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What happens when wheat is loaded into a grain elevator?

Scales, legs, cups, boots, and belts - those are just a few of the things you'll find at a Kansas grain elevator!

After a combine cuts and cleans the wheat, the combine dumps the wheat kernels into a truck which heads to a grain elevator. At the elevator, there's a huge scale - big enough to weigh a semi-truck. One at a time, each full wheat truck drives onto the scale and is weighed. Once the truck is weighed, it drives off the scales and into a drive-thru opening in the grain elevator. The truck drives onto a huge grate. With the help of the elevator's workers, the truck driver lines up the back of the truck so that the wheat will fall out of the truck, thru the grate, and into a big pit under the grate. The workers open sliding panels in the back of the truck's grain box. The truck raises the grain box up higher and higher until all the wheat slides to the back of the truck and falls out and thru the grate.

Some trucks, especially old trucks, can't raise the grain box. Instead, the front wheels of the truck drive onto a lift, which picks up the front of the truck and raises it up so that the wheat will fall out the back of the grain box. Many of the larger, newer trucks have hoppers underneath the grain box. These are like funnels which are centered over the grate and opened. The wheat falls out without having to raise the truck or the grain box.

Once the truck is empty, the empty truck drives out of the grain elevator drive-thru and back to the scales, where it is weighed again. The grain elevator subtracts the empty weight from the full weight to know how much wheat the truck brought to the elevator.

While the wheat truck heads back to the wheat field for another load of wheat, the wheat is already moving inside the grain elevator. The wheat that was dumped thru the grate is sliding down a sloped concrete path into a lower pit called the boot pit. The boot is at the bottom of the leg, which is the part of the grain elevator that picks up the grain and moves it to the top - just like a regular elevator picks up people and moves them up inside a skyscraper!

Inside the leg is a big belt that goes up and down - from the boot to the top of the leg. All up and down the belt are steel cups. Each cup is about the size of a shoe box. As the belt goes thru the boot, each cup scoops up wheat kernels to carry to the top of the leg. As the belt goes over the top and turns to go back down, the cup turns upside down and dumps the wheat. The wheat is moved into different storage areas in the grain elevator by funnels and conveyer belts (belts like those that move your food thru the check-out stand at the grocery store or supermarket).