I Was All Over That Mill

“I got to watch that. This was big for me. It was something that I just dearly loved…”

Produced by Rich Elliott.

Transcript for I Was All Over That Mill

Bethlehem Steel had just opened up this whole new steel mill just a few miles away, and I always wanted to get into the engineering aspect of my degree. I became an industrial engineer at Bethlehem Steel. And I remained there until I retired.

I was there for 33 years. While I was there, the computers came into play, and I learned how to turn on a computer and I learned programming, and I became a statistical programmer. And because I was a programmer for that department, and I did an assortment of jobs, I was pretty much all over that mill, which in one respect was really very satisfying. I got to see every operation. I got to watch it. I didn’t have to be there with the permission or anything. I could just walk in with my hard hat and steel-toed shoes and safety glasses, and I was accepted, I was Tim Cole, come to watch.

Early on, when I was going to college, I did my summer work in another steel mill, and I worked in the open hearth, where it took eight hours to make a couple hundred tons of steel. And you’d sit there, and you’d sit there, and you’d wait, and the thing would just bubble and cook in there. And then they would have this piece of dynamite that they would throw in in one end of the furnace, and then put a ladle under it, and then they would set that dynamite off, and you’d hear that beep, beep, beep, beep, and bang! And sparks would fly, and pieces would fly and everybody took cover. Because you never knew what would happen. Sometimes the whole floor of the furnace blew out and all of the steel poured down into the pit where I happened to work at that time. So anyway, I got to watch that whole process evolve.

I got to see the development and operation of continuous casting, which was a brand-new technique in producing hot slabs, ready for rolling. The old process was to put it in an ingot and wait for the ingot to cool, dump it out of the ingot, run it through a furnace to heat it up again, red hot, and then it can go through a slabber that converted it to a slab and then it sat and cooled off, and then it had to go through another furnace again so that it could be processed for rolling with the continuous caster. It was just one operation. It was melted steel poured into a mold that slowly hardened and came out red hot and went directly to processing. I got to watch that. This was big for me. It was something that I just dearly loved it, to tell people about, because it was an innovation in steel making that not everybody got to witness, and I did.

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