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1958 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Visits to Works

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Note: This is a sub-section of 1958 Institution of Mechanical Engineers


The Wiggins Teape Group originally considered the possibility of making tissue papers almost twenty years ago, but it was not until after the 1939-45 war that it was possible to take any practical steps. After research into the market possibilities of tissue papers for hygienic, industrial and packaging uses, it was decided to go ahead with the planning of a new mill.

After careful consideration of various sites, building commenced at Llangynwyd, a few miles north-west of Bridgend in South Wales. This site met the essential requirements for a paper mill: abundant supply of soft water, good road and rail access, and port facilities. Additionally, the close proximity of Llynfi power station, which supplies steam and electricity to the mill, made the building of a separate power station unnecessary.

To produce the many different qualities of tissue for which it was anticipated there would be a demand, three papermaking machines were installed, together with the necessary ancillary equipment. The machines were 'christened' Jack, Jill, and Baby. Jack is a Fourdrinier machine producing unglazed tissues, while Jill produces M.G. tissues, and Baby produces a wide selection of speciality crepe tissues.

After a comparatively short time it became obvious that the increasing demand was in excess of the maximum production of the three existing machines, despite the fact that all three were working 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Owing to this increasing demand, particularly for creped tissues, it became necessary to consider the possibility of installing a fourth machine. Fortunately, this had been foreseen and ample space was available for expansion. The installation of a fourth machine, David, was commenced in 1957 and production of top-grade tissues has started. This additional machine has more than doubled Bridgend's output of creped tissue.


British Iron and Steel Research Association

Sketty Hall at Swansea is the South Wales Laboratory of the British Iron and Steel Research Association. There, research is concentrated on the development of improved protective coatings for steel strip and sheet, and processes of applying them. Current work includes development of new processes relating to tinplate manufacture both by electrodeposition and by hot-metal coating, a process for bonding P.V.C. film to steel strip to provide a workable metal laminate, and a process for high-speed strip lacquering. Among other projects in hand are the investigation of mechanical working and heat treatment procedures on the ultimate properties of a coated-steel product, study of the corrosion behaviour of certain fruit syrups in contact with tinplate and the development of appropriate instruments and controls for new coating processes under development.


British Overseas Airways Corporation

British Overseas Airways Repair Factories undertake the complete overhaul of aero-engines, components, and accessories for the Corporation and its Associated Companies. It also carried out, under contract, overhauls for other operators, the R.A.F. and the U.S.A.F.

Engines are stripped, cleaned, repaired, assembled, and erected in a main factory block. There is a separate factory and plant for the repairing and testing of carburettors and fuel-injection pumps. After final assembly the engines are tested in sound-proof cells, situated at Nantgarw, two miles from the main factory. Here they are run through schedules of test of approximately 5 hours, during which performance, fuel and oil consumption and temperatures are checked and recorded.

The types of engines at present being overhauled and tested are : Pratt and Whitney Wasp Major, 28-cylinder piston, 2800 h.p.; Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp 1830, 14-cylinder piston, 1050 h.p.; Curtiss Wright Cyclones BD. piston 2100 h.p.; Curtiss Wright EA-I. Turbo-Compound piston, 2850 h.p.; Bristol Proteus Turbo-Prop, 3375 h.p.

The 'Bristol Proteus' is installed in the 'Bristol Britannia' and, for these, new technically advanced and fully silenced test cells have been constructed. These new cells are capable of testing engines up to 10 000 h.p. and Repair Factories are thus prepared for the overhaul of newer and more powerful types as these come into service.

There are also two cells for straight jet engines used up to the present for testing 'Bristol Olympus' engines. The next to be tested will be the 'Rolls-Royce Avons' installed in the Comet IV which are to be delivered to B.O.A.C. late this year. Ultimately these cells will be used for the 'Rolls-Royce Conway' engines installed in the 'Boeing 707' and the 'V.C. 10' aircraft.

The staff at Treforest number some 1100, of which about 85 per cent are local.

The base was originally established in 1940 as an engine repair centre for B.O.A.C. and the Ministry of Aircraft Production (for the R.A.F.).


Brown, Lenox and Co

Brown, Lenox and Co., Ltd, originated in The Borough, London, near Waterloo Bridge. It was in 1806 that a Naval Officer, Lieutenant Samuel Brown, who had served with Nelson, designed and commenced to manufacture wrought iron chain. This was the first chain to be produced on a commercial basis, and it replaced the manilla ropes that previously had been used for ships' anchors and moorings.

The business prospered, and it now has works in Pontypridd, South Wales, and in Millwall, London, E.14. Chain cable is still one of its most important products, but now there are others which also contribute substantially to the Company's annual turnover. These are carbon, austenitic manganese and alloy steel castings, forgings in wrought iron and steel, fabricated plate-work, and lifting gear including Heppenstall materials handling equipment.

During the years that have passed since the Company was founded it has come to be regarded as one of the leading firms specializing in the design and manufacture of deep sea, harbour and river moorings. Buoys for moorings are made at the Millwall works; chain cable manufacture is now centred at Pontypridd, where one of the most modern, automatic chain-making plants in the world is in operation.


H. P. Bulmer and Co

Cider making is one of the traditional English crafts and since 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, the name of Bulmer has been associated with it. In what was virtually one shed Mr. H. P. Bulmer, of Hereford, made his first cider, and since then the company has grown to be the largest cider makers in the world.

In 1894 Mr. H. P. Bulmer went to France to study the methods of the champagne industry, and the Bulmer developments in the making of cider by the champagne process date from that time. In 1911 the firm received their first Royal Warrant as Purveyors of Cider to the late King George V. They have held the Royal Warrant ever since and are now suppliers to Her Majesty the Queen.

The season for cider-making lasts only eight or ten weeks in the autumn when the apple crop has been gathered, yet vats are required to hold all the cider sold in a year, and considerably more, for new cider has to be kept for some time before being put on the market.

Bulmer's cider is made from cider apples grown in the surrounding countries and these apples, known as 'bittersweets', contain, not only more sugar and less acidity than cooking apples, but also tannin, which is essential for a well-balanced cider.

The range of Bulmer's ciders can be divided into three classes; the champagne ciders, the standard bottled varieties of cider and perry, and draught cider. The best known of these varieties is Bulmer's Woodpecker cider.

Bulmers have 18 depots throughout England and Wales and a large bottling plant in London.

There are 1,100 employees.


The Cardiff Telephone Exchange building houses the Cardiff local automatic telephone exchange, the auto-manual zone centre for South Wales and TV terminals for the B.B.C. and I.T.A.

The local automatic exchange gives service to 13 280 subscribers with 26 535 telephones. The Cardiff auto-manual exchange is one of the 18 zone centre and subzone centres in England and Wales through which all trunk traffic is channelled. The TV terminal provides service to Wenvoe (B.B.C.) and St. Hilary (I.T.A.) transmitters.

There are 169 operating positions in the manual room and over 400 male and female operators are employed there giving a 24-hour service.

By means of the automatic apparatus Cardiff subscribers can dial directly any of the 37 544 subscribers connected to the automatic exchanges surrounding Cardiff, and can obtain 12 935 subscribers connected to manual exchanges by dialling codes to obtain these manual exchanges. Other subscribers have to be obtained via the Cardiff manual board operators.

There are subsidiary services provided by means of the exchange: TIM (952) whereby the time is given accurately to within 1/10 sec, the Emergency (999) service for police, fire, or ambulance, Weather service (9822) and Road Weather service (938).

There are two independent public supplies taken into the building. Should both fail together there is a standby oil-driven generator which automatically starts up.

In addition to engineering staff employed on the building maintenance staff over a wide area are controlled from the exchange and records for 24 465 subscribers are held. Tests can be made on subscribers trunk and junction circuits from the test desks installed.


Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (South Wales)

The company have two works sited in the Docks area of Cardiff, using billets and slabs produced in the adjacent steel works of the Guest Keen Iron and Steel Co. as raw material, which they re-roll and process into semi-finished products for G.K.N. Group use and outside sales.

Castle works has a total area of about 30 acres and the principal unit is a modern continuous hot bar and strip mill, rolling an average of over 3700 tons per week of 0.5 in. to 1.875 in. diameter bars, equivalent simple shapes and strip from 2.5 in. to 8.125 in. wide. Bars are produced in straight lengths or in coils.

The cold-rolling mill takes in hot-rolled coils from the bar and strip mill and also wide hot strip for slitting to narrower widths. The hot-rolled material is acid-cleaned and cold-reduced in reversing and 4-stand tandem mills. A very modern continuous annealing plant has recently been built and there are two temper-rolling mills, straightening and cutting machines, slitting machines and ancillary equipment. The products range from 0.25 in. x 0.008 in. to 20 in. x 0.080 in. in section and include deep-drawing quality for the automobile, cycle, and domestic appliance trades, strip for thin-wall bearings, hinges, high-tensile strapping, case hoops, and cable tape. Finishes include bright, blued, mirror, or electro-galvanized. The weekly output of cold strip averages over 1000 tons.

The wire mill is laid out to draw mild and high-tensile steel wire for the manufacture of bolts and nuts, screws, nails, welding electrodes, wire netting, and miscellaneous shapes. The range of drawn wire is from 24 S.W.G. (0.022 in.) to 1 in. and this is produced in a range of modern single-hole and tandem wire-drawing machines, the latter having up to 6 blocks. The wire mill is capable of an output of up to 2500 tons per week.

Wire for nail production is transferred direct to the adjoining nail department. There are 200 nail machines for dealing with the full range of sizes in commercial use, operating at speeds from 200 nails per minute on the large sizes, to 700 nails per minute on the small sizes. These machines are fed with 1-ton coils of wire and the cut nails are automatically handled into a wet and dry cleaning plant from which they are packaged and warehoused. A modern nail galvanizing plant of the rotary type is installed. This department has produced up to 1000 tons of nails per week.

A comprehensive department for the production of coldworked deformed concrete bars (sold under the trade name of 'Tentor'), has three combined tension and torsioning machines and ancillary cutting off, bending and forming equipment.

At the Tremorfa Works is sited the Company's modern twin strand rod mill which commenced operation in 1950. This mill has 23 rolling stands and can produce 5 gauge rods at 6000 ft/min. Sizes up to 1.25 in. diameter are rolled and the whole production is in coil form. The weekly output averages 4600 tons. Two small section mills roll light structural angles, channels and flats, and a wide range of special sections.

Comprehensive maintenance facilities are available at both works and the total output in 1957 was just under 0.5 million tons of hot-rolled material and over 0.25 million tons of cold-processed material.


Hoover Ltd

In less than 10 years since its beginning at Merthyr Tydfil, the Hoover group has grown in size from a total area of 93 422 sq. ft to 425 885 sq. ft. The group is the largest in Europe solely devoted to washing-machine manufacture.

Recent developments include the introduction of the new Hoovermatic manufacturing and assembly lines in the principal factory at Pentrebach, and the acquisition of additional factory buildings at Dowlais. The company now operates the following establishments in the area: Pentrebach, 267 986 sq. ft; Aberdare, 24 994 sq. ft; Dowlais, 106 840 sq. ft; Cyfarthfa, 26 065 sq. ft.

A washing machine comes off the production line every 30 seconds. The employees, who numbered a few hundred at the beginning, now number some 2000.

This factory produces around 70 per cent of the United Kingdom's total washing-machine exports. Several basic types of washing machine are made there, with variations to suit conditions in more than 50 countries.

The effects of this enterprise on Britain's economy in general and that of Wales in particular do not stop short at such obvious benefits resulting from the sale of the products and the direct employment of labour. Indirectly, the effect is spread over a very wide field when the needs of raw materials, power, and transport are considered. Among raw materials used in the factory, much of it comes from Welsh sources: steel, aluminium, rubber parts, etc.

The transport of raw materials and the finished products, whether for home or overseas, is a further important contribution to trade and employment in Wales.


Mond Nickel Co Ltd

At the turn of the century, the MOND NICKEL CO. LTD established a works at Clydach, near Swansea, to extract nickel by a new process from Bessemer matte derived from the sulphidic nickel—copper ores mined in Ontario, Canada. The development followed the discovery in 1889 that carbon monoxide readily combined with finely divided nickel to form gaseous nickel carbonyl and that this compound, on heating, would split up into its constituents, yielding pure nickel and carbon monoxide for re-use.

The 'carbonyl' process is unique in extraction metallurgy, and the refinery is a triumph for the chemist and engineer in overcoming the difficulties and hazards peculiar to this gas/solid reaction.

The operations demand specialized plant and, more recently, medium-pressure extraction has been used to produce liquid carbonyls required for the production of metallic powders.

In addition to metals, the refinery produces considerable tonnages of a range of nickel and cobalt salts, copper sulphate, smaller quantities of selenium compounds, and a precious metal concentrate.

In all, nearly 40 products are made. These supply market requirements for the metallurgical, electrical, and ceramic industries, for plating, catalysts, and other specialized uses.


Monsanto Chemicals Ltd

The Newport factory of Monsanto Chemicals Ltd occupies a site of some 150 acres of land approximately two miles from the centre of the town. Work on the factory began in 1947 and the first phase of development was completed in 1951. After a period of consolidation the second expansion programme was undertaken and this in turn is approaching completion. One of the most modern chemical factories in Great Britain, it has been designed almost wholly by the company's engineering department and at the present time employs approximately 1350.

The factory is divided by streets and avenues into a number of block units and this system has been of material assistance in expanding its manufacturing and service facilities. Each unit is served by sidings linked to the factory's railway system.

Items of special interest to engineers include a rectifier installation for the production of d.c. current used in the electrolytic manufacture of chlorine; two installations of Hygrotherm high-temperature heating units; centrifugal pumps operating under high-temperature conditions; the use of back-pressure engines for the compression of hydrogen for use in manufacturing processes; and a very extensive use of recording and control instrumentation. The general chemical equipment used in the factory has been made in a variety of special metals and other materials, many of which presented unusual fabrication problems.

A recent and interesting installation is Britain's most modern oil-additives engine-testing laboratory. This is used for the proving of lubricants to which special chemical oil additives made in the factory have been added with the object of modifying and improving the performance of the oil. Among other research facilities is a radiation research laboratory which was the first to be constructed for industrial use in Britain.

Products manufactured at Newport include numerous grades of polystyrene moulding materials for the plastics industry; alkyl benzene used as a basic material for synthetic detergents; chlorinated diphenyls which are employed as hydraulic and heat exchange fluids in the electrical and mechanical engineering industries; oil additives for use in lubricating oils; pentachlorphenol and its sodium salt, both of which are important timber and industrial preservatives; phthalic and maleic anhydride which are essential raw materials in the manufacture of plastics and of alkyd resins for the paint industry.


The Nantgarw Colliery which had been abandoned because of difficulties of working, had been taken over by Powell Duffryn Ltd who had put in hand a development scheme in 1946. It was taken over by the National Coal Board in January 1947 who introduced the Horizon mining system. It is estimated that some 176 000 000 tons of coal will be procurable and that about 2000 men will be employed underground and 300 on the surface.

In 1951 the Board opened the Nantgarw coke oven and by-product plant, where 72 ovens carbonize 1500 tons of coal a day to produce 1200 tons of coke. About two-thirds of the coal will come from the nearby colliery and will be blended with other coal in 10 bunkers each of 200 tons capacity. The products of carbonization are approximately, per day, 1200 tons of coke, 2700 gallons of motor benzol, 14 tons of 25 per cent semi-pure ammonia, 38 tons of crude tar, and up to 18 million cu ft of gas.


Northern Aluminium Co

Northern Aluminium Company is the principal fabricating subsidiary of Aluminium Ltd, an enterprise that accounts for something like a quarter of the free world's production of aluminium. The Company has three plants, the one at Rogerstone, Mon., being both the largest and the youngest.

The nucleus of the present works was installed in 1939, and aluminium sheet, extruded sections, tube, wire, and wire stock were produced there throughout the 1939-45 war. The site is now dominated, however, by the continuous strip mill that was completed in 1950 to the west of the original works.

This self-contained mill was capable, when built, of fabricating 50 000 tons of sheet and strip a year, enough to increase the United Kingdom's aluminium rolling capacity at that time by one-third. One of its most outstanding features is the hot-rolling line, where, in a continuous operation on a line 1/3 mile long, aluminium ingots are rolled into strip. It is also noteworthy for the use of advanced mechanical-handling techniques.

Extrusion and the rolling of wire and wire stock make up the bulk of the remainder of the works' products. The ten extrusion presses at Rogerstone include one of 8000-ton rating, the most powerful at work in Britain. From this press come many of the very large light-alloy sections used for wing spars in aircraft.

Early in 1958 comprehensive new plate production equipment (including a stretcher of 4000-ton rating) went into service, and the company has plans for further considerable expansion during the next four years at Rogerstone, where at present about 3000 people are employed.


Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd

In 1883, nine years after Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone, the Western Electric Company established an office in London with a staff of three men to exploit the new science of telecommunications. It began manufacturing activities in England three-quarters of a century ago, in 1898, and in 1925 the London Company (Western Electric Co. Ltd) changed its name to Standard Telephone and Cables Ltd (S.T.C.). Since these early days the Company's continuously expanding research, development and production organization has kept ahead of the changing demands of telecommunications. S.T.C. employs well over 20,000 people at four main locations, of which the Newport factory is one, the others being at New Southgate and North Woolwich, London, and Footscray, Kent. In addition to seven provincial offices, there are overseas branches in Dublin, Cairo, Calcutta, Karachi, Johannesburg, and Salisbury, and the company has associates in most countries of the world.

The extent of the activities of Standard Telephones and Cables Ltd is considerably broader than may be suggested by the title of the Company. One of the largest telecommunication manufacturing organizations in the British Commonwealth, S.T.C. is devoted to research and the production of systems, equipment, and components for all forms of electrical communication and control, and is concerned with every facet of telecommunications engineering.

The design and manufacturing knowledge which has produced major telecommunication systems and equipment has been applied to the design and manufacture of an electronic digital computer. Designated the Stantec Zebra, this S.T.C. product is a general purpose computer suitable for the rapid handling of research, design, statistical and allied problems.

In the early part of 1944 the Company began to formulate plans for post-war reconstruction; it co-operated with the Government in their proposals for the distribution of industry, and offered to locate in the South Wales and Monmouthshire development area a part of its expanding manufacturing activities. The authorities were attracted by the benefits which would be derived from the introduction of telecommunications, an entirely new activity for the area, and S.T.C. was selected to take over the 35 acre site of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Newport.


Steel Company of Wales Ltd

The Steel Company of Wales Ltd, was formed in 1947 to carry out a programme of development needed to modernize the sheet steel and tinplate industries of South Wales.

These developments have been carried out in three main stages, construction work on the first of which commenced in April 1947. Under this stage the plan was to modernize and extend the blast furnaces, coke ovens, and coal and ore handling plant at the existing Margam works at Port Talbot in order to provide the extra pig iron required. At the same time a great new works, named the Abbey works (after the nearby 12th century Margam Abbey) was constructed on a new sit adjoining Margam.

At Abbey works the plant included a new steel melting shop and a 3/4 mile long building housing the various rolling processes needed to transform ingots of up to 20 tons in weight into coils of steel strip up to 72 inches wide. Further to process the steel strip produced on the hot-strip mill, two cold-reduction mills were installed. One of these, for the production of steel sheet, was placed alongside the hot-strip mill at Abbey works while the other, together with a modern tinning plant, was located at Trostre near Llanelly, about 25 miles away.

The tinplate trade of South Wales has for many years been centred in the area between Swansea and Llanelly and so for sociological reasons the company decided to continue its tinplate manufacturing activities in that area. Trostre works is designed to receive from the Abbey works steel strip in coil form which, after cold reduction, is further processed into tinplate by both the hot dip and electrolytic methods.

By the autumn of 1951 most of the main items of plant in the first development stage were in operation and even before this plant was fully in production the company had embarked on the next stage.

At Margam works a further blast furnace and more coke ovens and at Abbey works four more steel furnaces were installed, all designed to increase still further the steelmaking capacity of the plant. To absorb this extra steel a second cold-reduction tinplate plant similar to that at Trostre was erected at Velindre near Swansea with three additional electrolytic tinning lines as well as a continuous annealing unit.

On 1st May 1956, the company announced the start of the third main stage of the project. This provides for the additional increase in the steelmaking capacity of the Abbey works by a further 12 000 tons a week to make a total annual production of 3 000 000 ingot tons per year.

Work on this development is well under way and includes the provision of a fifth blast furnace, 80 more coke ovens and a new shop to make additional steel by the Bessemer method. The development plan also includes the provision at Abbey works of a 4-stand cold-reduction sheet mill, principally for the purpose of rolling some of the additional steel output into the lighter gauge sheet range.

It is expected that the development work now being carried out will be completed and in operation in about a year from now, by which time the company will have spent more than £175 000 000 on plant extension and modernization since 1947. As a result of these developments, the sheet and tinplate industries of Wales face the future confident that, as the demand for these products increases, Britain will have production and technical capacity for the manufacture of plate, sheet and tinplate which in quality can compare favourably with similar products manufactured anywhere else in the world.


Uskmouth Power Station

Plans for the Uskmouth Power Station were started in 1946 and the project was taken over by the British Electricity Authority in 1948.

The site covers 600 acres at the entry of the River Usk into the Severn estuary. What is believed to be the largest caisson in the world was sunk on the foreshore to ensure a supply of water for cooling purposes.

The total length of the main building is 896 ft and the width 270 ft. The boiler plant consists of 12 boilers each with a steam capacity of 360 000 lb/h at a pressure of 950 lb/sq in and temperature of 925°F.

The turbo-alternator plant consists of six 60 000 kW, 3000 rev/min turbo-generators of 2-cylinder, multi-stage impulse type. The alternator generates at a voltage of 11 800 and is coupled to a 70 000 kVA transformer which transforms it to 132 000 volts. A 6000 kVA transformer connected direct to the alternator output provides current at 3300 volts for auxiliary plant.

The control room, in the centre of the building, houses a 132 000-volt control board. The relay and meter rooms are immediately behind the control room. Air conditioning to all parts of the building is supplied via sheet-steel ducting.


Henry Wiggin and Co Ltd

Founded in 1835, Henry Wiggin and Co. Ltd have been continually engaged in the manufacture and development of nickel and nickel-containing alloys. In 1922 the company was purchased by the Mond Nickel Company Ltd who, in turn, were incorporated into the International Nickel Company of Canada Ltd in 1928.

The company's rolling mills in Birmingham were augmented in 1931 by the acquisition of an extrusion, tube and rod-drawing mill at Glasgow. The erection of the Hereford works by the Ministry of Supply commenced in 1950 and these works were initially designed for the manufacture of the Nimonic series of heat-resisting alloys. This works was purchased by the company in 1956, and plans for the modernization and concentration of all the company's production facilities were immediately put in motion. It is envisaged that these should be completed by 1965.

The company manufactures a wide range of high-nickel alloys in all wrought forms for application in the aeronautical, automotive, chemical and chemical plant, radio and electronic, and related industries. The following alloys, manufactured in wrought forms by the company are well known in the engineering industries, Monel, K. Mond, Inconel, Ferry, Nimonic, Brightray, Nilo, Corronel B, Ni-O-Nel.

The establishment of the Hereford works enabled the company to design a non-ferrous metals producing plant incorporating the best of known production and quality control techniques, as well as some novel ones. The concentration of the company's activities on this site allows also for extension which the limited areas available in Birmingham and Glasgow precluded. The site comprises approximately 52 acres and approximately 800 people are now employed in the factory. It is envisaged that, by 1965, factory and office buildings will cover over 25 acres of this site and the total strength will be in the region of 3,300.

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