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1883 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Visits to Works

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1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.
1883. Visits to Works - John Cockerill and Co.

Note: This is a sub-section of 1883 Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Visits to Works (Excursions) to Belgium (part only)

John Cockerill and Co


Seraing is situated on the river Meuse, about six miles above Liege. It lies on the carboniferous formation, which enters Belgium by Hainault, traverses it from west to east, and leaves the Belgian frontier by Henri-Chapelle and Welkenraedt. This formation, lying from Charleroi to Namur in the valley of the Sambre, and from Namur to Liege in the valley of the Meuse, thins out in the latter district: the carboniferous limestone follows the left bank of the river as for as Flemalle; then dipping suddenly, throws up the coal-seams on the right bank more numerous, thicker, and richer than before. These beds underlie the whole of Seraing, where they were discovered about 1190.

At an unknown date the Princes of Liege built their summer palace at Seraing. It fell to ruins in the time of George Louis do Berg (1724), who restored, embellished, and enlarged it. It became national property when the Belgians passed under French domination, served as a military hospital, and was then transformed into a powder magazine.

In 1815, on the foundation of the kingdom of the Netherlands, the palace and its' dependencies remained the property of the Public Domain; which latter ceded it two years afterwards to James and John Cockerill, for the establishment of workshops for the manufacture of machinery, and for flax-spinning by the processes which they were then introducing into the country.

The establishment of Seraing was the development of the work done by Cockerill the father, at the Jesuits Bridge at Liege, from 1802 to 1813, and by James and John Cockerill after that date. The workshops at Liege had carried out work of immense magnitude for those days, consisting chiefly of machinery for spinning wool and flax and for the operations of weaving.

Between 1818, the date of beginning work at Seraing, and 1823, when John Cockerill fixed his residence there, forty-three steam-engines had been made. They consisted of motors for spinning- mills, and of winding and pumping engines for collieries.

From 1824 down to the Belgian revolution in 1830, the number of steam-engines constructed amounted to 158, among them being one of 230 nominal HP. for the Royal Dutch corvette "Atlas." The circle of operations had extended. Blowing machinery, motors for iron-works, steam corn-mills, and especially marine engines, furnished the principal contingents.

The Belgian revolution of 1830 completely stopped this forward movement, by closing to the Belgian works the outlet of Holland.

From 1833 to 1835, quiet being re-established, 53 engines were turned out, of which two were for pumping (100 and 200 HP. respectively), and two were for boats (70 and 110 HP.) There were also two steamers. Besides this, the works had built for the Belgian State Railway the first large locomotive constructed on the Continent, and had rolled the rails it was to run on. The creation of railways made up for the outlets closed in 1830.

But the financial crisis of 1840, the death of John Cockerill, and the winding-up which followed, ending in the formation in 1842 of a limited company for the carrying on of the establishments, weighed heavily upon Seraing.

The production of the four years from 1840 to 1843 only rose to the same total as in 1839, that is, 24 stationary engines, 31 locomotives, 3 marine engines, and 3 steamboats; 1844 gave 12 stationary engines, 10 locomotives, 1 marine engine, and 1 steamboat.

In 1845 the movement was more considerable, and steady progress was made henceforward. In 1849, 1850, and 1851, 13 steamboats, besides 184 engines, left the Cockerill establishments. These engines included those sent to the Great Exhibition of London, which obtained the Grand Medal.

From 1852 to 1857, 236 stationary and marine engines and 150 locomotives left the Cockerill workshops.

From 1857 to 1865, 583 stationary engines, 206 locomotives, and 109 steamboats, among them being two ironclad gunboats for Russia, were produced. The machinery executed during this period comprised the boring machinery for the Mont Cenis Tunnel.

From 1866 to 1883, in its mechanical department, in bridge-building work, in boiler-makers' work independently of engines, and in ships and steamboats, the Society Cockerill has executed 22,670 orders for other countries. This includes seven new mail-boats (1866 to 1870) now running between Dover and Ostend; the first steamer built in Europe on the American system for the Volga; screw cargo-steamers, whose consumption of coal per indicated horsepower per hour is 1.55 lbs.; numerous blowing-engines (Seraing system); the mechanical plant of the steel works at the Ruhr, and at divers Russian works; the steel works of the Compagnie des Forges de Chatillon et Commentry, of the Compagnie du Nord et Est de la France, and those at St. Chamond and at Athus; bridges such as those over the Dniester, the Bug, and the affluents of the Volga; numerous apparatus for air-compressing and for rock-drilling; compound engines, reversing engines, winding and pumping engines; ironclad turrets, steel ordnance, &c.

Since 1866, the establishments of the Societe John Cockerill have been managed by M. Eugene Sadoine, administrator-director-general. Under his direction have been carried out the development of the Colard Colliery, the acquisition of two-fifths of the concession of the coal mines of Esperance, and the acquisition of the Somorrostro iron mines in Spain; the creation of a fleet of sea-going steamers for the transport of iron ore by sea, and thence by canal; the blast- furnaces for making pig for the converters, and their connection, on the level of the upper platform, with the Appold coke-ovens at the Colard Colliery, as well as with the depot for ore on the top of the slag mountain (the latter being in connection, on the one hand with the Namur and Liege Railway, and on the other with the river Meuse, and accessible both ways by locomotives); the creation of a new foundry, of a new steel-rail mill, and of a reversing plate-rolling mill; the construction of the bridge-building shop and its annexes; the creation of the ship-building yard at Hoboken (Antwerp); the refectories, workmen's houses, hospital, dispensary, and orphanage; the schools for adults and for colliers, the Naval Industrial School at Hoboken, &c.

On arrival by rail at the Seraing Station the visitor notices the Colard and Caroline Pits, and the Hospital and Orphanage erected by the Society in a salubrious situation, and surrounded by large gardens. The Hospital can accommodate 250 beds in the case of an epidemic, and all its arrangements are made for that number. In ordinary times forty to fifty wounded or sick patients are under treatment. Those in the employ of the Society, and their families, are admitted free, and those belonging to neighbouring works are admitted on payment.

The Orphanage accommodates 112 pupils of both sexes — children of the Society's workmen. They there receive primary instruction, and lessons in gymnastics and music. At fourteen years of age, the boys are admitted into the works as apprentices, the girls continue as seamstresses or washerwomen as they may be taught.

From the station, the Colard Pit is reached by ascending an inclined plane, at the foot of which, in buildings belonging to the Society, are installed the preparatory classes of the Miners' School, and the school itself. The preparatory classes take children and youths from twelve to sixteen years of age, and the Miners' School is for training head miners, and mining inspectors.

To the east of the inclined plane is a dispensary, belonging to the Society, from whence medicines and necessaries are distributed gratuitously.

Colard Pit.— This contains two shafts of a depth of 530 metres (579 yds.), from which 2000 tons of coal may be raised daily; 5000 cubic metres of water may be pumped out in the same time (1,100,000 gallons).

The winding engine, using a steel-wire rope on a spiraloidal drum, is of more than 1000 HP. net. No other of the kind exists in Belgium.

The two rotary pumping engines, of the type invented in all its parts by the Society Cockerill, exert 250 HP. each, in water raised, and are similar to those exhibited at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. The Society's coal is rich, and suitable for the manufacture of coke, and for the requirements of metallurgical establishments. The concession comprises 307 hectares (7581 acres).

There are 432 Appolt coke-ovens dependent on these collieries, which produce 360 tons of coke of the best quality per diem. The total coal used in the works is about 1400 tons per diem.

Slag Mountain.— On the inclined plane leading to the pit there is a line of rails 11 metro gauge, for locomotive and coke wagons; and a double line of narrow gauge, worked by an endless chain coming from the pits, and bringing coal in small trucks for the supply of the furnaces. Towards the middle of the inclined plane in question, is a branch line leading to a number of other inclined planes, arranged spirally around the sloping sides of the artificial mountain, created since 1820 by the continued deposits of shale, slag, scoriae, and rubbish. They run up to the top of the mountain, which is levelled to form storage-room for the materials (ore, flux, and coke) necessary for the supply of the blast-furnaces.

This mountain, enclosed, so to speak, in the middle of the works, occupied very valuable ground, and its encroachments every year became more and more serious, more especially as the increase of the blast furnaces and steel works required so much more room for the transport and reception of their materials than heretofore.

In 1879 it became necessary to re-arrange communications; and the transformation of the slag mountain, to form a platform for the storage of materials for the blast furnaces, was resolved upon.

It was an important work, as much from the difficulties encountered as from the results to be obtained; the surface occupied by this mountain is considerable, and its height extends 35 metres (115 feet) above the level of the Meuse.

Leaving the aforesaid platform, and following the curves of the railway round the mountain, the Gas Works are passed, where gas is made from the refuse of petroleum 9The installation of these gasworks has been of great service to the fitters and workmen employed, the light given by petroleum gas being more brilliant and more steady than that from ordinary coal gas, which tires the sight.), and then we come to the Caroline Pit, with its groups of Coppee coke-ovens, recently acquired by the Society.

Further on, and coming to level ground, the road follows the banks of the Meuse through the different stores for steel rails, timber for the pits, iron from the rolling-mills, and especially for the Algerian and Spanish ores, which come from Antwerp by canal. Powerful steam elevators, erected in 1873 on the crest of the river bank, enable the ore to be quickly unloaded. The ore also comes by railway, paying to the State more than a million francs annually for carriage. On arriving at the Seraing railway station, these ore trucks are taken by the Company's locomotives towards the depot on the top of the slag mountain. If brought by water, the ore is lifted by the elevators and deposited either in iron enclosures stretching alongside the Meuse, or in tip- wagons by which it is taken to the stacks established on the slag mountain.

Nearly in front of the elevators are a third set of coke-ovens (Appolt system), which produce 140 tons of washed coke daily. Close by is the canal, by which barges bring ore, &c., to the basin in the interior of the works. By the side of this canal are to be found the pattern store, the delivery store, the general store, and the timber store. There is a yard for building iron river-boats, installed on the bank of the river; and there are also enormous depots of timber of different sizes for the coal-pits, stores for the products of the rolling-mills and steel-works, &c.

The Castle of Seraing.— This comprises the residence of the Director-General, the Library, the Archives, the chamber reserved for the general meeting of shareholders (where in olden times the States-General of the Prince Bishop of Liege held their sittings), &c. A large building on the other side of the courtyard contains the office of the Secretary-General, the commercial and industrial offices, and that of the Chief Engineer, &c. Beyond this extend on one side the drawing offices, under the immediate direction of the latter, who has between forty-five and fifty engineers, draughtsmen, and tracers under him; on the other side are the Board and Committee-rooms of the Council of Administration and the office of the Director-General; then come the pattern shop and photographic studio.

Fitting Shops.— Workshop No. 1 was built in 1871. The roof on the "Riaikem" or saw-tooth system has since been copied by the State and by the Northern Railway Company. It had not been used till then except for spinning mills. It presents the advantages of an equal distribution of light and air in every part, which is very advantageous for fitting work and for the health of the workmen.

The buildings forming the left wing enclose the Pattern shop, established in 1872, which is shop No. 2. Workshop No. 3 has been enlarged and rearranged successively in 1879 and 1881. Workshop No. 4, or the locomotive shop, was enlarged and modified in 1864. In Workshop No. 5 the large land and marine engines are erected. This building is lighted by night by the electric light, which is very favourable for erecting work. Workshop No. 6 is the bolt and nut making department.

The lifting cranes in the workshops are all worked by compressed air. A large 50-ton travelling crane is placed in the yard for handling and loading up heavy goods, such as locomotives.

Marie Pit.— This colliery, now in the middle of the works, was started in 1856, the pits being sunk by compressed air. Here was established in 1875, for the first time in Belgium, a system of central condensation of the steam from the various motors by means of a special condenser and air-pump. The plant comprises an air-compressing engine, first put down in 1871 to work the drills at the Caroline and Colard Pits. The centrifugal ventilator was erected in 1878, and is the first of the kind.

Forges.— This division contains a steam-hammer of 25 tons, erected in 1877, capable of forging cannon in steel of the largest calibre. There are also other hammers of less importance.

The small forges comprise hammers for the manufacture of wheels for locomotives and railway wagons, &c., and a lathe-shop for rough-turning these forgings. A large dining-room, with white marble tables, is placed between the hammer-shop and forges. Similar rooms exist in all departments for workmen who do not live in Seraing. They date from 1866, after the cholera epidemic.

Boiler Department.— All that remains of the old boiler-shop are the two largo shops for the erection of boilers. The shop for plate-flanging, and for the preparation of other parts of boilers, was erected in 1874. The large bridge-building shop and its annexes have been erected since 1880.

Blast-Furnaces.— Two of the three old furnaces make pig-iron from Luxembourg ore. The third makes hematite pig from Spanish and Algerian ores for the converters, as do also the four new furnaces at the Steel Works. They produce on an average about 50 tons of pig a day.

The large horizontal blowing engine, dating from 1860, was transformed into a compound engine in 1880; its power is from 270 to 300 HP.

These furnaces will probably be connected with the upper ore platform, similarly to those at the steel department; and the Luxembourg ore arriving by railway will be brought on to the platform in close proximity to the mouths of the furnaces.

The inclined planes used for elevating the slag and scone from the iron mill were made in 1875.

Steel Works.— In 1866 these only comprised one 5-ton converter, and a rolling mill for rails and tyres; all the rest of this department has been constructed since 1866. The old foundry is transformed into a Siemens-Martin furnace shop. Of the four blast-furnaces alight, Nos. 1 and 2 were erected in 1871-72. They were rebuilt in 1881, and raised to the same height as Nos. 3 and 4 constructed in 1880-81. These four furnaces produce each 70 tons of pig for steelmaking daily; and the metal can be run direct from them into the converter. The consumption of these furnaces in foreign ore is 180,000 to 200,000 tons, and the production of pig about 100,000 tons per annum.

The three large blowing-engines, which supply them with air, have a collective power of 600 HP. Two are sufficient for four furnaces, the third is held in reserve. They are of the type invented by the Society Cockerill, and used all over the world. Nearly 160 of these engines have come out of the Seraing workshops.

The Bessemer foundry contains four converters. The last pit is capable of producing by itself 300 tons of steel per diem. The Bessemer blowing engines are also on the Cockerill system. The rail mills (roughing down and finishing) produced in 1878 as much as 2054 tons of rails in five days' work. The direct-acting reversing gear is tho invention of the Society; its promptness of action is remarkable.

The tyre mill is able to roll tyres of nearly 2 metres diameter (6i ft.), as well as ordinary sizes. It is by means of these powerful tools that the Society have been able to roll the largo hoops required for guns, as furnished by the Society to the Italian, Dutch, and Belgian governments.

The steel works employ about 1,540 workmen.

Foundries. — This department is composed of three largo buildings, of which the two principal ones have been built since 1866, in strict accordance with all rules of health and convenience applicable to the moulders' industry: they are provided with ample means of transport and lifting, which allow of a considerable reduction in cost price. Since 1866 the Brass Foundry, Sand Store, Core-makers' shops, &c., have also been erected on the west side of this department.

Iron Works.— This division is perhaps the one that has undergone the least change since 1866. Nevertheless important improvements have also been made here. Dating from 1868, all the motors have been fitted with condensing apparatus; and boilers heated by coal have disappeared, steam being produced by the waste heat from the Puddling and reheating furnaces. A train of rolls for large bars and rolled girders, with an engine of 280 HP., has been added; and the plate-mill, having become obsolete, has been altered and attached to a powerful reversing engine (the first on the Continent) of 550 HP., constructed in the works in 1868. A new plate-mill is le course of construction. The different buildings have also been 'mewed, and steam-hammers of the best system have replaced the old tools.

See Also


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