Moving a Used Grain Bin: A Day in the Life of a Rural Contractor
Grain Bins and the Economy
As a contractor's wife, I've helped move, dismantle, and rebuild several grain bins in the last seven years . . . not always in that order.
Most of the time, it goes pretty well. There are those occasions where it doesn't go well . . . like the time my husband took out street after street of cable TV lines with a grain bin on a big trailer, streaking through a nearby town, because he was on a deadline for his now-out-of-business boss.
But, most of the time, it's a straightforward endeavor.
Grain bins represent the life of many rural communities.
You see, every so often, farmers swap, bid or buy someone else's equipment and such, when they change directions, or an old farmer dies and has an estate sale, or just plain are forced out of business by hailed crops, failed wells, or other calamities. Sometimes, a man can afford to buy new bins outright, and these are the good, easy jobs for us . . . the ones my man and I prefer to take.
Grain bins are a way of telling how good a farmer thinks the future of agriculture is likely to be. If he's letting them go to pot, he reckons he won't be in business much longer. If he's getting more, or taking good care of those he has and keeping them full, he thinks the future looks bright. I guess the locals thought 2009 was a good year . . . it's probably just the extra rain that turned the pastures green that went to their heads and made them feel it was worth buying good seed for planting, and worth feeding replacement heifers.
And buying grain bins.
An Insider's View
Phase One: Dismantling the Lower Half of the Bin
We began with a crew of three: My husband, his friend and co-worker Les, and myself. (Perhaps I should include my children, too, as they prompted us when to take breaks, and brought strange plants and rocks, bits of rubbish, and other curiosities to us for identification or amusement.) Our goal was to make the bin short enough to be safely loaded onto a trailer and hauled without incident from one farm to another. This meant we had to dismantle the first three rings, or tiers, of sheets, from the bottom up.
We made record time on this part. All of us knew what we were doing, and none of the bolts were rusted badly enough to require torching. There had been no pigeons roosting inside, and there were but traces of sunflower seeds scattered throughout. An impact wrench, some vice grips, a good box-end wrench, and a boomtruck were the primary tools. We cheated, and left the rings in three pieces of two sheets each, plus one lone sheet, instead of taking them clear apart. Within two and a half hours, we had the bin ready to load.
The kids, meanwhile, played nearby in the fields and farmyard. The farmer's widow lived there still and provided them with a little wagon full of playthings. They preferred the wagon itself, and dragged it about in the mud puddles, pausing occasionally to raid a windfall of immature crab apples on the lawn.
Grain Bin Moving Convoy
The Highline Incident
Phase Two: Moving the Bin
All started out well, once the bin was safely on a huge trailer. We continued in caravan style for a few miles, idling along, completely without incident.
Then came a corner, with highline wires crossing over it.
Now, Les has loads of experience moving bins, but this day he misjudged how close he could get to those wires. Ever seen burnt gravel? I got my chance that afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't have leisure to get a picture for your benefit.
As he crept around the corner, he must have thought he could barely slip under without touching the wires. Bad call. Suddenly, Hubby ran yelling toward Les's truck, waving his arms. Immediately, Les backed the rig up and got out to survey the damage. Everything looked okay (including Les), save for a dark patch on the road.
We proceeded with more caution, while Les held the wires aloft with a fiberglass pole.
A bit down the road, we met with more wires, but refrained from tangling with them and their power-hungry ways. A lesson learned the first time!
Still, clouds and poofs of dust rose rhythmically up from the driver's side of the trailer. As Les got out, I raced to the examination site, and captured this priceless photo:
. . . amid yells from Les . . .
"You quit takin' pictures!"
I have yet to decide if he was really upset. He doesn't yell often. I'd risk it again, however, for such a photo.
It appears that the power from the highlines managed to ground from the bin, through the trailer, through the axels, through the steel belts which were already showing in the tires . . . and left a mark of carbon from the tires on the road (the burnt spot).
So Les limped the truck along on the blown tires, and less than two miles later, we arrived at the farm where we needed to deliver the bin, and the adventure for the day was done . . .
. . . saving that the company specializing in bin hardware didn't send any anchor bolts. Instead, they provided us with a box full of nothing.
Wonder who paid the shipping on that one?
Would I Do it Again?
It's my life . . . it keeps me close to the people among whom I was raised . . . to the land, and cattle, and crops, and wild plains and fields where jack rabbits bound and arrowheads may still be found.
More than this, though, it makes for a pretty day:
You can't move such a bin down a muddy dirt road at more than an idle. The day was warm, but not severe, and the wheat was still green and fresh smelling. Wild flowers grew in the ditches, and our caravan was moving slowly enough to allow me to examine, enjoy, and identify some of them.
I found a bushy growth of wild vetch at one corner, and heard meadowlarks on the fenceposts. I saw tracks of raccoons and snakes near the ditches, and had time to think.
Yeah, even the flops in this business make for a good life.
Same Trip, Different Bin
The next bin we moved along that route went well. Les solved the high-line problem by moving four feet over in the road, clearing the line completely.
One of these days, I'll get some pictures of how we actually build a grain bin from scratch, and also how we tear down an old one completely.
Thanks for reading.
Important Grain Bin Tools and Hardware
- Simes Grain Bin Jacks, Centerpoles, Bin Jacking Tools
Grain bin jacks or jacking systems for sale or rent. Farm bin A-frame jacks, Commercial mechanical Simes Grain Bin Jacks and Hydraulic lifting jacks.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
When you move the grain bins that you had to disassemble on the round bins that do not have support poles, how did you take the roof apart? It is held together by a ring in the middle and the bolts to each other. Do you use special equipment? And I noticed in your pictures there was a man unbolting the bottom rings and he was on the inside of the bin. It doesn’t fold under the weight of the standing bin?
I can only answer very briefly, but have articles about to go up which will explain more. For roof--using impact wrench, unbolt upper collar (center ring) if there is one. Next unbolt one sheet and slide it out. Do another one opposite. Remove sheets in opposites (spoke formation), until there are only 4 left. You will need to support the center ring throughout process. On a small bin, the bin walls are unlikely to collapse under their own weight.Helpful 5
© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen