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Edition #202 July 15, 2013
Cold Iron Bound
Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic
Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic
Cold Iron Bound
Itís close to sunset on a winterís day and Iím in Weirton, West Virginia on a hill overlooking the nearly closed steel mill here. Iím showing a friend of mine what big steel looks like. Sure, there are other mills in the area that are far busier, but I just happened to be here with her at that golden hour just before twilight. Weíve been together for a couple years and sheís heard about steel mills from me, but never grew up around them, as I did, so Iím giving her a little introduction.
Iíve been here dozens of times, drawn in by the sights, steam, dirt and sounds of great machines making steel. The whoosh of steam escaping from a valve, cranes dropping ingots with a solid thud, the big trucks rumbling by with coils and the chirp of an old Alco rolling by with a couple of torpedo cars filled with molten iron for the BOP shop. Weirton Steel was always a treat for eye and ear. Iíd spend hours perched on the Route 2 highway bridge, which bisects the plant, watching the action and listening to the song of steel.
Those days are long gone, the last three decades have seen a long slow declineóa failed employee ownership plan, a savior who grabbed the whole thing before it rusted away and finally, the current owner, a corporate giant who shuttered most of the plant a few years back, leaving only a tin and temper mill to shake the dust from the rafters. Nowadays, when you step out of the car all you are greeted by is the whistling wind and a scared stray dog.
We are at the end of the plant that contains that most recognizable sign of big steelóthe blast furnace. There are four here, surrounded by a maze of pipes, conduit, ductwork and the occasional wisp of steam from the boiler house. The furnaces stand in the last golden rays of the sun, the sunís rays being the only heat theyíll ever know again. Thereís no longer a need for these furnaces and one day they will come down and be hauled away in train cars or trucks only to be consumed by yet another furnace.
Cold iron bound.
Kevin N. Tomasic
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