#381 – Library of Congress Images – Really big machines

076961puWhile browsing the Library of Congress Historical American Engineering Record, I came across some photographs of something I had actually seen.

A few years ago, I visited the Wyman Gordon Forge in Worcester, Massachusetts in an official capacity to see their (almost) unique 50000 ton press in action.

For a piece of metal bashing machinery, the story behind it is surprisingly interesting. There’s a great article here http://boingboing.net/2012/02/13/machines.html

The post war arms race saw a rise in demand from the aerospace and space industry for large closed die aluminium and titanium forgings. Larger forgings of simple shaped parts had been made in the past on open die forging presses, where hot metal is squeezed repeatedly into shape (think of a blacksmith hammering hot metal on an anvil), but closed die is different as the hot metal is squeezed between the two parts of a ‘mould’ to create a part that is near net shape and just requires finished machining. But to do this form of forgoing requires a huge amount of power, far more than open die.

They were deemed so strategically important, that two identical presses were built, one for Wyman Gordon on the east coast, near Boston, and one for Alcoa, that was positioned on the west coast. For many years, the different parts of the factory were completely segregated from one another and you could not go into a different department without appropriate permission. The different parts of the factory were reached by an enormous tunnel that stretched from the admin block all the way to the far side of the million square foot plant, with stairways up to the different departments.

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Since it was built, it has been surpassed in size by the monumental 65000 ton press at Interforge in Issoire in France, which I have also witnessed in operation. This really is an enormous piece of machinery, to the point where the building was built around it and rumour has it has been operated at greater pressures than 65000 tons. Mind you it was designed and built in Russia so given their reputation for over engineering things, it is no doubt well capable. Bear in mind also that forging presses are similar to icebergs, there’s just as much below the surface, if not substantially more, than above the surface.

Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures of it and the only pictures on the web are somewhat small.

http://www.oilgear.com/EngineeredSolutions/Interforge65000OpenDiePress.htm

#380 – Library of Congress Images – The Long Stairway, Pittsburgh

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The photographs of Jack Delano have been featured before on this blog, and these were the documentary images of and around the railway. This is a slightly different subject matter and style of photography.

There are a few different variations of this scene on the Library of Congress website, but this one just works best in my eyes. Maybe it’s the solitary figure walking done the steep icy steps, and the people further down, all heading towards the gargantuan steel mills that dominate the bottom of the valley.

As a photograph, I think it needs these people in the photographs, and they need to be small in comparison to the landscape and the steel mill. By positioning the steps in the immediate foreground, their steepness is somehow emphasised, while the enormity of the steel mills implies something to me – the hardiness of the people and their trudge to work down steep icy hills to do a tough job in the dirt and heat of the mills.

Perhaps it’s these winter months that have drawn me to this winter scene and the one in my last post. Certainly, this would have had less atmosphere had it been taken in the middle of summer, when the skies were less murky, and there was no snow on the ground.

#379 – Locomotive and a watertower at the Erie Railroad yards, Jersey City

Locomotive and a watertower at the Erie Railroad yards, Jersey City, N.J-Edit

This was a bit of a one off in the New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection on the Library of Congress website. It doesn’t appear to be part of a series and I can find no other railway photographs in the same collection. But it’s a good ‘un nonethless, even though it’s needed a bit of restoration work.

The scene is clearly a winter one, with the scattering of snow on the ground and the leaden east coast skies. The abundance of parked locomotives all in steam would suggest that this is was shot fairly early in the day, but I could be wrong.

The water tank looks fairly ramshackle, indeed fairly primitive compared with some of the massive facilities in American railway photographs, but is also very reminiscent of the archetypal New York water tower seen on many buildings in the city.

I can’t help but get the feeling this was a grab shot from the window of a stopped (or passing) train on an over bridge – not sure why though.

#378 – Library of Congress Images – Ocean Liners

Docking a big liner, S.S. Oceanic

There’s something rather elegant in the design of the ships from the late Victorian / early Edwardian era. There’s something about the low set superstructures on top of the high hulls that made them look quite racy. This is the RMS Oceanic, the largest ship in the world at the time of it’s launch in 1899, but whose career lasted only until 1914 when she ran aground in the Shetlands and was smashed to pieces by a storm. What was left above the water was cut down to water level in 1924, while in 1973 more of the hull was removed. It wasn’t until 1979 that the last pieces of the hull were removed. The only parts now remaining are one of the ships propellor blades, which now resides in Fife.

Here’s a few 100% views of the ship, in case you were wondering how many buttons are on the coat that bloke on the bow is wearing, or if you were curious to know if the Captain has a beard or not.

 

Oceanic1

Up front, waiting to do that Titanic thing from the film. Not.

Oceanic2

Passengers and the Captain (on the flying bridge) observing the docking operations.

Oceanic3

Rivet counting anyone? As always, the resolution afforded by the glass plate negative is stunning.

S.S. Prinzessin Victoria Luise

The S.S. Prinzessin Victoria Luise, surely one of the most beautiful ships ever launched, had an even shorter career of only 6 years. She was not a great transatlantic liner like the Oceanic, rather she was the worlds first cruise ship. It was on a West Indian Cruise in 1906, where she ran aground and could not be refloated. A great history and some superb photographs can be found here.

White Star S.S. Olympic [guided in by tugboats Geo. K. Kirkham and Dowmer

Finally, here is the RMS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic (or if you believe the conspiracy theories, then this is the RMS Titanic). Launched only 12 years after the Oceanic above, she was significantly larger – 46000 tonnes vs 17000 tonnes, 882 ft vs 704 ft length, 92ft vs 68 ft beam, which just goes to show the speed of change in this era. And unlike the Titanic and the other ships in this article, she enjoyed a long career, being withdrawn from service in 1935.

#377 – Upcoming Talk at Bingley Camera Club 8th December 2014

The next stop on my series of talks in West Yorkshire is at 7.30 on Monday night (8th December) at Bingley Camera Club, who meet at Church House, Old Main Street, Bingley, BD16 2RH. This will be my Mechanical Landscapes talk, which is loosely based on the writings and photographs from this blog and my websites.

For the record, my next talks will be in early 2015 at Huddersfield Photo Imaging Club, and Batley Camera Club, more details to follow.

While I’m at it, might as well advertise the talk. I am available to lecture at camera clubs and other interested organisations within a 1 hour / 40 mile radius of Chorley. Currently I am asking for travel expenses only, to and from the venue. I’d be delighted to speak in my home county of Lancashire, as most of my talks seem to be in Yorkshire!

Please contact me via the comments or via one of my websites.

#376 – Mechanical Landscapes Exhibition moves to Bolton

Through my membership of the Lancashire Monochrome group, I have been invited to display the Mechanical Landscapes exhibition to the clubs permanent gallery space at the Bolton Mercure hotel on the A6 near West Houghton (also known as the Georgian House).

This is fundamentally the same exhibition as that at Ebb and Flo in Chorley, except that the club frames are permanently fixed to the wall and are oriented differently (i.e. 4 portrait and 8 landscape, as opposed to 6 of each like I had previously), so the selection is slightly different. The hotel is less than 5 minutes from Junction 6 of the M61, near the Middlebrook development (i.e. the Reebok Stadium, or Macron as it is now known), so feel free to wander in if you are passing!

I’ve agreed to a bigger exhibition to be held at a larger venue in February 2015 – news coming very soon!!!!

#375 – Library of Congress Images – Building Liberty Ships at Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyard

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. A shipyard with a crane

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. A shipyard with a crane. (sic)

One of the biggest contributions America made to the war effort was its enormous industrial base and associated ingenuity. It was Henry Fords protege’s from the motor industry who were brought in to help the conversion of the peace time manufacturing industry to an incredible machine churning out arms arms and armaments in astonishing numbers.

One of the best examples was the liberty ship. On the west coast, civil engineering contractor Henry Kaiser built yards and set records for the completion of ships, while on the east coast existing shipbuilders Bethlehem built a new yard in Baltimore and using the same mass production, pre-fabrication techniques as on the other coast churned out ships for the Atlantic convoys. Of course the concept of pre-fabrication wasn’t new, but getting it done off site at non shipyard facilities was.

Shipyards tend to be vast places and the Baltimore yard was no exception. This was a new yard, built solely for the construction of Liberty Ships, but with the end of the war, it’s vast extra capacity was no longer needed and it closed down. The area has since be totally re-developed.

Baltimore, Maryland. Way no. 8 of the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, showing the Liberty ship Frederick Douglass in its early stage of construction

Baltimore, Maryland. Way no. 8 of the Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, showing the Liberty ship Frederick Douglass in its early stage of construction.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. A crane operator high above the yard

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. A crane operator high above the yard.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. A shipyard worker

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. A shipyard worker.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Erecting a flat keel

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Erecting a flat keel.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Erecting bottom shell plates

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Erecting bottom shell plates.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Ship construction in its early stage

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Ship construction in its early stage.

Between the ways of this large Eastern shipyard run tracks for flat cars carrying materials or sections to be hoisted onto the decks of ships under construction 2-2Between the ways of this large Eastern shipyard run tracks for flat cars carrying materials or sections to be hoisted onto the decks of ships under construction.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Forward section of a nearly completed ship

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Forward section of a nearly completed ship.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. General view between the ways

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. General view between the ways.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Greasing outboard end of the ways just before a launching

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Greasing outboard end of the ways just before a launching.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Looking aft on deck from a Liberty ship

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. Looking aft on deck from a Liberty ship.

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. The stem of a vessel just after the launching ceremony

Bethlehem-Fairfield shipyards, Baltimore, Maryland. The stem of a vessel just after the launching ceremony.