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Bunker Silo Built From Railroad Ties
Using old railroad ties and steel I-beams, Andrew Barclay built a solid bunker silo for a cost of just $6,400.
The Calmar, Alberta farmer remembered seeing a similar silo in his native Scotland before he moved to Canada several years ago and put the simply designed silo together almost entirely by himself.
The silo is 22 by 70 ft. with 12-ft. high walls and holds 350 tons of silage. It has a 4 1/2-in. thick concrete floor over a sand base. Key to the construction is the use of steel I-beams and rail-road ties.
Barclay paid about $7.50 a running foot for I-beams and $5 a piece for the ties. "Ties are the hardest thing to find. When you find them, make sure they're not rotten inside. I took along a hammer and could tell if they were solid or not by hitting them with it."
The I-beams are spaced 94 in. apart and sunk 5 ft. deep in large concrete footings that are tied with reinforcing rod into the concrete floor of the silo. Once the beams were in, it was simply a matter of sliding the railroad ties into the channels on the beams, forming a solid wall.
"The ties were not all the same length and some of them were rounded on the ends so I cut them all off to a uniform 94 in.," says Barclay. "They fit quite tightly together so the walls are virtually airtight, although there was a little spoilage on the south side where the sun warmed the walls. We lined the inside of that wall with plastic. The entire silo can be lined with plastic or plywood if air gaps or creosoted-ties are a problem."
Some of the ties had tar or creosote buildup along one or more sides so he made an effort to put the cleanest side inward.
"It'll take a lot of abuse if you bump it with a tractor loader or other equipment. If you do break a tie, you can easily slide it out and replace it," notes Barclay.
Another advantage of the design is that the silo could easily be turned into a building. "If I ever decide to get out of dairying, I can put a roof over it and use it for other purposes. With an upright silo, you're stuck, since there really aren't anyother practical uses for it."
In the corners, where two I-beams meet at right angles, Barclay welded scrap iron across them for extra support and to form a ladder which makes it handy to get on top to put on a plastic cover or to take a sample. He plans to build a second railroad tie bunker silo this summer.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Andrew Barclay, Calmar, Alberta, (ph 403 985-3218).

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1984 - Volume #8, Issue #3