Steel Making by Bessemer Convertor at Workington Cumbria

Sir Henry Bessemer created a new process for making steel and his earliest Bessemser Converters were sited at Workington and Millom Cumbria UK.

West Cumbria is blessed with coal, iron ore and limestone so iron making became well established at Workington and Millom with ships, locos and machines made from cast iron.  But brittle iron needed to be turned into high quality steel.  Fortunately Henry Bessemer’s invented a convertor the first of which were sited at Millom and Workington and tough flexible steel was then rolled at Workington’s steel works to make rails.  Even when the Bessemer convertor closed and steel production ended there were steel ingots brought from more efficient works to be rolled into steel rails and exported around the world.  The loading, firing and transport of molten steel in the Bessemer Convertor is shown with workers before health and safety improved dangerous working practices.

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Created / Uploaded by Peter Nicholson

Comments from YouTube

This brought back memories. I worked in this Bessemer in the 60’s. Working a 3 shift pattern at age 16. My first job was to take samples of the molten metal as it was being poured into the ingot molds. Standing on the gantry above the newly filled molds, the heat was tremendous and reaching out over them to take a sample needed nerve. My next job was to fetch and carry for the ‘Stopper man’ who built and fitted the stoppers into the ladle after it had been poured. The stopper ( or plug ) only lasted one pour. The ladle would still be extremely hot but needed for the next blow so no time to let it cool. We were in range of the shower of sparks from the Bessemer so needed to move sharply when the hooter sounded. From this job I moved to driving the slag bogie. The slag bogie pushed and pulled a slag pan under the converter at the end of each blow to enable any leftover slag to be poured out. My last job in the Bessemer was to drive the slag mill overhead crane, picking up slag pans and emptying out the solid for disposal. These were all job’s filled by boys who became men and were paid men’s wages aged 18. Happy Days. 

Reply from Razter:
Hello Razster  We worked so close to the process we were just one trip away from being burned alive and I don’t exaggerate. The Bessemer building was open ended, the open end being close to the sea wall. In extreme weather conditions the sea would crash onto the sea wall and the strong winds would blow it into the building. I can recall seeing the whole of the Bessemer floor flooded, with the rail track submerged, and production carried on! Health and Safety, It hadn’t been invented.    
Hats off to you dude. That’s some seriously dangerous and hard work. Noticed in the video one of the workers continued smoking his fag during the pour. Work be damned he was going to have his smoke break. I imagine you saw that all the time back in the day.
I lived on westfield drive, looked out of mam and dads bedroom, you could only see mossbay, the steelworks worked on the blast furnaces from 1976 til 1980 when it closed sad times, happesed days of my life.
Luckily most of the rail steel is eutectoid steel and has enough carbon to be top poured into the ingot without serious re-oxidation. The methods shown would have produced a lot a scrap for other lower carbon (sheet) steels.