Cairo Grain Elevator Came Down In May 2012

CAIRO — A Cairo landmark described as “ugly and dangerous” came down in May 2012. The nearly 40-year-old grain elevator met the wrecking ball along with a 30-year-old silo nearby that has never stored grain.

Cairo Grain Elevator

Crews were on hand Tuesday to start demolition of the silo but decided they wanted a better look at the spanning rebar and metal that was resting on top of the silo. As the afternoon wore on, they were still waiting for a “cage” they could hook to the crane to ride to the top for a better look and then cut down the metal so it falls inside of the silo.

“It’s not very nice looking and the silo and the elevator are both very dangerous,” said Cairo Mayor Bill Heger, adding that they have had trouble with area teens climbing the silo to paint graffiti. “It’s got to go.”

Brad Teaford, field supervisor with Environmental Works, Inc., said they would probably get to the major portion of the demolition Wednesday, although the contract gives them until June 16 to have it down. Once done with the silo, crews will move on to the elevator, scheduled to be torn down June 18 to 23, but perhaps sooner.

Traffic and trains on Highway 2 and the BNSF Railroad will continue throughout the demolition. Teaford said they will be able to keep the debris contained by “tapping” the silo with the wrecking ball to be assured it is falling the right direction — inside of itself.

“It’s really that simple, you use a steel ball and you just hit it,” he said. “You start at the top and crack it down in.”

Teaford said they will use the ball on a crane only until they get it down low enough they can take it out with an excavator. He said because the buildings are so close to the tracks, the railroad wouldn’t allow any type of implosion because there is less control of where the debris falls.

“We will bring it down mechanically,” Teaford said. “This is a main line. The last thing we want to do is foul the tracks and stop trains.”

Heger said the elevator also was dangerous not only because of the 20-foot pit inside which could trap a trespasser, but because with each strong wind pieces of the tin siding comes off and ends up on the highway or railroad.

“It’s rotting and we are always picking up metal off of the highway,” he said.

Heger said he believed the elevator, built in the 1960s, hadn’t been used in 20 years and the silo was never completed.

He said he has heard two stories about why the silo has sat empty since it was built in the 1970s. One was that the concrete wasn’t poured right and it didn’t pass inspection and the other said the man who had it built went bankrupt.

Heger said that last summer the village board contacted the owner of the elevator, who agreed to sign it over to Cairo so it could be torn down.

“We wanted to get something done to it,” he said. “We’ve been talking about wanting to do something for years but talk is cheap, somewhere along the line you’ve got to put a little action to it.”

The village and Cairo Community Development Board then contacted BNSF and said it was serious about cleaning up the area along the railroad, and BNSF officials agreed to have both structures demolished. Both buildings lie in the railroad right-of-way.

Heger said they hope to plant grass and shrubs in the area and turn it into a park, perhaps even ask the railroad for an old caboose for a focal point to the park.

“It sure is going to look different along here,” he said.

Written by Amy Schweitzer at