Disposal of Blast Furnace Slag

The February 2002 issue of British Railway Modelling magasine carried a feature about slag ladle modelling. The article has been condensed and  adapted for the web .  All photos are from the author's collection excepting those marked SAL which are copyright Sidney A Leleux and used here with permission.

A by product from pig iron manufacture in the blast furnace is slag.  Iron ore, coke and limestone are charged into the top of the blast furnace and a hot blast of air is blown into the furnace near the base. As the hot air burns the coke it reduces the iron ore to iron and the limestone, acting as a flux, promotes the formation of a slag which attracts and retains unwanted impurities. Until it became commercially viable to recover the slag (eg. in cement manufacture, road building etc.) the slag was dumped on a suitable site. In Workington, over a century of ironmaking has resulted in a huge man made hill which shelters the town from the sea.  Whilst the former slag bank has largely been landscaped, the material is still being recovered and graded for resale as aggregate.
Workington-slag-bank.jpg (58443 bytes) Prior to the second world war, the typical slag ladle and carriage was of the two axle, Dewhurst pattern in widespread use throughout the British Iron and Steel industry. During wartime blackout conditions it was necessary to secure a large fleet of 4 axle bogie slag ladles and carriages manufactured by Ashmore Benson Pease & Co. of Stockton on Tees. These were British adaptations of an American Pollock design.  During twilight hours the slag was stored in ladles and then only tipped on the slag bank at daybreak. 

The movement of fully loaded slag ladles was one of the most arduous tasks required of any locomotive and in 1934 (around the time that the new Bessemer converter vessels were being installed)  the Workington works of the United Steel Companies purchased several engines from Robert Stephenson & Co. These were built to a special design and were amongst the most powerful industrial saddle-tank locomotives ever built for use in the United Kingdom.  The locomotive would push two slag ladles up the slag bank to the top whereupon the ladles would be tipped using steam power from the locomotive.  Although this was an everyday occurrence it was seldom photographed.

In 1975 Sidney A Leleux visited the British Steel Shelton works near Stoke-on-Trent. Sidney was fortunate to be able to capture the sequence showing how the earlier Dewhurst pattern ladle was tipped.   In 1977 he visited the Stanton Ironworks where he photographed a Dewhurst pattern ladle in detail         All photos S.A.L.

Stanton-ladle1.jpg (36051 bytes) Stanton Ironworks 10 ton Dewhurst ladle. The main drawbar hook and three link chain for pulling the carriage hangs down from the centre of the carriage. The ladle rotates about the twin trunnions.
Stanton-ladle2.jpg (40651 bytes) The ladle sits in the carriage and is retained by it's own weight. The tipping chain and gear is on the other side of the ladle. The carriage is of welded construction.
Stanton-ladle3.jpg (32697 bytes) The tipping chain terminated in a large link which was slipped over an auxiliary hook alongside the main drawbar. Slag ladle carriages were not equipped with brake gear.
Dewhurst-patent-slag-ladle.jpg (25301 bytes) A slag ladle and carriage photographed at the Wellingborough Iron Co. This is similar in design to those above. The ladle capacity is slightly smaller - probably 8 tons and the carriage is of rivetted construction.
slag_ladle_and_carriage_drg.gif (56403 bytes) This drawing of the Dewhurst pattern ladle illustrates clearly the configuration of the tipping mechanism. The split ladle allowed the two halves to be separated to remove a stubborn slag skull if required. Or if someone got too enthusiastic trying to remove a skull by force, two undamaged halves could be united!
YE-2869.jpg (23095 bytes) British Steel Shelton and Yorkshire Engine Co. 2869 built in 1962 Badger is pushing two slag ladles & carriages to the slag dump. These vehicles suffered considerable abuse - as evidenced by the drooping buffer. Note there are no chains visible on this, the furthest end from the locomotive
YE2869-tipping-slag.jpg (39412 bytes) The first carriage has been secured by a wood scotch, jammed between a wheel and the track. The tipping chain from the first carriage has been coupled to the second and Badger has reversed slowly. As the chain tightens, it causes the ladle to tip. When empty, the ladle's centre of gravity will roll it back.

This is an OO gauge (1/76 scale) model of the Stanton Ironworks ladle. It is a composite white metal and etched brass kit produced by Clarke Kits.   Steve Oakden's "Valerie" shunts a slag pot on Ian Blenkinsopp's "Parton Hurries" layout.
Kirkleatham slag ladle.jpg (184880 bytes) There is a preserved Slag ladle and carriage manufactured by Ashmore Benson Pease, & Co at the Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar, Cleveland.     Tel 01642 479500

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