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Chain of Milk

In 1949, the new, centrally-located Tillamook cheese plant was opened. It was large and modern, a “show place of the Pacific Coast.” An expansive wall of glass windows in the cheesemaking room let sunlight shine on the stainless steel cheese vats. And outside, there was the milk chain.

In the old days, farmers would deliver their milk to the small creameries first by horse-drawn wagon, then by pick-up truck. The cans would be hefted onto a platform, weighed, sampled and then often would immediately be poured into a waiting vat.

At the new 1949 plant, farmers would deliver their full cans of milk to milk receiving where they were unloaded into the milk chain. This automatic, continuous belt conveyor moved the full cans into the receiving room where they were weighed, sampled, emptied and washed before being sent back out to the waiting farmers.

And it wasn’t only for milk, there are more than a few stories from local adults who remember playing as kids on the milk chain, riding on the conveyor or creating a blockade and holding back the empty cans.

By the late 1960s, milk cans were becoming obsolete and were replaced with tanker trucks. Of the two received bays at the Tillamook plant, one was removed in the late 1970s to make room for the Visitors Center expansion. The second one was converted into our current milk receiving area. Today, we use refrigerated tankers trucks to pick up the milk from the farm.

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