Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coast Guard Geeps and Two Foot Gauge to the Sea, Literally, and of course, STEEL

SRNJ GP-9 in CNJ "Coast Guard Scheme" 
Nothing like an old GP-9, painted in the CNJ "Coast Guard" scheme, running through the farmlands of Southern New Jersey to perk up my work day.    The consist was five covered hoppers and was headed from Salem to Swedesboro.  This little used rural line is owned by Salem County I think, and is operated by the Southern Railroad of New Jersey.  There are several customers on the line - a farm co-op in Woodstown; Mannington Mills (the flooring manufacturer) and Anchor Glass, both in Salem.   There is also reportedly some team track activity with treated phone poles and gondolas full of dirt (contaminated I presume) in the Salem area.   The photo was taken just north of Woodstown.   Cars are left at the small yard in Swedesboro for pickup by a Conrail Shared Assets train.
2 foot gauge wheel set - axle was originally twice as thick, pre-rust
A rail artifact from my past surfaced during our clean up from Sandy down at the shore.  At the beach house we used to have a small marine railway for launching, and more importantly, rapidly hauling, the leaky wooden speedboats my dad and grandfather used to collect.   The railway ran from a 20' or so level section to the sea wall where it continued for another 40-50' on an incline, eventually running under the water.  A cradle/carriage made of heavy lumber held the boat and had two axles with railroad wheels.  A large steel hand cranked winch was located on the land side of this contraption. (The winch ratchet slipped loose and broke my dads arm one time)   My brother dismantled the railroad and trestle one summer (guess he was bored).  To be fair it was rotted beyond being safe to use and did take up an entire slip, but with the 20 different permits from 20 different agencies you need to build anything down there, we would never be able to rebuild it.   While checking under the house after the storm, my brother reminded me that one of the railroad wheel sets was still there, rusting away severely in the salt water environment.   I brought it home, where the air is less corrosive.  It's funny how things you remember from childhood that seemed big then, turn out to be much smaller in reality.  I always assumed the railroad axle and wheels came from a standard gauge set.  Not so, they are actually only 2' gauge wheel sets.  The wheels themselves are about 16" diameter.  I assume that my dad or grandfather pulled these out of some junk yard, probably originally were from one of those ubiquitous narrow gauge tipple cars.
Narrow gauge open hearth operations - USS

Now I haven't forgotten you steel gurus.  A little pre-Thanksgiving teaser.  A number of years ago I had the opportunity to explore the closed Universal Atlas Portland Cement Plant in Hudson, NY.   This was I believe the only portland cement plant located east of the Hudson River.   Believe it or not I was actually paid to "explore" this facility.  As a professional historian/archeologist, I was documenting the extensive plant before they tore it down and built a new one.   The new one never got built.  There was fierce opposition to the new plant, despite it's location in a very economically depressed city.  Much of this was centered around the proposed 400' smokestack the plant would have, and how it would affect the historic view from nearby Olana, the home of the 19th century artist, Frederic Edwin Church.  Church was one of the most notable of the "Hudson River School" artists, and since his subject was mostly the sublime views of the Hudson River valley and Catskill Mountains,........, the view was deemed historic.   Also, Magnum PI aka Tom Selleck, had his country house on top of nearby Mount Merino, so his view would be affected too.  I wonder if Higgins lived there with him? - never saw the red Ferrari either.
Operations in Open Hearth  - USS

But I digress.  On the floor of the plant power house I found one "Methods Engineering Manual" by the United States Steel Company, October 1951.   This was not an odd find as Universal Atlas was a subsidiary of USS.   I picked up the manual and a brief scan showed no pictures so I dropped it in a file folder in which it sat until a few months ago.  The lack of drawings and photographs is made up for by extensive operational detail about a variety of steelmaking processes at USS plants.  The theme of the book is improving efficiency, but there are numerous specific examples described throughout the book. I've posted a few samples here.  Hopefully you can zoom in or download the photos and print a readable version.  The scans posted tonight are related to open hearth operations - one of the narrow gauge railroad scrap buggy operation, and the other is the actual detailed operation of the open hearth, down to who does what, when.
Second Part

Happy Thanksgiving

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