This great reduction is the cumulative result of a number of concurrent improvements, partly in the conversion of the iron, and partly in the subsequent treatment of the ingot steel. In most of the great steelworks the iron is no longer remelted, but is transferred direct from the blast furnace to the converter, a practice which originated at Terre-Noire, and was long considered in this country to be incompatible with uniformity in the quality of the steel produced. The turn-out of the converter plant has been gradually increased in this country to more than four times that of fourteen years ago, while the practice of the United States is stated by a recent visitor to have reached such an astounding figure that I am afraid to quote it without confirmation; but the greatest economy arises no doubt in the labor and fuel employed in the mill.
Cogging has taken the place of hammering. Even wash-heating will be, if it is not already, generally dispensed with by the soaking process of our colleague, Mr. Gjers, which permits of the ingot, as it leaves the pit, being directly converted into a rail.
An extract from a letter addressed to me by our colleague, Mr. E.W. Richards, will describe better than any words of mine the perfection at which steel rail mills have arrived. He says, “Our cogging rolls are 48 in. diameter, and the roughing and finishing rolls are 30 in. diameter. We roll rails 150 feet long as easily as they used to roll 21 feet. Our ingots are 151/2 inches square, and weigh from 25 to 30 cwts. according to the weight of rail we have to roll. These heavy ingots are all handled by machinery. We convey them by small locomotives from the Bessemer shop to the heating furnaces, and by the same means from the heating furnaces to the cogging rolls.