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Park Gate Iron and Steel Co: 1934 Review

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Note: This is a sub-section of Park Gate Iron and Steel Co

Note: This is an abridged version of a chapter in British Commerce and Industry 1934

Situated on the outskirts of Rotherham and about seven miles from Sheffield, it was founded in 1823. The works were originally engaged in the production of pig-iron and the manufacture of puddled iron. At that time the staple industry was the production of iron rails, large quantities of which were supplied to the leading railways at home and abroad, as well as iron plates and bars.

The whole of the plates for the Great Eastern were made at Park Gate in 1854. When the ship was broken up some of the material was adapted for the construction of a well-known blast-furnace plant in the Midlands, and is still in use. The original Park Gate Plate Mill was the first reversing mill used in this country, and this solved the problem of more easily handling heavier masses of material.

In 1856 armour plates were supplied 3 in. to 4.5 in. in thickness for H.M.S. Terror, and during the ensuing nine years for H.M.S. Zealous, H.M.S. Achilles and a number of other vessels.

The first trials for the production of pig-iron from Frodingham ore were made in one of the Park Gate blast furnaces, and later developments led to the acquisition of large iron-ore properties in that district. The company now owns areas in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, which assure an adequate supply of ore for the next fifty or sixty years.

The development of steel manufacture by the Bessemer process, and later by the open-hearth process, marked an epoch in the history of the company. The first Bessemer ingots made in Sheffield were sent to Park Gate to be rolled. After close investigation into the merits of each process it was decided to adopt open-hearth furnaces for steel production. The first two units were built in 1888. They were each of 25 tons capacity, and entirely hand operated.

In 1898 electric power was applied in the works, and this enabled Wellman electric charging machines to be installed for the open-hearth furnaces. As these were among the first mechanically operated chargers to be introduced into Great Britain, they represented a great advance in the development of labour-saving machinery.

In 1908 it was decided to discontinue the manufacture of puddled iron, and subsequently the works were devoted entirely to the manufacture of pig-iron and steel. Progress and development have since been continuous. The old plant has been gradually eliminated, and in its place specially designed machinery has been introduced to meet the requirements of the company until to-day the organization and equipment available for the service of the users of Park Gate products are unsurpassed.

The present Chairman is Mr. Douglas Vickers, and the Board of directors is composed of Sir William B. M. Bird, Mr. A. Willis-Dixon and Mr. A. K. Wilson. The managing director is Mr. Percy W. Fawcett, the general manager Mr. Fred Clements, and the secretary and commercial manager Mr. T. W. Edwards.

The works contain a complete equipment of engineering shops for dealing efficiently with repair work, an electric generating station of 5,000 kw. capacity, a plant for grinding basic slag for agricultural use, and all other ancillary plant required for the efficient operation of the works. The company owns 17 locomotives and about one thousand wagons.

The Test House and Laboratory are in accord with the latest practice, and the Research Department is staffed by expert metallurgists for dealing with special problems. The company offers expert advice for the aid of its customers.

The works are not only capable of producing all classes of mild steel of the highest quality rolled within fine limits, but are equipped for dealing with many of the alloy steels, and indeed a considerable output of special steels is dealt with annually. As already indicated, production can be by either the acid or the basic process as required, and it is interesting to note that steel to nearly 300 different specifications is produced in the course of the year, and amongst the important users are included the Admiralty, the War Office, the British and foreign railway companies, as also the leading constructional engineers and motor-car manufacturers. The material can be produced either to the customer's own specification, or to the specifications of Lloyd's or the Board of Trade. Otherwise the specifications of the British Standards Institution are adopted.

It is not possible to do more than indicate the properties of a few of the different qualities of steel included in the 300 different specifications to which reference has already been made.

The forming of shapes by cold pressing was at one time confined to dead-soft steels. During recent years, improvements in steel making, heat-treatment and press- practice have enabled considerable extensions to be made to the range of steels used for this purpose. The Park Gate Company now manufactures and issues in large quantities, cold-pressing steels containing up to 0.45 per cent. carbon. These are issued mainly in the form of die-cut discs, fully softened after blanking, by a special heat-treatment. They are in most cases pressed into brake drums, etc., in one major operation, and are not heat-treated in any way after issue by Park Gate. The work-hardening effect of the pressing operation greatly increases the tensile strength, Brinell hardness and rigidity of the deformed portions. For example, Brinell hardness numerals of over 200, and tensile strengths exceeding 44 tons per sq. in., can now be obtained by cold pressing 0.35 to 0.45 per cent. carbon or 1.3 to 1.6 per cent. manganese cold pressing quality steel without any heat-treatment subsequent to the issue of the flat blank from the steel works. This feature is particularly useful and has found extensive application in the manufacture of brake drums, wire-wheel hubs, axle housings, and other automobile parts, where accuracy of shape and dimensions, strength, rigidity, resistance to abrasion, and lightness are major factors.

Similarly, application of these improved methods of heat-treatment to Park Gate cold pressing steels has increased enormously the range of shapes and thicknesses which can be pressed cold, with the result that hot pressings and drop forgings have been displaced in many instances.

A few typical applications of Park Gate cold pressing steels are given in the following table:-

(1) 0.08 - 0.12 % carbon Special Dead-killed Steel: Wire-wheel Hub Shells, Torque Balls, Sumps, Clutch Pressure Plates, and other difficult automobile pressings; Tinned, Galvanized and Enamelled Press work; "Blister-free" C.R.C.A. sheet and strip for body work, rim sections, etc.

(2) 0.15 — 0.20 % carbon: Tapered-disc Wheels for commercial automobiles; Chassis frames, etc.

(3) 0.20 — 0.25 % carbon; (4) 0.25 — 0.30 % carbon; (5) 0.30 — 0.35 % carbon: Brake-drums; Centre-locking Hub Shells for sports cars; Axle housings; Brake housing plates, etc., for automobiles

(6) 0.35 — 0.45 % carbon: Brake-drums and liners for automobiles and aircraft

(7) 0.20 — 0.25 % carbon 1.3 — 1.6 % manganese: Chassis frames of improved rigidity for automobiles

There has also arisen a demand in many trades for material of high tensile strength but capable of being pressed to shape whilst hot. The Park Gate Company supplies for this purpose plain-carbon steels containing up to 0.75 per cent. carbon; medium-carbon steels containing up to 1.6 per cent. manganese and alloy steels containing up to 3.25 per cent. nickel. Generally, hot-pressing is resorted to when the tensile strength and Brinell hardness demands of the specification, the intricacy of the shape, and the size and thickness of the pressing are beyond the estimated safe limits for cold press work. For instance, large brake-drums for heavy commercial and passenger road vehicles are usually hot-pressed, from 0.50, 0.60, or even 0.75 per cent. carbon steel, sometimes followed by oil-quenching and tempering. Side members for the chassis frames of these long heavy vehicles are usually hot-pressed from medium-carbon steel, medium-carbon high-manganese steel, or even from 0.20 to 0.25 per cent. carbon, 3 per cent. nickel steel. When the manganese or nickel qualities are used, air cooling from the temperature of pressing imparts to the steel a fine grained sorbitic structure characterized by great strength, toughness, and resistance to impact and fatigue.

The need for material to give an increased strength in the structural members of ships and bridges has led to the development of high elastic limit steel. This quality has many applications other than those indicated, and can be used, for example, in the construction of high-pressure boilers in which dead weight has to be kept as low as possible. The particular advantages of this quality are as follow:-

(a) Increased tenacity without loss of ductility.

(b) Increase of 25 to 50 per cent. in elastic limit and about 20 per cent. in maximum stress.

(c) No decrease in elongation or bending properties.

(d) Economy in weight without reduction in strength.

To meet the increase in the use of alloy steels in engineering work, nickel steel is produced with a nickel content in accordance with specifications. Manganese molybdenum steels and other alloy steels are also supplied. The materials are used for:—

(a) High tensile and high ductility forgings.

(b) Motor-car parts, axles, etc.

(c) High tensile case-hardening.

Another development of interest is the high-speed free cutting steel produced by the company and known as "P.G.F.4." The company was one of the earliest to make free cutting steel and has been so engaged for many years. "P.G.F.4," however, is the latest development, and during the time it has been on the market it has found considerable favour. It is superior to the similar steels which used to be imported from abroad. Many efforts have been made to copy it, but none has surpassed it in its free cutting properties or in the quality of uniformity it possesses.

This particular feature is shown in its ability to be machined at a very high speed, whilst giving a perfectly clean and polished surface. The uniformity of the steel is of major importance, because naturally any variation in the free cutting property causes trouble during the machining process, and in a modern mass-production shop equipped with automatic machines any failure of the action indicated may cause serious dislocation of output. In order to test the machining ability of the steel a test was carried out by Ward, Haggas and Smith of Keighley, on a super all-geared patent high-speed lathe, using cemented tungsten carbide tools. The "P.G.F.4" high-speed free cutting steel was machined at a peripheral speed of 1,645 feet per minute and gave an excellent finish in every way equal to that given by a high-class mild steel machined at 200 feet per minute.

The present capacity of the works is as follows:-

  • Pig-Iron...3,200 tons per week
  • Steel Ingots...5,000 tons per week
  • Plates, Sheets and Bars...3,600 tons per week
  • Bricks ...60,000 per week
  • Ground Basic Slag...500 tons per week
  • Tarred Slag for Roads...3,000 tons per week
  • Pit Arches...400 tons per week
  • Pit Props... 100 tons per week
  • Electrical Energy...600,000 units per week

Normally the Firm employs 2,300 men.


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