the Columbia River Highway until the Oregon highway folks chose a route further west through Dufur in 1923.

Grain was lifted from horse drawn wagons up a long conveyor belt to the top of the elevator (note the structure on top the elevator) and dropped by chutes into silos or bins below. The grain was stored 10 or more feet deep. A misstep and a worker could fall into a bin, and as in quicksand quickly sink into the wheat and smother. As recently as last year 10 workers in US grain elevators met their fate in that manner.

The Union elevator was built by the farmers in the Boyd area to save them the 12 mile wagon haul to The Dalles on the Columbia River. The Great Southern Railroad built a siding to the elevator, and grain cars could be loaded through a big chute that resembled an elephant's tusk. No record exists of an explosion or suffocation death at the elevator.

The pioneer barn at Boyd collapsed last winter. I photographed the barn last June. The cupola that provided airflow to the hay loft was still standing proudly on the roof then. The loft door was a bit askew, but you could still imagine a loaded hay wagon beneath and a farmer throwing pitchfork loads of hay from the wagon up through the door.

The barn escaped loft fires generated by oxidation of hay too wet to store (thus the cupola), and the ravages of 100 years, only to succumb to last winter's heavy snow load on a weakened roof. A sad loss.

https://youtu.be/1Xx6RyZ6odw

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