Monday, April 20, 2009

Cast Iron story

A large bucket full of molten material is poured into a large container, possibly a mold, by a group of men using machinery.

Filmed May 14, 1905, at the Westinghouse foundries in Trafford City, Pennsylvania.

This reminds me of my fathers factory where machinery parts were cast during mid-eighties. It was more basic and manual labor was used instead of machinery to pour the metal. We used to sometimes accompany him at night to see the casting. It was always done at night because there was no electricity during the day. I looked forward to these trips.

The silent black and white clip doesn't do justice to the whole process. I'll try to compensate for that. Once you entered the industrial area there were no roads, it was pitch dark and the silence was of the graveyard variety- very eerie. It was a whole different world inside the factory. The first thing that hit you was the incredible noise closely followed by the incredible sight. It took a while to recover from the assault on the senses- the sight, smell, noise, heat left you reeling and spellbound at the same time. The furnace was about 20 foot tall- like a big, old armoured warrior with a lot of fight still left in him and attached to it was a contraption for pumping air into it to stoke the fire for the melting process. It made tremendous noise like it was cursing everybody for making it work at night and the people working there had to shout to be heard.

The furnace spewed the molten metal into the iron buckets with their insides covered with clay to protect them from the metals heat. Once the required quantity was poured into the buckets the furnace was shut-up with clay plugs attached to long bamboo poles. Then a couple of guys lifted the buckets with help of the long iron rods which were welded to the buckets. It was quite a sight to see those thin sinewy guys wearing rags carry a load of yellow lava with sparks jumping out from it.

It almost seemed like that the guys were sweating not from the heat but from the threatening, spitting liquid metal whose sparks leaped disdainfully from their confines to pierce their flimsy flesh (during one cast the clay of the bucket had cracked and metal dropped and splashed the guys carrying it, giving them serious burns). The whole place glowed from the light of the liquid metal. It was poured into the clay casts where it would finally find peace and make a transition from its turbulent angry youth to cool, solid maturity.

The business unfortunately did not last much longer. The iron casting gave way to RCC (Reinforced concrete) casting of man-hole covers. Ah! from taming the wild lava to taming of the stench of the gutters.