Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fort Morgan Sugar Factory (1906-)

So far, all of the northeastern Colorado sugar beet factories that we've visited are shut down or gone. The Fort Morgan factory is different in that it is the only remaining factory from the Colorado sugar beet golden era that is still operational. 104 years old now, it is owned by the grower-owned Western Sugar Cooperative. WSC is also the the owner of the tall silos at the Longmont beet factory site.

When you see sugar beet fields in the area around Longmont, the harvested crop is most likely destined for Fort Morgan.

During the winter when the factory is in full production, you can you see it's steam cloud from miles away, on I-76. The factory "campaign" starts in the fall and continues until as late as early March.

Although the Fort Morgan factory was announced as early as November 1902 in the Greeley Tribune, construction didn't start until April 1906. E. H. Dyer & Co. from Cleveland (builder of the Greeley and Brush factories) was the reported builder of the Fort Morgan factory but as Candy Hamilton writes in her book, the contract went to a new player in the beet plant construction industry, Riter-Conley Manufacturing from Pittsburgh, PA. Riter-Conley took the best ideas from the existing Kilby and Dyer plants in the area and added their own innovations to build a "far superior" factory. Perhaps that is one reason why the Fort Morgan plant is still running? Another reason may be its central location in the prime beet growing territory between the Front Range and the S. Platte River corridor to the Nebraska border.

Surprisingly, the Fort Morgan and Brush factories were constructed at about the same time, were in the same county, and only about twelve miles apart! Similar to Eaton and Greeley, I guess.

The Fort Morgan factory from around 1920:

And from January 2009. I can't help but notice how blue the sky was on this particular day. A big difference from our cloudy weather over the last few weeks!

A pile of beets waiting to be processed:

A stray sugar beet lines up against my size 10.5 shoe:

Beets arrive at Fort Morgan via trucks, all winter. The WSC site has a good overview of the process. They drive up an elevated ramp and drop their load which is then transported to the factory:

I hinted earlier that we would see at least two more sugar factory "dinky" steam engines. The Fort Morgan dinky is on display at the front of the factory. It's inside the factory security perimeter, so this was the closest that I got. Maybe I should have asked the guard if I was allowed to go get a closer view!

The Fort Morgan plant marked the last factory of the first wave (1901-1906) of sugar beet factory investment and construction in northeastern Colorado. There will be two more waves although both were much smaller.

Continuing series on the northeastern Colorado beet sugar factories:

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