Last week I wrote about Dr. Ryan's round barn in Kewanee. This week I'd like to tell you about some of the innovations that made that barn a technological marvel, ahead of its time. It's central silo which could store 250 Tons of hay was filled via a steam engine that ran a conveyor belt up to the top of the silo. There's still a dark stain on the wall from the oil the conveyor used. Over head rails meant that no longer did workers have to trudge heavy loads of feed in wheelbarrows, it glided along effortlessly beside them.
Not only that but the rails could be changed, much like the tracks of a train could be switched so the train would go one way or the other, so too could the grain bins. And being Round meant that again like a train it could run along it's 'route' without stopping to make awkward turns and try to fit into nooks and crannies. The basement of the barn where the prize Black Angus where kept was filled with light, courtesy of a bank of spacious windows that ran the entire circumference of the building.
The round barn's demise as a working model came as farm machinery began to be powered, growing larger and larger until it wouldn't fit inside the narrow confines of the round interior. There are a dwindling supply of these round survivors left in the country and here in Illinois we are privileged to have not only a fine example of one, but also the largest one in the nation. The barn is open to the public the first and 3rd Saturday of every month now thru October. I strongly urge you to go check it out for yourself.