Moving the Silo

by Carl Chambers from Woodstock, ON

My neighbour Tommy Gordon has a philosophy that any accomplishment is possible if you have enough time and the cost is within reason. He has proved this on many occasions to those who have come to him with problems that seemed to be beyond fixing. 

If you have something to be repaired, welded, rebuilt, manufactured, blown up, blown down or blown out, Tom is your man. He comes from a long line of self-reliant thinkers; something farmers like him have to be to survive.  

At a young age Tommy took up dynamiting as a means of getting rid of the roots of the trees in a field to be newly plowed. He soon moved to blowing down unwanted farm silos. This unusual talent gained him recognition far wide. If there was a silo to come down in southwestern Ontario, Tom got a call. 

He had the reputation of being able to fell a silo within inches of surrounding structures.  

But of all the things Tom blew up, the most famous was certainly the project on Roy Forbes’ farm. 

Ron Forbes actually owned two farms that abutted on the same concession in Woodstock. Ron's problem was that he had fine silo on the south farm but needed one on the north farm. Daily he had to haul feed from the south silo to the north farm. This continual trek back and forth caused a good deal of ware and tear on his equipment. In the Fall of 1993 after the harvesting was done and things were a little less hectic, Ron met with Tom to talk about his problem. They came up with the idea of moving the silo from the south farm to the north farm - a distance of about 3/4 of a mile. And so the adventure began.  

The first order of business was to ensure that there was no whereen route where the elevation was greater than 11 degrees, otherwise the silo would tip over. The proposed route met the requirement. Next, the silo had to be cut through about two feet up from the base with a cement saw.  

The only way to move this behemoth was to get it onto a sled and tow it across the concession. To accomplish this the silo had to be jacked up one side at at time. Enough to get a sled constructed under each side, but never more than the determined 11 degrees.

Tom had to travel to a shipyard in Port Dover to get clevises and cable heavy enough to do the job. In conversation with the ship repair people, they advised Tom to put the cable around the silo and let it pull the sled instead of pulling the sled with the silo on it, otherwise it would likely tip. 

That meant the silo had to reinforced so the pulling cable would not crush it. 

Finally the day came. The cables were attached. The sled was ready. Three bulldozers were fanned out with cables taunt. The show was about to begin. Cars were lined up along the road and there was much argument as to whether or not Tom’s plan would work. There was much wagering as to if and when the silo would topple over. Tom stationed himself in front of the three bulldozers like the grandmaster of the parade which, I suppose in a way he was.

The actual move was a bit of a let down as the dozers and silo moved without a hitch. Once it got going the whole procession moved at the pace of a good walk. There was a hitch however in that there was no base to put it on at destination. Tom, Ron and gang were pretty sure they could pull it off but not sure enough to build the base so everything stopped 20 feet short of home plate. A  
cement base was pored, but by the time it was ready it had rained a good deal and it was a muddy mess to move the silo the last 20 feet, but they got it done.  

The silo moving business is slow as nothing has come up since the big move. I would guess that every time Tom drives by the famous silo he gets a little twinge of satisfaction. As the years have passed by the silo is no longer in use so maybe some day Tom will get the call to come blow it down but I hope it stays standing as it represents what can be done if you are positive and put your mind to it.