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I Forge Iron

Big Bars for Danger Dillon

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It is all relative-context is all....

Back in the mid eighties I was asked to go down to the British Rail Engineering Works in Swindon and design some gates that the BREL blacksmiths could make.

So there I was full of the joys of using my 5 year old Reiter 50kg hammer walking into a shop which dwarfed two or three 500kg Becher hammers (they called them basher hammers) chatting with the 'smiths to find out what we could do together.

One of them asked me what sort of work I did and I went into "explain to student mode" and said "Well I don't work in the baroque tradition where you take a series of small elements and join them together to make a pattern, I start with a big bar and forge the forms out of it working like a sculptor with clay"

As the words 'big bar' left my lips I happened to look down and noticed that my foot was resting on a billet of 200mm square (8" square) did I go red and start to gabble or what! :)

Sadly they closed the works before we could set the project up.

P.S. Do a search on BREL Swindon and you will get a clue as to the size. The works were designed by I K Brunel in order to build his railway.

P.P.S. My Finlay 100 tonne horizontal press came from the similar BREL works in Southampton, complete with railway line profiled blocks.

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I've a friend with many relatives who worked in the rail yards at Swindon. They have all died or are in the process of dying of asbestosis.
Just thought I'd cheer you up with that thought.

Thank you for sharing that with us, it has lightened the not-particuarly-amusing tone of my anecdote no end. :angry:

Did they come into contact with asbestos that was being shipped through the marshalling yards or in some horrid process in the actual blacksmiths shop of the BR engineering works that I was talking about? i.e. was there any particular relevance to the post other than a link to Swindon, the railways and the wish to spread gloom and despondence? :mellow:

I am not really having a go at you. :) The awe in which we hold those industrial 'smiths with the big machines is only enhanced when we think of the pretty rancid conditions they were working in. It does also serve to temper my "Health-and-Safety-gorn-mad" irritation when I am told that it is dangerous to use a 3 tonne sling on a 2 tonne chain hoist to lift a 250kg gate....
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Asbestos was used for lagging in the old steam locomotives so anyone involved with re-doing a boiler or working on the "innards" of the old locomotives was exposed. (as was anyone who visited the shops where such work was done as well).

It's always amusing when someone's "big work" turns out to be another person's "micro work"---like seeing a visiting person's "big knife" soon after having had to extend the sword heat treat furnace by a lot to do a particularly large sword...

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This reminded me of some pictures my dad took when he was in the Navy in the early 50s. His ship had put into a shipyard in Sasabo, Japan. he happened into the shops when they were forging the crank shaft for ship engine. Big steam hammer, huge chain hoist, huge piece of glowing steel, and lots of man power.
I would love to see something like that first hand. Just doesn't seem likely these days though.

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