Saturday, 16 May 2015

Who/What is a BF? - Sepia Saturday

In these days of social media and texting you have to be careful interpreting abbreviations.

This week's image from Australia quickly reminded me of what BF once meant to me.

My first job in industry was at the Redbourn works of Richard Thomas & Baldwins integrated iron and steel plant in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. 

As a graduate trainee I was expected to spend time on projects in each of the different departments. The first of these, in the Blast Furnace Departmet was to prepare trial mixes for the sinter plant that was being constructed. Sinter was to be used as input to the company's blast furnaces to improve their performance.

Iron ore,coke and limestone batches were mixed by hand (shovel) and subjected to heat using a gas-fired box. The resulting sinter was then subjected to a shatter test to determine which mix would stand up best to loads encountered in the blast furnaces themselves.

You could say that my small group often thought they were BFs while carrying out this work for the BF Department. 

The prompt photo of the Newcastle Blast Furnace Department doesn't actually show a furnace. It's difficult to make them out in this also.

Two blast furnaces at Newcastle
(NSW State Records)

The tops of the furnaces may be seen in the top left centre of the image to the right of what looks like three cylindrical vessels.

Redbourn blast furnaces - 1979
A hundred years of ironmaking at Redbourn ended in October 1979 when  the No 2 blast furnace made its last batch of 194.8 tonnes, watched by former production men, engineers and managers from other areas of the Scunthorpe works complex, chiefly Appleby- Frodingham and Normanby Park.

The furnace was built in 1951/2 to replace two hand-charged ones which had stood on the site since 1875.
Two sister furnaces had already closed. No 4, built in 1919, made its last iron in 1977; while No 3, dating from 1909, finished in September 1979.

The British Steel closure of Redbourn blast furnaces  was part of a rationalisation plan which included capital investment in the much larger Queen Victoria and Queen Anne furnaces, blown in by the Appleby-Frodingham company in 1954.
Scunthorpe blast furnaces
The four Queens - Mary, Victoria, Bess and Anne
(6 March 2009 ex, by Richard Croft - CC BY-SA 2.0)
These days if I wish to see a blast furnace I don't have far to go to see the one at Redcar near our North-East home.

Teesside's blast furnace at Redcar
(6 August 2005, ex by George Ford - CC BY-SA 2.0)
I left Redbourn in 1969 so never saw the demise of the works.
Finally I have dug out a video on Scunthorpe's Iron and Steel Heritage that shows scenes from the three steel works that existed while I worked there.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Also don't forget to visit other Sepians at Sepia-Saturday-279.


Jo said...

I don't really know what a blast furnace does anyway Bob. Hamilton, which is not that far from us, used to have a big steel industry but doesn't any more. I am ashamed to say I don't know much about that either.

Postcardy said...

I enjoyed the video. It made me want to learn more about the process.

Ann Bennett said...

This was very interesting. I did not know what BF was for? Social media does get a bit out of whack. The power of a viral tweet gets out of control.

Kristin said...

Several people that I've researched worked in steel mills. I enjoyed watching the video.

Brett Payne said...

I remember seeing a blast furnace when visiting a steelworks when I was a student, quite spectacular.

Mike Brubaker said...

I imagine that dismantling industrial worksites like these was almost more difficult than building them. I can also see the attachment that the workers would place on the massive ironworks.

La Nightingail said...

I have practically no knowledge of blast furnaces, but from the pictures & other videos I've seen - especially those in color, one can tell it gets mighty hot in those places!

Anonymous said...

Heavy Industry can be so ugly to look at but at the same time it can be so beautiful in its starkness. A most interesting post. Moonlight Sonata was a strange choice to accompany the video :-)

Nancy said...

Interesting post, Bob, especially because my father worked in a steel mill. Unfortunately, I can't remember which area. How I wish someone had taken photographs of the mill, both inside and out, like those shown in your video.

ScotSue said...

Wonderful industrial photographs

Joan said...

Bob, after I watched the video, I re-read the post and re-examined the photos. There is something riveting about big machines, dangerous work, and the guys involved with the machines and work. Doesn't matter whether it is steel, sawmills, gold mineing -- there is a camaraderie that gives me goosebumps.

Wendy said...

Just the term "BLAST Furnace" sounds intimidating enough.

Lorraine Phelan said...

A big aluminium smelter in my town has just closed down and now there is the big, big task of dismantling etc. It's going to take years!

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