Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Dorman, Long (Steel)

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1956 The AGM of Dorman, Long and Co was told about performance of the main subsidiary companies[1] including Dorman Long (Steel) Ltd, which included the Lackenby and Cleveland steel works and blooming mills, and coke ovens at South Bank.

Clay Lane Blast Furnace - Memoirs by Patrick Capper.

"I had a good three years at Dorman Long of which just over two were with the three Blast Furnaces at Clay lane. Between the three furnaces I saw practically every problem you can have on a Blast Furnace. Once I was looking into a spy glass at a tuyere and not long afterwards iron came back at and burnt through the water feed pipe causing a steam explosion.

There were many operating problems due to large build up in the furnace stack which made burden descent a problem and the wind had to be reduced about every 20 to 30 minutes to allow the burden to come down. If it did not come down in these small increments but came down a large distance it would often cause slag to come back at the tuyeres and in the worst case slag and iron would burn through the tuyere or blowpipe and have hot metal and slag coming out onto the floor.

The build up was probably caused by high alkalis in the charge which lateer research indicated was a cause of build up in the stack. There was high alkalis in the sinter which was made from a mixture of ores I think Kovdorsky from Russia probably had very high alkalis but in the 1960s alkalis were not known to be the cause of these type of build up problems.

Another problem at Clay Lane was the slow turn around of the torpedoes which were transported to Redcar and Lackenby works and often there was a heavy skull at the top of the torpedo which the furnace crew would try to break with a tup, however this was often unsuccessful and then we would hope for a slow flow of iron to burn through the skull without causing much to bounce over onto the ground. Sometimes there was a heavy flow of iron which washed out the sand dam and iron would flow into tow torpedoes for a short time as shown in a couple of photos.

There were also times that iron would come out of the slag notch, inn the worst case this burnt through the water feed tot he coolers and then cause steam explosions and a large quantity of iron slag coke sinter scrap bales come come up and cause a long off blast period for clean up and repairs Hardly ever a dull moment

Les Chilvers had little formal education but was very intelligent and knowledgeable about the quirts of Blast Furnace operation. On one shift the shift manager was an ex fighter pilot who was very cool and calm in a crisis and on the same shift one furnace foreman was known as "Flapper" who would be rather paralyzed with fear and be rather slow in taking corrective action. It was always a debate as to whether the poor coke or poor sinter quality were the cause of the most problems, coke coming out of the taphole was always blamed on poor coke quality. Ed Stevenson worked at Clay Lane at the same time as me but started work a year earlier than me and rose to senior management levels and stayed in the Teesside area and if still alive would I am sure have memories of those days in 1965-1967.

I was part of a Graduate trainee program being hired in Sept 1964 and spending a year visiting the various departments ( hence the steel- rolling photos) before opting to work in the iron making department. This included time at the sinter plant which instead of having a circular cooler had a cooling bench. The problem was often hot sinter was dumped on cooler sinter and so often some hot sinter went onto the conveyor belt and if not sprayed quickly with water could cause the belt to catch fire! Steelmaking in those days was by open hearth ( prior to Oxygen Steelmaking) and steel was poured into ingots (prior to continuous casting).

I left in December 1967 to join Iron Ore company of Canada in Labrador Canada and later in 1979 returned to Ironmaking with Algoma Steel in Sault Ste Marie and retired in 2005.[2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 4 January 1956
  2. Memoirs by Patrick Capper who also kindly sent Grace's Guide copies of the Clay Lane photographs on this page.