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Edition #171  April 1, 2012

Slab Gons

Photographer: Keith Clouse

                                                                      Photo by Keith Clouse

Slab Gons

Itís a chilly 35 degrees, a winterís rain drumming on the roof tops, a gray wet day, typical of early winter in Western Pennsylvania. The Union Railroad has returned several gondola cars to the US Steel Edgar Thomson Works yard. They have transported hot slabs from ETís caster to the Irvin works, locally known as the ďmill on the hillĒ. The still warm car bodies are ticking softly as they cool. Steam forms and rises as the cold rain steadily beats down on the gons.

In the misty background a blast furnace looms. In a couple of hours it will discharge another heat. That iron will run thru the BOF shop becoming steel. The molten mix will be moved in ladles to the adjacent slab caster. As the hot slabs roll off the line they will be cut to length and loaded into the waiting gons. Union RR MP15s will assemble the cut of cars for another trip up the hill.

This time the rain will sizzle on the still hot slabs. The slab train will become a rolling fog bank casting its surroundings into a brief blanket of clouds. In the gathering gloom the thunder of the MP15s will reverberate through the narrow valley leading upgrade to the Irvin rolling mills.

Arriving at the Irvin Works the slabs will be taken from the gons, placed into a pusher reheat furnace to be brought back up to the precise temperature for the rolling mills. The empty gons will be returned to ETís receiving yard, slowly cooling, waiting for the next heat from the furnaces.

Keith Clouse

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