The Art of Steel Making
By Sydney S. Slaven
The ingots of steel were placed in the Blooming Mill pits, which
were sealed containers, where they were heated to rolling temperature.
A crane drew the ingot from the pits and placed it on a run in table
to the huge Blooming Mill rolls. Here the ingot was reduced to bloom
size by a number of passes through a series of reducing and shaping
rolls. A long bloom strand was produced and it proceeded to the
shears where it was cut into workable lengths.
There were two paths these blooms could now follow, depending on
the desired product. If they were for the manufacture of rails,
they were transferred to a table which carried them to the Rail
Mill where they were stored in a furnace to be brought up to desired
temperature. If not intended for the Rail Mill the blooms entered
the Billet Mill where they were further reduced by a series of rolls
and cut to length before being shipped to either the Big Billet
Yard or the Small Billet Yard where they were stored for further
Upon leaving the Rail Mill furnace the bloom went into a series
of rolls and passes that shaped into the size rail desired. At the
hot saw this rail was cut to length and sent up a table to a hot
bed for cooling before being sent to the Rail Finishing Mill.
In 1931 a Steel Plant metallurgist named Mackie had developed a
controlled cooling process that eliminated hydrogen bubbles from
the rail. This allowed Dosco to produce the finest rail in the world.
All rails went through this process. After this the rails were straightened
and the ends milled and drilled. They were now released to the domestic
market by rail and to the world by shipment from the Dosco International
Steel billets from the Small and Big Billet Yards went into a large
diversity of products. These included the Bar Mill and the Rod Mill.
At the Bar Mill the billets were heated once again and in a re-heat
furnace. Upon exiting the furnace they went into a series of passes
in rolls were they were sized and shaped. This was accomplished
by employees know as catchers. When a strand of steel exited a roll
it was manually caught by a “catcher” with a pair of
thongs and he then redirected the strand into the next roll. It
took a lot of skill and stamina. They usually worked only 15 minutes
and then had a 15 minute break to recover from the heat and strain.
The Rod Mill also had its own re-heat furnace. Her billets were
reduced to wire size through a series of rolls. The wire was bundled
and placed on a conveyor from whence it traveled to the Wire Mill
or the Nail Mill. The Wire Mill manufactured all gauges of wire
including barbed wire and galvanized wire. The Nail Mill manufactured
all sizes of nails, both galvanized and plain.
An interesting note is that a piece of iron ore went through the
process of heating and cooling four times before it reached its
finished product. A rail for example was heated from ore to iron
first at the Blast Furnace. Next it was re-heated in the O.H. furnace.
Once more it cooled until re-heated in the Blooming Mill pits. Once
more it was cooled before going to the Rail Mill furnace for it’s
There were many employees involved indirectly in producing steel
and they were all just as important as say the melter on a furnace.
These included the dock workers, the railway employees, the pattern
shops, the foundry and machine shop workers, all the service departments
and last but not least, the dedicated medical personal.
And so we see, a piece of coal or a piece of iron ore was much more
than a single entity. When placed in the hands of a skilled workforce
such as that of the Sydney steel plant, the finest steel products
in the world were produced.