Blast furnace 5 part 1

Finally getting back on topic…. real steel mill stuff!

Well, it’s been a while, as usual. With Ougree mostly finished, time to turn my attention back to Cockerill. A part of the layout I had been working on when the project was started but was then put on hold to finish Ougree, so I could have a sort of finished working layout for shows. Well, if there would have been any shows, but that’s another matter.

Anyway, Cockerill. After the usual redesign of that part of the layout (well, nothing too radical, more like refining the old design using snippets of information that I found while working on Ougree) and laying some track it was finally time for one of the more glamorous jobs of a steel mill layout: making a blast furnace!

Don’t get excited now, it’s still Le Bassin, so it will be a very dead half-demolished one.

something about the real thing

It would have been nice to have the usual row of dates and numbers as to build year, production capacity and all that, but actually I don’t have a terrible lot of information on that. Cockerill had built a row of 4 blast furnaces of a design very similar to the blast furnaces seen around middlesbrough in 1872, around 15 years later 2 additional bigger, more modern furnaces were added, number 5 and 6.

The oldest picture I know of BF 5 (left) and BF 6 (right)
My guess as to the date of this picture would be 1890’s, as BF5 is clearly upgraded quite a bit, BF6 still looks original. To the right the old power plant, a new power plant was built in 1901.
nice view of BF 5, same era as the previous picture.
BF 5 and 6 in 1900/1901 (note the new power plant being built at the right)
To the left in the background BF 1-4
In the meantime BF5 and 6 had received a skip hoist (“monte charge americain”)
BF5, again around 1900

After this, at some point between 1900 and 1912 BF 7 got added to the east of BF5. Helpfully, my 1912 cockerill book doesn’t mention any dates here, so I’ll have to go by pictures. This BF 7 will also be featured on the layout.
During world war 1 the germans quite comprehensively wrecked the place and a lot of rebuilding was required, but it seems BF5 and 6 were relatively unchanged.

The state of affairs between the wars: Left to right BF7 all the way in front, then at the back BF 1-4 and then BF5 and 6.BF5 once again a little ahead of the pack in terms of upgrades. The ore bunkers have also been modernised, the northern wall of the bunker is still there to this day (2021)

After the second world war BF 1-4 were deemed antiquated and were demolished, a sinter plant was built and the blast furnaces were from now on fed by conveyor belts. in 1950 a new more modern american style blast furnace was built at the spot of the old furnaces, in 1952 a second one was added.

Meanwhile 5 and 7 were upgraded, around 1960 BF 6 was demolished so 5 could be enlarged (6 was never hooked up to the conveyor charge system)

Plan of BF5 in its final form. Thanks to Eddy Aerts for sending me this!

During the latter half of the 1970’s the cockerill blast furnaces were gradually shut down as the Cockerill company had in the meantime merged with Ougree-marihaye and esperance longdoz who had considerably more modern blast furnaces (in a german report from the first world war (!) the cockerill blast furnace department had already been described as hopelessly cramped and antiquated) and in the late 1980’s large parts of the old cockerill works in seraing were demolished, including all remaining blast furnaces.

For those who own the Hochöfen book by Bernd and Hilla Becher, go to page 128 and 129 for some very nice portraits of BF 5 and 7. Makes you wonder what else there may be in their archive.

A very nice picture of BF5 and 7 shortly before final demolition can be found here: http://balat.kikirpa.be/obj/10043895/img/N007480
My model will represent this state of affairs.

…and now on to the model!

Well, with a plan and no less than two decent photographs to work with, let’s get going!
First, let’s bash the whole thing in 2D cad. Yep, that’s a phone screenshot as my screenshot-button on my keyboard is broken and shops are closed so I can’t get a new one. Lockdown-life….
To make the blast furnace fit better with the stuff I had already built (which is all compressed at least a bit) I reduced the scale to 1:95. This also has some convenient side effects, like the cowpers now suddenly having a diameter that fits readily available plastic pipe.

Then do a looong day of CNC-plastic-munching…

Do some serious curfew-dodging to get home afterwards… but hey, a cockerill BF5 model kit, then it’s all worth it, right?

time for glue-sniffing!

furnace armour
of course had to do some rivet detail on the girder stuff….
frame getting there….
support ring
Natural habitat. BF 6 used to be at the spot where the train is standing. On the left, at the back the drawing of BF 7, still to be built.. Remember kids, if you have a bad idea, always try it at least twice.

By now I had mostly ran out of cnc-milled parts so progress slowed down a bit, as now a new round of studying the two pictures I had was necessary to start the long haul of making loads of detail by hand. A little bit of additional computer design went into drawing up the cooler plates on the furnace armour and the complicated bits on the gas uptakes so they could be 3d-printed. Then it was just a matter of casting loads of resin cooler plates, adding those to the furnace armour and realising how much cooling water piping and other mysterious stuff such a relatively small simple furnace has, even though half of the stuff was already missing.
My respect to some german madmen who make properly big furnaces.

Current state of affairs
metal tap hole in the middle, slag tap holes to the sides
kindasorta the view as in the Becher book

Sometimes projects really have a soundtrack, this is one of those projects, so why not include that soundtrack here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98KiqCJSGWw
(thanks to haiko for providing me with “music for grownups”)

And while dropping links, here’s the whole 1988 photo set, still love it.
http://balat.kikirpa.be/results.php?linkthrough=BA&linkval=Usine+Cockerill-Sambre+S.A.

So, that’s it for now,
cheers!

Floris

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