«1938 1939 1939-1945 »

Continuous hot rolling mill installed

Britain’s second continuous hot strip mill is commissioned at Shotton. Some 7,260 tons of machinery had been shipped across the Atlantic during 1938 and the early part of this year. One ship, the MV Belnor, carrying the first load of 2,500 tons of plant, comes perilously close to disaster as it battles through hurricane squalls five days out at sea and 120 tons are lost overboard. Fortunately, the weather calms and on 29th March 1939, the ship arrives safely in Liverpool through the courage and skill of the captain and crew. This is recognised by the Liverpool underwriters with a cheque for £500 for the captain and crew. From Summers the captain receives a gold watch.

By the time replacement parts are ready for shipping, war has broken out and ships are being sunk in the Atlantic at an alarming rate. There is great relief at Shotton when the MV Manchester Division carrying the replacements berths safely in Liverpool on 19th September 1939.

Apart from a handful of Americans sent over from the Mesta Machinery Company, almost everyone on the site of the new hot rolling mill is inexperienced in strip rolling and has to learn the job.

The eight hot mill stands, driven by electric motors with a total horsepower of 24,000, are housed in a new building 1,500 feet long and 100 feet wide. The first steel is rolled through the new mill on Thursday 9th November, two months after the outbreak of the Second World War. It is decided to start rolling after 5.00 p.m. when most of the workers will normally have gone home. However, practically the entire workforce stay behind to join in the excitement as one red hot slab after another fails to complete the course. Some prove too thick, some move too quickly and some cobble into various shapes and sizes. After three hours, however, strip is going through to the coiler and the new mill is in operation.

The process route now involves a six ton ingot of steel, produced in one of the two open hearth steelworks, being reheated in a soaking pit and reduced in thickness and increased in length by passing backwards and forwards through a 40 inch wide slabbing mill. Waste material is cut from both ends of the slab, now 4½ inches thick and some 25 feet long, and the steel is reheated before passing through three roughing mills for reduction into plate 1 to 1½ inches thick. In the five finishing stands the thickness of the steel strip is reduced further, to allow coiling at the end of a run-out table. The train of mills is designed to roll more than 10,000 tons a week but achieves 17,000 tons before further development.

Subsequently, a three-stand tandem 56 in. cold reduction mill and other finishing units come into production also with a capacity of 10,000 tons of strip a week.

The introduction of continuous hot rolling brings an increase in the output of high grade sheets, improved surface finish, consistent quality from sheet to sheet, a quick changeover of production from one type of sheet to another and a 25 per cent, saving in scrap.

The closure of the old hand mills has begun with crew members transferred to the new strip mills. However, some of the original hand rolling mills will remain in production to meet the demands of the war.