Less than three years ago The Bethlehem Iron Company broke ground to carry out the writer's proposition for the introduction and erection of complete hydraulic forging machinery for the manufacture of the largest guns and the heaviest shafting and armor plates; to erect a plant long needed in the United States, to make the country independent in the possession of the means of supplying the nation with the most powerful guns and of equipping her ships with the most efficient shafting and armor.
The company that undertook this great work was conceived as early as the year 1857, when the senior partner of the firm of A. Wolle & Co., of Bethlehem, procured a charter, dated April 8, 1857, for a company styled "The Saucona Iron Company."
By an Act of Legislature, dated March 31, 1859, the corporate title of the company was changed into that of "The Bethlehem Rolling Mills and Iron Company," and the services of John Fritz, of Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, were secured to superintend the construction of the works and the subsequent manufacture and production.
Its first Board of Directors, chosen June 14, 1860, was composed as follows: President, Alfred Hunt, of Philadelphia. Directors, Augustus Wolle, of Bethlehem; Asa Packer, of Mauch Chunk; John Knecht, of Shimersville; John Taylor Johnston, of Central Railroad of New Jersey; Charles B. Daniel, of Bethlehem; Charles W. Ranch, of Bethlehem; Secretary and Treasurer, Charles B. Daniel.
The present Board consists of John Knecht, of Shimersville; Rob't H. Sayre, of South Bethlehem; Joseph Wharton, of Philadelphia; E.P. Wilbur, of South Bethlehem; W.W. Thurston, of South Bethlehem; Rob't P. Linderman, of South Bethlehem; George H. Myers, of South Bethlehem. The officers are: President, W.W. Thurston; Vice-President, Rob't P. Linderman; General Manager, Rob't H. Sayre; Chief Engineer and General Superintendent, John Fritz; Assistant Superintendent, R.W. Davenport; Secretary, Abraham S. Schropp; Treasurer, C.O. Brunner.
These works are situated at South Bethlehem, Northampton County, Penn., on the Lehigh river, 87 miles from New York by way of the Lehigh Valley Railroad and Central Railroad of New Jersey, and 55 miles from Philadelphia via the North Pennsylvania Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. They are connected with the anthracite coal regions by the Lehigh Valley and other railroads, various roads and their connections affording ample facilities for the cheap transportation of fuel and ores to the works, and convenient outlets for the distribution of the varied products.
At the present time the works consist of offices, boiler houses, blast furnaces, puddle mill, merchant steel mill, Bessemer department, department of construction and repairs, ordnance and armor plate department, laboratories, mines, quarries, etc.
The buildings have been erected from designs made here. They are of hard gray sandstone from adjacent quarries, and brick, and the roofs, covering about 18 acres, are of slate from the vicinity.
The offices are roomy, well lighted, and equipped with modern appliances and well-lighted drafting rooms.
The boiler houses are detached, and conveniently arranged for the delivery of fuel, and the boiler settings peculiar, to provide for expansion in any direction without subjecting the boilers to any injurious strains.
No. 1 furnace was commenced in i860 and completed and put in blast in January of 1863; No. 2 was completed in 1867; in 1868 the furnace of the Northampton Iron Company was purchased and put in blast during December of that year under the name of No. 3, and after running 16 years was dismantled; furnaces Nos. 4 and 5 were put in blast in March, 1876, and March, 1877, respectively; furnace No. 6 was completed in 1883; furnace No. 7, purchased in 1879, is situated at Bingen, on the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, about six miles from Bethlehem.
These furnaces are widely known for their excellent Bessemer iron. The fuel used in smelting is anthracite coal from the upper Lehigh region, with a mixture of Connellsville coke. A choice variety of hematite and magnetic ores from the most celebrated mines at home and abroad allows of an excellent pig for making Bessemer and open-hearth steels of a very superior quality. A railway connects the furnaces with the converters for the transportation of fluid metal, thus permitting the making of Bessemer steel by the direct process. The total annual capacity is 160,000 tons.
The engine house, separated from the furnaces by the stock house, is a massive stone building 60 X 327 feet, erected with the special view of protecting the blowing machinery from the dust and dirt of the furnaces. It contains seven horizontal blowing engines, five of which are compound; steam cylinders, high pressure, 30 inches diameter, low pressure, 54 inches diameter, 80 inches stroke; blowing cylinder, 80 X 80 inches. The other two engines are single condensing; steam cylinder, 54 X 80 inches, blowing cylinder, 80 X 80 inches.
The blowing engines of the horizontal compound type work at a high speed and under high pressure of blast with a degree of smoothness and noiselessness that is rarely observed in a blowing engine. A strong feature in these engines, and one now generally recognized by blast-furnace engineers, is their capacity of blowing as high a pressure as 20 pounds of air, this pressure sometimes being necessary to save the furnace and obviate expensive delays.
The cast house of each furnace is at a right angle and forms a wing to the stock house. The spaces intervening between the cast houses are used for cinder yards on one side, while on the other are located the boilers and hot-blast stoves.
The newest furnaces are provided, each with three Whitwell firebrick regenerative stoves, which give excellent economical results. These stoves are 20 feet exterior diameter and 60 feet high.
The stock house is common to all the furnaces, and is a continuous building running parallel with the line of furnaces and to their full extent. It is 61 feet wide. A double track runs the length of the building on trestles 12 feet above the floor level. The floor is divided off into spaces on each side, and a central aisle renders all parts accessible.
THE PUDDLE MILL.
This mill contains three double, four double, and one single puddling furnace, with boilers over furnaces. It was originally built for the production of iron rails, and since they have no longer been in use, has been noted for the high quality of merchant iron and muck-bar produced. The mill has recently been used for the production of muck-bar exceedingly low in phosphorus, which is used for remelting at the open-hearth furnaces for the production of the high quality of steel necessary for ordnance and shafting work.
The merchant-steel mill is principally used for the rolling of smaller sections of rails, and special grades of Bessemer steel into billets, which are sold to manufacturers for the production of merchant bar, wire rods, axles, etc. The rolling of iron shapes, principally used for construction in the works, is an important product of this mill.
Steel Mill.—This mill is a large and massive stone structure, having numerous and uniform arched openings in its sides, and an iron and slate roof with a continuous lantern. The total length of the nave is 15 12 feet, and its width is iii feet. The transepts are also iii feet wide, and their total length, including the crossing of the nave, is 386 feet. The clear height is 29 feet. This building runs longitudinally east and west, parallel with the Lehigh Valley Railroad. In the western or upper portion of the mill is located the converting department, consisting of four 7-ton vessels. These vessels are arranged in a straight line across the mill, an iron platform supported on cast-iron columns surrounding them. Back of the vessels stand the iron and spiegel cupolas; they are supplied with double platforms, one above the other, commonly called the charging and tapping floors. These floors communicate with the vessel platform and with each other by means of iron stairs. Three vessels are worked alternately, while one is off for repairs; the iron cupolas are run four on and four off; the spiegel cupolas are run two on and two off. This method of working facilitates repairs and prevents the necessity of any excessive repairing or protracted delays. The vessels are wrought-iron shells, eight feet in diameter; the body is completely lined with natural stones of mica schist, roughly hewn to shape, and the nose is lined with firebrick. A vast number of experiments were tried before a natural stone could be found that would not either flake off under the heat of glazing or become rapidly denuded. The excellence of this stone depends upon its mechanical structure, which of course is a thing hardly capable of description. Excepting some not expensive repairs to the nose, one of these linings is good for 30,000 tons of ingots. In the old plant, 54,000 tons were made on the linings of the two vessels without the removal of any stones excepting in the nose and a few at the bottom joint. The vessel bottoms have 17 fire-brick tuyers, with 12 holes, three-eighths inch each. Between the tuyers are set on end bricks like the blast-furnace lining brick, as near together as they will stand. The small space left between the bricks and tuyers is rammed with ordinary gannister bottom stuff, and so small is the total quantity of water in the bottom that it needs oven-drying only four hours; the bottoms stand 12 to 14 heats quite uniformly. The output of the converting department averages 4000 tons of ingots per week of eleven shifts; the plant has been worked at a higher rate of production. The annual capacity is 225,000 tons. The heats of ingots run from seven to eight tons according to the weight of rail. Fourteen-inch ingots are bloomed down to seven inches square, and cut into single and double rail blooms for the rail mill. The stock ladles, molten metal, ingots, etc., are moved by a system of narrow-gauge tracks. This system, by means of frequent turn-tables, switches and hydraulic lifts, offers a complete and convenient conveyance. The casting pits and handling floor are under complete command, with a systematic arrangement of hydraulic cranes.
The blowing machinery is located in the upper transept, next the railroad. There are two Bessemer blowing engines of the following dimensions: The smaller has two steam cylinders 36 X 60 inches, coupled direct with two blowing tubs 48 X 60 inches. The blowing tubs are placed back of the steam cylinders and on the same bedplate; the steam cylinders are coupled on their forward end through cross-heads and connecting rods to a fly-wheel shaft, whose cranks stand at right angles. The larger engine has two steam cylinders 56 X 66 inches, and two blowing tubs 60 X 66 inches arranged like the smaller. The smaller was the original engine, but, proving inadequate to the demands of the increased plant, it has been replaced by one more powerful, and is now used as a reserve or emergency engine. The large blowing engine running with 50 pounds of steam is capable of maintaining a blast pressure of 40 pounds of air. The cupola blast is obtained from four No. 7 ½ Baker blowers, coupled direct to the shaft of a compound engine running 90 revolutions.
The blast pressure at the blowers is about 1 ¼ pounds, and twelve ounces at the tuyers. Another compound engine directly coupled with four blowing tubs is kept in reserve for the cupolas.
A Worthington duplex and two Worthington compound duplex pumps are also located in this transept, and supply a water pressure of 300 pounds to the square inch for the operation of cranes, hoists, etc.
In the opposite transept are two Pernot furnaces, with their accompaniments. Just outside this transept is the ladle-house, supplied with a number of short tracks and turn-tables. The freshly lined ladles are placed on cars and run into position on these tracks; when in position a cap is lowered, forming a combustion chamber of the ladle, and a stream of gas and air, in regulated proportions, admitted through the center of the cap, causes more rapid drying and hotter ladles than could be obtained by the old method of building fires in them. The number of ladles required is considerably reduced by this method.
The vessel-bottom repair shop is located in the upper end of the mill, and is furnished with hydraulic cranes for handling and ovens for drying.
At this end of the mill a brick foundry has been erected on the south side and adjoins the mill. This foundry is used for the manufacture of ingot moulds, the consumption being 6 to 8 per day. The equipment consists of a cupola and two power cranes.
In the main portion of the mill, just below the pits and handling floor, are six Siemens reheating furnaces. Three furnaces are placed on each side, with hydraulic cranes for charging and drawing the ingots. Centrally, between these furnaces and under command of the hydraulic cranes, run two narrow-gauge tracks, one running to the casting pits, the other to the blooming train. There are two blooming mills, two engines, and three sets of rolls. The smaller engine is 36 by 60 inches, coupled direct to two sets of three high 32-inch rolls. Both sets are supplied with tables operated by power and controlled by two levers at one point. The large mill is also three high; the rolls are 48 inches diameter and 10 feet long; the engine is 65 inches by 8 feet, with 90-ton fly-wheel; this mill is similar to the smaller, but handles a larger ingot. From the blooming mill the ingot passes to steam hammers, is cut into rail-blooms, and charged into the rail-mill heating furnaces.
These furnaces (four in number) are similar in construction to the blooming mill furnaces, varying only in size, and are located immediately below the blooming mill. The rail mill consists of three sets of rolls; the engine is an upright compound, 36-inch high pressure, and 56-inch low pressure cylinders, 50-inch stroke; the rolls are 24 inches, three high. The rail passes from the rolls to the hot saws and thence to automatic hot straighteners, hot beds, cold straighteners, drill presses, and then to a line of driven rollers, which carry the rails to the cars for shipment.
A new 28-inch mill rolls heavy sections and long lengths. This train is driven by three high-speed compound engines on one shaft, connected with the middle roll and driving direct. The aggregate power of these engines is 8000 horses. The necessary tables are of novel design and are worked automatically by water or air.
In the heating furnaces of this department, a gas made from crude petroleum oil is used for fuel at the present time, instead of coal gas made in Siemens producers, as was originally the case.
DEPARTMENT OF CONSTRUCTION AND REPAIRS.
This department includes pattern, foundry, machine and smith shops, for construction purposes and the necessary repairs.
The Machine Shop is a stone structure 253 by 64 feet, containing lathes, planers, boring mills, gear cutter, drill presses, shapers, slotting and straightening machines, and pipe cutters, among which are the 120-inch planer, a 16-foot boring mill, three heavy lathes and two large universal drills—one having a span of 14 feet.
The Foundry, also of stone, is 107 feet by 64 feet, and forms an L with the machine shop. It is supplied with two cupolas and three powerful cranes, and is thoroughly equipped for all the necessary work.
ORDNANCE AND ARMOR-PLATE DEPARTMENT.
This department, now in operation, when completed, will comprise gas producers, open-hearth furnaces, fluid compression apparatus, soaking pits, hydraulic forging presses, plate rolling mill, crucible furnaces, hydraulic and pneumatic cranes, a 125-ton single-acting steam hammer, bending press, oil-treating and annealing shops, and machine shop.
The Open-Hearth Furnaces will have a capacity for casting ingots of 100 tons.
The Hydraulic Forging Presses will produce the largest forgings required for ships of any tonnage thus far designed, and for guns of the largest caliber now in existence. A specialty will be made of hollow forgings of large dimensions.
The Plate Rolling Mill will be capable of supplying all probable demands for rolled plates of every description.
The Pneumatic and Hydraulic Cranes have a capacity of from 25 to 150 tons.
The building containing the open-hearth furnaces, forging presses, fluid compression apparatus, and plate mill is 11 55 feet long by 111 feet wide, with transept and annexes for engines, gas producers, etc.
The Oil-treating and Annealing Shops are conveniently arranged for economical treatment of heavy gun and other forgings, and of armor plates.
The Machine Shop contains lathes, planers, boring mills, slotters, drilling machines, shapers, etc. Among these are: a planer in which 13 feet by 13 feet by 50 feet 10 inches can be planed; 10-foot face-plate lathe; boring mills of the most recent design, and some of the most powerful lathes in existence. The building is 641 feet in length by 116 feet in width.
The traveling cranes are of the pneumatic type, 60 feet span, and from 25 to 100 tons capacity.
The shops are well lighted by electricity, and the entire plant supplied with efficient rail communication and adequate rolling stock.
The casting and forging presses were manufactured by Sir Joseph Whitworth & Co., of Manchester, England, and designed by Mr. Gledhill, Managing Director of that firm; the heavy tools were constructed from designs by Mr. Gledhill and Mr. Fritz; and all erected under the latter's direction.
In the designing and erection of the hammer plant for making armor plates, the plans of Schneider & Co., of Creusot, France, were consulted and followed as far as they met the conditions of construction already adopted.
This department, for the production of heavy forgings for guns, armor, shafting, and other purposes, is rapidly approaching completion, and within a year will equal, if not surpass, any other establishment of its kind in the world in its capacity to supply war material, and the perfectness of its means of rapidly producing the heavy forgings required for modern high-power ordnance and the most powerful armored ships yet designed. With a casting capacity for ingots of 100 tons, fluid compression plant, a steam hammer of 125 tons (falling weight), the most powerful hydraulic forging presses ever constructed, and tools of the most approved and advanced type for shaping and finishing, this company has already manufactured and delivered all of the heavy shafting of the cruisers Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Newark, together with forgings for 4-inch, 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch breech-loading rifles, and is now engaged upon the shafting of the armored coast-defense vessel Maine, and 8-inch, lo-inch, and 12-inch breech-loading rifles for both the army and navy, and the armor of the barbette battleship Puritan, the double turreted monitors Amphitrite, Monadnock, and Terror, the battleship Texas, and the armored cruiser Maine.
In addition to the war material (including hollow and other forgings for shafting, guns, armor, shields, and conning towers), special and miscellaneous forgings, the works have an output of some 250,000 tons of rails, blooms, and billets, and miscellaneous work, under a personnel of about 3000.
The Chemical and Physical Laboratories are very complete, and contain Riehle and Emery testing machines of 100,000 and 300,000 pounds capacity.
The company's property at South Bethlehem covers an extent of about 1 ¼ miles in length by ¼ of a mile in width, of which about 18 acres are under cover.
Bethlehem, Pa., October, 1889.