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Washington State's Canal Giant

Raymond Hanson

RSS BiographyHanson, Raymond A. –age 85, passed away peacefully at home on February 19, 2009. Raymond was born on December 10, 1923 to Ray & Orda (Hensley) Hanson at Potlatch, Idaho. Raymond was the founder of R.A. Hanson Company (RAHCO). He was a member of the Rotary, Elks and numerous other clubs and associations throughout the Spokane area. Raymond was an avid pilot, motorcyclist and skier. Raymond received an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the University of Idaho. Raymond is survived by his wife of 44 years, Lois Hanson of the home; children, Richard & Joan Hanson, Denise Hanson, and Dennis & Norma Jean Hanson all of Spokane; step children, Patricia McAtee (Frayne), Rathdrum, ID, Theodore & Joan Redman, Spokane, Eric & Susan Redman, Spirit Lake East, ID. He is also survived by 20 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and a niece, Janice Sullivan, Clarkston, WA. Raymond was preceded in death by a sister Sylvia Landrus. Visitation will be held on Thursday, February 26, 2009 from Noon – 7 P.M. at Hazen & Jaeger Valley Funeral Home, 1306 N. Pines Rd. Spokane Valley, WA . Funeral services will be held at 2:00 P.M., Friday, February 27, 2009 in the Colonial Chapel. A private family inurnment will be held at a later date. Hazen & Jaeger Valley Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Raymond Alvah Hanson is an American inventor, engineer and businessman who developed many devices that greatly influenced the manufacture of heavy farm, major construction and road building industry machinery around the world. His legacy includes the self-leveling control for hillside combines in the wheat farms of the Palouse, aqueduct canal finishing machinery in California, Europe, Africa, the Middle and Far East, and the famous gantry crane at the Grand Coulee Dam Third Powerhouse. Hanson was one of the first inventors to apply the principle of a unique mercury cross-level control system to keep large machines level on uneven ground. His patent of an automatic leveling device for hillside combine harvesters in 1946 was only the beginning; over the next 50 years, Hanson became a world leader in the design and manufacture of a multitude of construction machines incorporating electronic and automatic controls.

Raymond Hanson was born in 1923 in Potlatch, Idaho, and grew up on a family farm near Palouse, Washington. His middle name, Alvah, refers to Thomas Alva Edison and was selected by his mother who intuitively knew that her son would be an inventor. Hanson's first job was at his father's business, the Riverside Dance and Skating Rink near Potlatch, where he moved tables onto the dance floor for Saturday nights, and off for roller skating on Sundays.


Hanson attended the University of Idaho and majored in mechanical engineering. He was able, at the age of 19, to combine his knowledge of farming and engineering to solve the problem of how to automatically level a hillside combine. He used the same skills and observations throughout his life to create new innovations. Where others may have seen hillsides as nuisances, Hanson saw them as challenges; puzzles waiting to be solved.

In 1942, Hanson conceived of a self-leveling mechanism for hillside combines. A gravity grain separation mechanism is used on combines crawling over the steep hills of the Palouse region in the Pacific Northwest where leveling the combine is necessary to minimize the loss of grain. Before the Hanson invention, manual leveling required a person to stand on the combine platform and adjust the machine to the lay of the land - a hot, tedious job. Hanson's invention allowed for a greater harvest yield of grain while also reducing the amount of labor required. A mercury switch controlled a vacuum-operated cylinder to level the separation mechanism. Over the next several years, Hanson built and sold some 2,000 automatic leveling devices by going farm-to-farm and offering to install them for a trial period and remove them if the farmer wasn't satisfied. He never had to take one back!


Hanson founded the RAHCO Company in 1946 to produce the automatic leveling device. The cylinders, solenoid valves, switches and other parts were produced in Palouse. RAHCO grew into a world leader in the design and production of custom commercial machinery systems. RAHCO estimates that automatic leveling has saved at least three percent of grain harvested on lands where combine leveling is needed, which is worth millions of dollars each year.


In the mid 1950's, Hanson developed machines with automated controls to hold direction, grade and a cross level. He developed self-powered, automated slipforms for specialized work in slope pavement and canal work. Hanson became recognized as a world leader in the design and manufacture of canal construction machinery. These machines operated in more than 50 countries, and were responsible for major portions of the world's reclamation work. He received recognition by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the coveted "E" and "E-Star" awards that are presented to firms by the president to recognize outstanding export success, the highest honor American companies can receive.


In the early 1960's, Hanson designed a method for automated highway slipform paving systems that included an automated curb and gutter slipform paving system. He developed continuous pick-up, load-out and material transfer machines for concrete. In 1964, he applied these principles to specialized grade and direction controlled highway machines. During the construction of the California Aqueduct System in 1965, Hanson introduced newly developed, large, trimming and concrete slipform machines that handled movement of concrete in heavy capacities up to 500 cubic yards per hour. The machine was developed to handle slopes of 90 feet and more on a single span. He developed profiling equipment to precede the paving machines to minimize overrun of concrete and keep costs low.


In 1971, Hanson moved into additional fields of equipment engineering that included the development of an automatic gravel-cleaning machine. The U.S. Department of Reclamation contracted the R.A. Hanson Company to design and construct a 2,000-ton gantry crane, one of the largest in the world, for the Grand Coulee Dam Third Power House. The Grand Coulee is a hydroelectric gravity dam on the Columbia River. It is the largest U.S. electric power producing facility and concrete structure, and the fourth largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world.


Hanson also created the innovative pipeline backfilling machine operated along the Trans-Alaska pipeline project. In addition, he was involved in Phase I of the Department of Energy's project to develop a cross pit conveyor system for coal mine shafts for the U.S. Bureau of Mines. He developed the steep incline conveyor for mining, which since has been adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Mines.


Hanson worked closely with the U S Air Force in the development of systems and techniques to construct continuous, horizontal, large-diameter, concrete conduits for the MX Horizontal Shelter Test Project under presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. The MX Project was an experimental vertical shelter for the deployment of MX missiles constructed at a Nevada test site. The design placed the missile in an 18-foot diameter, 130-foot-deep vertical silo. At launch, the silo would have cut through a 40-foot layer of soil.


One of the first MX projects was the Vertical Shelter Ground System Definition Program that required building an 18-foot diameter, 130-foot deep vertical silo for missile loading and egress tests. The egress mechanism was built to thrust a 348,000-pound simulated missile and canister out of the silo to a height of 40 feet above ground after it burst through a layer of soil weighing 50,000 pounds.


Another of Hanson's endeavors involved an extensive network of experimental roads built to evaluate construction methods in native desert soils. Scientists needed to make sure the roads would accommodate the heavy loads associated with transporting 200 MX missiles among 4,600 shelters. These tests were part of the Multiple Protective Shelter System, more commonly referred to as the "shell game system" or "race track model."


When the Carter administration decided to use the horizontal shelter basing mode, an extensive program was started to develop this design. The R.M. Parsons Company proposed "precast" construction and the R.A. Hanson Company proposed a "cast-in-place" method. The shelter segments used about 220 yards of concrete per segment and weighed between 240 and 300 tons each. Studies into this basing mode were canceled by the Reagan administration in October 1981.


In January 1995, Hanson sold the manufacturing division of the company and the RAHCO name to his son, Richard W. Hanson, and kept the mining and real estate divisions in a new company, Hanson Industries, Inc.


In recent years, Hanson Industries has been developing 226 acres of property called Hanson Center with more than two miles of I-90 frontage for commercial development in the heart of the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene metropolitan area. Located in Hanson Center is the Spokane Valley Mall, a 1.4 million-square-foot regional mall developed by Price Development in 1997. Hanson Industries is developing Hanson Center on either side of the mall, and it includes Market Pointe I and II with businesses such as Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, Staples, Best Buy, the Oxford Suites, Hanson Center East and Evergreen Crossing. River View Corporate Center, to the west of the mall along Indiana Avenue, is Walt Worthy Enterprises' latest commercial offering with 250,000-square-feet of office space.


Hanson Industries, Inc. is currently developing Hanson Center Idaho, a 110+ acre multiuse business center located in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. Hanson Center Idaho lies adjacent to the entrance of the city of Post Falls and has more than one mile of frontage along Interstate 90. The Spokane River borders the center on two sides, along with Centennial Trail access. Hanson Properties also owns 120 acres adjacent to Fairchild Air Force Base and more than 200 acres in northern Idaho.



In the community and business world, Hanson has remained equally active. He was awarded the Small Businessman's Award from the state of Washington in 1973; the Industrial Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Region of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers in 1978; Spokane Industrialist of the Year in 1979; and the Eastern Washington University Centennial Award in 1982. Hanson was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in Engineering Science from the University of Idaho in 1985, and in the same year was inducted into the University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame. In 1999, he received the Engineering Award of Distinction from the University of Idaho College of Engineering.



Hanson currently is a member of the American Concrete Institute; Mountain States Legal Foundation: Board of Directors; Washington State Governor's Key Business Leaders Advisory Board (since 1975); Spokane International Airport Governing Board( founding charter member); Bank of Spokane: Board of Directors; Spokane Rotary; and United Way of Spokane: Board of Directors.



He is a past member of the Board of Regents at Gonzaga University; Advisory Board of the University of Idaho College of Engineering; past chairman of the Washington State University Engineering Advisory Board; and, he also served as chairman of the WSU Stadium Committee. Hanson served as chairman of the Aviation Committee of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce, past president of the Washington State International Trade Fair, of Chewelah Basin Ski Corporation and past interim president of the Bank of Spokane. Hanson is a past member of the Washington State High Technology Committee. He was appointed to the Washington State District Export Council and has served on the Executive Board for the Boy Scouts of America and the Spokane World Trade Club.

Ray Hanson knows how to have fun too! He has enjoyed years of skiing, flying and motorcycle riding. He and Lois, his wife, live in Spokane, Washington. Hanson is a dedicated family man, and between Lois and Ray, they have six children. Ray's children are Richard and twins Dennis and Denise. Lois' children are Patti, Theodore and Eric. They have 20 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren. Their grandson, Matthew, just graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, grandson Daniel Raymond Hanson, graduated in 1994 with an Agricultural Science degree and grandsons Garret, a junior, and Alex, an incoming freshman, are both pursuing engineering degrees. In 1985, Ray was inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame, and in 1999, he received the Engineering Award of Distinction from the College of Engineering. Raymond's true love, Lois, has been at his side for 43 years, through every business venture, milestone and sporting activity.


Hanson holds more than 100 U.S. patents as well as international patents. Raymond A. HansonProvided by:Hazen & Jaeger Valley Funeral Home-

As a young kid in about 1958, my Mom & Dad took my brother "Danny", and me on a road trip in our camper, to the Grand Coulee Dam (boy, oh boy was it big)!


For some reason and I don't know why I

remember looking down at the generators

and a yellow over head crane it said in bold

Black letters (R.A. Hanson Co.).


I never new, I was going to become a

business partner with Raymond in 1987.

Raymond was known as one of our Nation's

"Water Buffalo's".

I will be including his biography on my web page. Regrettably he passed away this

spring! His company constructed canals

and other business ventures in over

50 different countries! His company built

the canal between Othello and Mattawah.

With his world famous "A mile a day"

automated Canal Machines!

Raymond was a "doer instead of a talker",

most people who knew Raymond. Knew if

you would tell him, "he couldn't accomplish

something", it was like waving a red flag in

front of a Bull!

He took great pride in proving people wrong (by doing the impossible)!

I personally found him to be a very kind,

and gracious human being.


Raymond's Biography;

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