The History of Elaboration of the Grain Elevators

Wooden Grain Elevators
(1924 - 1927)
The Construction of a Bakery Enterprise
The Construction of the Grain Elevator Headhouse The Construction of a Mill Skeleton-type Building Made of Precast Structures The Grain Elevator Construction of 1964

Bread has always been and it remains to be the main wealth of any country at all the stages of the human society development.

Indeed, almost 90% of the world’s population consumes baked bread or other products made from grain as a daily staple foodstuff. It is not accidentally that the grain production is a key industry of rural economy in the majority of the countries all over the world.

Seasonality of the grain production results in the necessity to create stocks of the grain and store it to meet current needs of the population, needs of the livestock farming and to create a seed stock.

The world grain production annually reaches 1,0 –  1,2 billion tons. Yet, about 100 – 120 million tons, i.e. 10% of the whole production, are wasted. One of the main reasons of such a situation is a lack of the grain storage capacity.

The construction of granaries in Russia started in 1870 – 1880.

At that time circumstances for creation of the elevator-warehouse industry took a favorable turn. Even though it was extremely urgent for Russia, whose bread trade had a great economic significance and provided the country with about a half of the whole amount of foreign currency, this industry was not arranged properly regarding organizational matters.

In 1861 – 1865 the average amount of the grain that was exported from Russia annually was 1,3 million tons, in 1906 – 1910 it was 10 million tons.

The harvest of the grain crops in the Russian Empire before the October Revolution was 64 – 72 million tons annually. 24 million tons of the whole supply served the bread turnover system, i.e. it was a cash crop of the harvest that was excluded from the rural economy. One half of 24 million tons was exported abroad.

The issue of grain elevator constructions in the Russian Empire was a subject matter of multiple and futile discussions raised by numerous committees.

The elevator-warehouse industry of the Russian Empire consisted of a number of separate grain elevators and warehouses that belonged to departments, organizations and private individuals. In fact there were no organized grain and bread producing system. The grain losses were huge and were evaluated in 160 million rubles annually because of grain and bread trade disorganization.


The Grain Elevator Industry History of Our Country Can Be Divided into Seven Stages.


The first stage. (The end of the 80s of the 19th century up to 1911). At that period the first mechanized public granaries (or grain elevators) were built in Russia. The grain elevator in Novgorod, constructed in 1887, was a brick building with wooden storage silos with the total capacity that was equal to 6,5 thousand tons. In 1888 the grain elevator with the capacity that was equal to 6,5 thousand tons with the equipment, produced in Bryansk engineering plants, was constructed in Yelets.

The first stage is also characterized as the beginning of elevator constructions in the ports of Novorossiysk, Nikolayev, Odessa, Vindava.  By 1910 75 elevators with the total capacity equal to 450 thousand tons had been built.

According to Professor D.V. Shumskiy, in 1910 the total capacity of the granaries at Russian railways composed 5700 thousand tons, including 1800 thousand tons stored in the ports. Only 450 thousand tons of the whole capacity of all the railway station granaries were at the grain elevators. The rest of the granaries were just minor stores without any mechanization. The rail transport could not cope with the grain transportation that is why grain was kept in the bundles at the stations.


The second stage. (From 1911 till the Great October Socialist Revolution and the nationalization of large granaries (February of 1918)). At that stage all the elevators were built by the State Bank that constructed 47 elevators with the total capacity equal to 480 thousand tons and, all in all, granaries with the capacity equal to 970 thousand tons at the period of operation (1911-1917). The State Bank took over a number of grain elevators built by the railway system.

At that stage the network of grain elevators that united all the uncoordinated granaries first appeared. The grain and bread inspection that introduced the qualitative documents was initiated. The State Bank held shelling, drying and other operations in the grain elevators. During the period of its operation the State Bank in the revenue from the grain elevators refunded 15 million rubles from 29 million gold rubles spent on the construction of grain elevators. By the end of 1918 the total capacity of granaries had been 6800 thousand tons, including 125 grain elevators and mechanized warehouses with the total capacity equal to 1000 thousand tons. In February 1918 the Decree of the CPC of the RSFSR, signed by V.I. Lenin, announced that all the grain elevators were nationalized and transferred to the People's Commissariat Narcomprod.


The third stage. (The Civil War years (1918-1921) and the years of the recovery period (1922-1928)). At that stage, in the terms of the small peasantry prevalence in the country, the construction of the grain elevators and warehouses was held by numerous state and cooperative procurement organizations. By 1921-1922 the formation of the state bread turnover system had begun. In 1922 the Stock Company “Khleboproduct” was created. Since 1924 the SC “Khleboproduct” began construction of grain elevators. Over the same period of time the grain elevator constructions were realized by the department of the State Bank of the USSR and by the company “ExportKhleb”. The types of grain elevators of 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927 years’ periods were introduced. All in all, before 1928 233 grain elevators had been constructed and 13 ones had been finished building. The elevators constructed during those years had capacity equal to 700 – 2000 tons, and, actually, they were wooden and free-flow with receiving barns without inner driveways. The grain was delivered in sacks. Lots of elevators made five-six turnovers, some could even make 15 ones annually.The construction of large precast (concrete-steel) grain elevators started: a harbor silo one in Nikolaev and a number of the mill type ones in Tashkent, Moscow, Dnepropetrovsk, Kulomzino (Omsk), etc.

By the end of that stage the total capacity of granaries had been 8000 thousand tons, including the fact that 17% were provided by the grain elevators.


The fourth stage. (Since the collectivization of small peasant farms and creation of collective farms (1928-1929) to the beginning of the World War II). At that time the elevator-warehouse industry was joined into a unified state procurement system “HklebSoyuz”, which was reformed into “Zagotzerno” in 1932. In 1930 the changes in the grain production and its procurements took place along with the beginning of the mass collectivization. The grain procurements were only held in autumn for three – four months from that period; the amount of grain delivered to the procurement stations in a short period of time was increased. The mass construction of numerous stores, erecting of large grain elevators near flour and cereal milling companies, at the junctions of the railways and in the ports characterized that stage.

The main issues of the examined stage were procurement grain elevators of the DL-75 type with the capacity equal to 5000 tons; and since 1939 that was DL-5500 with the capacity 5500-11000 tons. These elevators in comparison with the previous ones had not only a bigger capacity but they also had more powerful transport equipment and grain-cleaning machines. A great number of elevators were built near the mills in Novosibirsk, Gorkiy, Orenburg, Poti, etc. Big harbor silos were created in Kherson and Mariupol.

By the time of the World War II the total capacity of the country granaries was 36 million tons, including 12% that were provided by the grain elevators. During the years of the World War II 1/3 of the whole network of the elevator-warehouse industry was lost; including 280 grain elevators. With the release of the occupied territories the network of grain procurement companies was recovered immediately, i.e. the construction of granaries wasn’t ceased even for a single year. Over the period 1941-1945 the stores with the total capacity equal to 6,2 million tons were built, including 2,2 million tons in 1944 and 1,4 million tons in 1945.


The fifth stage. (The first five years of the postwar period (1946-1950), during which the destroyed granaries were reconstructed). It was contemplated by the law of a five-year plan of reconstruction and development of the national economy to reconstruct and to build granaries and grain elevators with the total capacity equal to 6,4 million tons. The task was overfulfilled greatly: the total capacity of the granaries put into operation was 19,4 million tons, including 18,9 million tons of the stores. Only during 1949 and 1950 the granaries with the capacity over 10 million tons were put into operation. By that time a big number of the destroyed elevators were renewed, and they were built on the old bases but using reinforced concrete framing. The precast (concrete-steel) procurement grain elevator L-2×100 with the capacity equal to 5,5 – 11,0 thousand tons and a stone granary with the capacity equal to 3,2 thousand tons were characteristic for the postwar period. By the end of the fourth five-year plan the total capacity of the granaries (procurement companies, selling warehouses, warehouses for the finished products storage) had greatly exceeded the capacity of the grain elevators and warehouses before the World War II.


The sixth stage. (From 1951 to 1971). It was a transition of the grain elevator industry to a higher technical basis. At that stage the elevator industry got a task to mechanize all the operations with grain and gradually transfer from the building of non-mechanized granaries to the mechanized ones. A grain elevator had to become the centre of mechanization of all the operations with grain.

The successful fulfillment of the XIX Party Congress decisions, the decisions of September (1953) and February (1954) plenary sessions of the CPSU CC allowed to increase both the grain production and the volume of its supply to the procurement companies. The mass construction of the procurement companies, mainly warehouses, started and the centre of their mechanization was drying and cleaning towers (DCT). At that period along with the construction of DCTs such elevators like L-3×100 (type 1953), L-4×175 (1955), L-3×175 (1956) were designed and constructed. The decisions of the XX Party Congress of the CPSU CC contemplated further development of all the branches of industry and agriculture. The current construction of granaries at that stage was based on the main task fulfillment of complete mechanization of all the operations and of the receiving and processing of all the grain during the period of 30 days. The mass construction of the grain-storage sections of the elevators from the precast (concrete-steel) structures started. “Prozernoproekt” worked out new grain elevators of LV--4×175 type with the capacity equal to 80 thousand tons, L-4×100 type with the capacity equal to 24 thousand tons and others that were expected to being built in the eastern parts of the country.

At the XXII Party Congress of the CPSU the CPSU Program that called for the further growth of the grain production was accepted.

A new stage of the agricultural policy development and realization started in 1965. The Communist Party chose the basis of an integrated program for the agricultural development during March (1965) plenary session of the CPSU CC. As the result of the fulfillment of the party and government decisions in the field of the grain elevator industry development, the specific weight of mechanized granaries increased from 14,4 up to 77,6% in 1967 in contrast to1954. At that period the total capacity of the grain elevators raised in 3.5 times and their specific weight of the general granary capacity grew from 7 up to 14%. Putting into operation the grain elevators and granaries as the result of building new ones, expansion and reconstruction of functional ones for the period of 20 postwar years can be presented with the following data (capacity, %):

  Elevators Granaries
The 4th Five-Year Plan (1946-1950) 4,4 14,9
The 5th Five-Year Plan (1951-1955) 16,8 25,2
3 years after the 6th Five-Year Plan (1956-1958) 13,3 11,8
Seven-Year Plan (1959-1965) 33,5 24,7
Including the last 5 years (1961-1965) 25,5 20,2
6,5 3,2
Total 100 100
The Construction of an Elevator Made from the Solid Reinforced Concrete The Construction of an Elevator Made from the Precast Concrete

According to the Five-Year Plan (1966 -1970) the elevators with the total capacity in 3.5 times more than in the previous five years were planned and built. The task was set that an annual grain reserve besides the current consumption had to be put into the grain elevators. The grain elevator industry advanced greatly in the consumption areas.


The seventh stage. That was a period of the grain elevator industry elaboration in the country from 1971 to the 90s. At that time an extensive program of granary construction and, first of all, grain elevators was worked out. The following measures were provided for to implement that program:

1. To increase the existed elevators’ capacity by means of a construction of grain-storage section expansions.

2. To construct the elevators with the capacity of 150-200 thousand tons for a long-term grain storing, elevators with the silos ø12 m and with their height 30 m and 40 m along with the procurement grain elevators with the capacity 50 thousand tons.

3. To construct grain elevators near the mills and near the cereal producing mills taking into account 6 and even 9-month’s grain reserve storage.

4. To use industrial methods of construction, particularly, the precast (reinforced) concrete. The fulfillment of the following measures allowed increasing the elevator capacity of the granaries and advancing all the operations with the grain in the procurement companies and grain elevators (Table 1).


1. The dynamics of putting granaries into operation (%)

  1966-1970 Towards 1966-1970
1971-1975 1976-1980
Total number all over the USSR 100 69,6 75,9
Including elevators 100 190,8 235,6

In the 80s a few grain elevators completely made from metal with the silos of the 7-meters diameter and of 30-meters height of Pardubice Machine Engineering (CSSR) plant production were built. But their construction and maintenance did not verify the benefits expected. In our country the reinforced concrete grain elevators were designed and constructed being specialized as procurement, stock, trans-shipping (port warehouse) and industrial. All in all, more than 50 standard or reusable designs of grain elevators with different grain-storage sections with the total capacity of more than 60 million tons were implemented. The maximal capacity of the elevators built in our country was 150-170 thousand tons.

At the transition period of the 90s of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century few granaries were built in Russia; according to different data, there were approximately 20 grain elevators, including separate grain-storage section expansions (groups of silos) at the operating enterprises as well as grain, trans-shipping complexes with the metal silos.


The eighth stage. The end of the 90s was marked with the emergence of the grain metal silo complexes (GMSC). The search for the ways of building grain containers that could possess advantages of the classical grain elevators and were not burdensome with disadvantages of their constructions, had led to the idea of a metal silos constructions, including the silos of a big diameter that got a wide approval and a mass introduction in recent decades. Such granaries, in the form of separate metal silos, especially of a big diameter, resemble the containers for oil or other liquid storing. By the 80s of the previous century grain metal containers in the form of separate silo groups of different capacity had taken a leading position, especially at farms of manufacturers of agricultural goods and at the local grain elevators as soon as the grain metal silo complexes (GMSC) appeared in lots of countries (the USA, Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, etc.).

The bigger part of the granaries operating with the horizontal floors were quickly replaced that, at the same time, solved the problem of a complete mechanization and automation of all the operations with grain; first of all, due to the silos with conical bottoms. Such silos have been built and are still constructed instead of the written-off small and average elevators. Due to the construction of the grain metal silo complexes, the deficit of granaries in lots of countries was disposed very quickly. Owing to some winning, in comparison with classical elevators, advantages the grain metal silo complexes during their construction are often granted priority in planning of new and in expansion of the functioning granaries in Russia, as well. Meanwhile, if self-loading freely-standing metal silos (groups of silos) are used as the main capacities in such granaries, then there is almost no difference in their functioning comparing to the grain elevators with ordinary grain-storage sections. However the diameter of such silos according to the structural and economical indexes does not usually exceed 9 m, in general they are up to 6 – 7 m that is why the capacity of one of such a silo does not come to more than 1000 tons of the grain.

If necessary to construct the granaries of a bigger capacity, the silos with the flat bottoms are more economical (due to specific expenses). Their diameter can reach 20 m and more, and their capacity may be 1,5; 3,0; 4,0; 5,0; 7,0 thousand tons and more. In such silos the main part of the grain is usually released through the central funnel on a chain conveyor set under the bottom. The rest of the grain is served into the same funnel with the help of so-called point conveyer screw; and the cleaning of the bottom (up to 5 cm of the grain layer) is accomplished by air discharger or by hand. Silos with a flat bottom are not far away from mechanized granaries as for the off-loading level, and according to this fact they are inferior to the elevators.

Similar to the grain elevators the same equipment is used in the structure of the grain metal silo complexes. The productivity of the production lines in the GMSC basically comes to 100 –200 t/h, for the transferring facilities it is increased up to 350 –500, for trans-shipping facilities it comes to 1200 t/h and more. The grain metal silo complexes in our country are currently constructed at the grain-producing farms and at the grain processing companies, in the seaports and at the wharfs.

The contemporary elevator industry, being an important branch of the industrial infrastructure of the national economy and the integral part of the country’s agricultural complex, has an available complex machinery, a high level of manufacturing processes automation, that are connected with the grain receiving and post-harvest grain processing.

The further development of the elevator industry requires accounting of the production increase and the grain storage; harvest time reduction; expansion of the rational network of procurement companies to provide an uninterrupted grain receiving; development of road, rail and water transport.

The procurement of big grain amounts in short terms requires notably efficient organization of its uninterrupted receiving, off-loading, processing and distribution.

The solution of the given problem can be possible only in case of the comprehensive approach to work organization with the grain in terms of the advanced methods implementation.