STEAM MAKING STEEL

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Story and photos by Jack C. Norbeck, Norbeck Research 117 Ruch
Street, Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037

October 20, 1995 marked the end of 87-year-old 48-inch Grey Mill
making steel beams with steam power at Bethlehem Steel Corporation,
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This mill was the heart of Charles
Schwab’s dream to enlarge his Bethlehem Steel Company into one
of the country’s great steel producers. It was the foundations
upon which the giant Bethlehem Steel Corporation would rise.

The mill itself, designed by Henry Grey, with construction
supervised by Eugene Grace, was undoubtedly one of the most
spectacular engineering achievements of its time. Moreover, Mr.
Schwab’s success in financing this gigantic venture in the
midst of many difficulties was a remarkable economic triumph and a
story in itself.

Charles Schwab proved to be a fortunate man; Mr. Grey’s
mechanical ideas worked. The new product was accepted by the
construction industry, and most importantly, in the Lehigh Valley
area he found a work force more than equal to the task.

The 46′ Blooming Mill’s 14,000 HP twin tandem compound
steam engine. She was built in 1916 by Wm. Tod Company, Youngstown,
Ohio. The size of this steam engine is 40′ x 66′ x 54′.
The steam pressure to run her is 150 lbs. PSI and she needs 75,000
lbs. per hour. Her shipping weight was 950,000 pounds.

The 48′ Grey Mill’s 20,000 HP twin tandem compound steam
engine. She was built in 1916 by Wm. Tod Company, Youngstown, Ohio.
The size of this steam engine is 46′ x 76′ x 72′. The
steam pressure to run her is 150 lbs. PSI and she needs 98,000 lbs.
per hour. Her shipping weight was 1,675,000 pounds. In the picture
is Mr. Bill Lease, general foreman.

As originally conceived, the new mill would be required to
manufacture beams varying in depth from 30 inches down to eight
inches, with a weight range from 120 pounds to 17 pounds per foot;
16 different sizes in all. Those experienced in rolling mill
operations can only guess at the problems which must have been
encountered. But the men persisted, and were able to roll and sell
62,227 tons of the new beams in the first year.

The basic design, which was used in construction of the
’48’, remains the standard by which all wide flange rolling
mills are designed. This gives the old ’48’ the capability
to be used in conjunction with modern add-on equipment, such as
computers and electric mill drive, which increased its production
rate to even greater heights.

The 48′ Grey Mill was run by a 20,000 HP twin tandem
compound, reversing one end and one 28′ center crank shaft
steam engine. The valve gear was piston valves, single control
lever Walschaert and she ran at a safe speed of 125 rpm. She was
built in 1916 by William Tod Company, Youngstown, Ohio. The size of
this steam engine is 46′ x 76′ x 72′. The steam
pressure to run her was 150 pounds PSI in the high press cylinder
and 60 pounds PSI in the low press cylinder. The steam consumption
for this engine was 98,000 pounds per hour. Her total shipping
weight from Youngstown, Ohio was 1,675,000 pounds and in 1916 the
engine cost $110,000.00. To build a new crank shaft for this engine
today would be about $1,000,000.00.

The 46′ Blooming Mill was run by a 14,000 HP twin tandem
compound reversing horizontal two end, 24′ crankshaft steam
engine. The valve gear was a piston valve. William Tod modified
Steverson link motion and she ran at a safe speed of 120 rpm. She
was built in 1916 by William Tod Company, Youngstown, Ohio. The
size of this steam engine is 40′ x 66′ x 54′. The steam
pressure to run her was 150 pounds PSI in the high press cylinder
and 60 pounds PSI in the low press cylinder. Steam consumption for
this engine was 75,000 pounds per hour. Her total shipping weight
from Youngstown, Ohio was 950,000 pounds.

Operators running the 46′ Blooming Mill using a 14,000 HP
twin tandem compound steam engine at the Bethlehem Steel
Corporation’s steel mill in Bethlehem, Pa.

Bethlehem Steel Corporation was incorporated on December 10,
1904, but the company’s beginnings date to 1857 when the
Saucona Iron Company was established in South Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania, to roll railroad rails. By 1899, when it became
Bethlehem Steel Company, the company had broadened its product line
by developing armor plate for U.S. Navy ships, heavy forgings for
electric generators, and tool steels for metal cutting.

The founder of Bethlehem Steel Corporation was Charles M.
Schwab. One of Andrew Carnegie’s principal lieutenants, Schwab
played a major role in the formation of the United States Steel
Corporation in 1901. He was also the first president of U.S. Steel
but resigned because he was not given a freer hand in running the
corporation. In 1904, Schwab organized Bethlehem Steel Corporation
and took over its direction as president and chairman of the
board.

Today Bethlehem Steel is the nation’s second largest
integrated steel producer, engaged primarily in the manufacture and
sale of a wide variety of steel mill products. Bethlehem also
produces and sells coal and other raw materials, repairs ships and
mobile offshore drilling platforms, forgings and castings.

Information for this article came from Mr. Bill Lease,
General Foreman, and Mrs. Betty Kovach, Public Relations, Bethlehem
Steel Corporation.

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