Sunday, March 1, 2009


Began work on my pig casting machine today.  This will be located behind the blast furnaces and will be a destination for the hot iron from them.  The first photo shows the pig caster at Bethlehem Steel.  For those not familiar with these machines, they are basically a conveyer belt system of molds.  The hot iron is poured into the molds on the low end and as the belt makes it way up to the high end, the iron cools, sometimes with the help of water sprays, and as the belt turns, the pig falls out and down a chute into a gondola usually.   The machines in the pictures are what is know as double-strands - in that there are two separate mold belts.  Actually this facility was two double strands, so four belts of pig molds could be running at once.  At some mills, especially merchant iron plants, all the iron was cast into pigs using these machines, which is some cases were directly connected to the cast house so the hot iron didn't need to be transported in railcars.  At other mills, like Bethlehem the machines were used as needed.  If there was a need and market for pig iron, and sometimes because there was no need for all the iron coming out of the furnaces - excess iron was cast into pigs and stored for sale or use later.

My machine will represent a small, single strand facility.  It is based on a prototype that was in I believe Chester, PA.  I purchased a set of plans from Mike Rabbit that he drew of this facility.  The prototype was attached to the cast house, however, I am making mine a stand alone facility.  I am trying to stay true to the plans as much as possible.

I am starting with the construction of the low end of the caster - I've inverted the arrangement from the plans and simplified and modified the foundation just a slight bit.  It is built on a base of .060 styrene with balsa wood for the foundation.  The main supports, which I need to build 6 (four are shown) are built from 5/16 styrene I-Beams with .020 styrene strips added to the one flange to model the arrangement at the prototype.  The upper part of the beam is cut back to allow for the crane supports.  

The roof truss, one shown out of five I need to model is built using .080 and .060 angle with .020 webbing.  The .080 is a little larger than I would have liked but I was concerned about going smaller and having the plastic deform on me.

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