Hot metal haulage

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Daniel Pyke

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Hi,

I wrote a little article on some of the rather unusual traction and rolling stock that we have here at Tata Steel Scunthorpe when we transport molten metal by rail. Perhaps you'd like to take a look for general interest. Click on the link to take you to the original article which has some nice pictures in it. The text of the article is quoted below for info

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hot-metal-heavyweight-haulers-daniel-pyke

Let me know what you think either here or in a comment at the bottom of the article.

I'm lucky enough to work both in the rail and the steel industry for Tata Steel and often it gives you an interesting perspective on many things. We do seem to get some of the biggest toys to play with in these industries.

This morning I dutifully stopped at one of the many road/rail crossings on our site at Scunthorpe to wait for a couple of our hot metal 'torpedoes' to trundle past. I see these on a daily basis ferrying molten 'hot-metal', (blast furnace iron) inside them from our blast furnaces to our steel making plant for further processing which I talked about in a previous article. I rarely give thought to the technology and challenges involved in this seemingly ordinary fetching and carrying task, but in the wait for them to pass I had enough time to realise the task is far from mundane. Transporting 300t of liquid iron from A to B has many interesting challenges.

First is the fact that some of the operating environments are hazardous particularly loading and unloading and so the locos that pull the torpedoes are able to be remotely driven to keep people out of harm's way. Seeing a train move off with the driver stood near it holding a remote control does take some getting used to.

Image present in original post

Second there is the sheer scale of the torpedo itself. Each one carries 300 tonnes of liquid hot metal inside it at nearly 1500°C meaning each torpedo weighs around 550 tonnes. These unique vehicles have 6 axles at each end to support the massive load, delivering axle loads of around 46 tonnes placing great demands on the rail and track, (In comparison normal freight vehicles in the UK have a 25 tonne maximum axle load).

As another aside this makes a great test track for evaluating our next generations of rail steels which is close to my heart. The first place our HP335 was evaluated was in this demanding route.

Third, the torpedo is not just a tank on wheels, the whole vessel is able to rotate to allow the liquid hot metal to be poured out at its destination. What goes in must come out!

Image present in original post

Usually 2 torpedoes are moved in tandem, 'top-and-tailed' by the remote controlled locomotives giving a 1,300t train weight for the 4 vehicles. These heavyweight haulage operations continue 24 hours a day 7 days a week and 365 days a year to keep up with the nations thirst for steel. Carrying around 3 million tonnes of hot-metal each year these load-lugging locos and the transporting torpedoes are one of the weird yet wonderful vehicles that keep both steel and rail production on-track here in Scunthorpe.
 
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ainsworth74

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A similar thing once occurred on Teesside . :(

Used to be able to see them trundling around when you were driving past. You could even see the motel steel pouring out of the bottom of the blast furnace into the torpedoes if you drove down a little side road.

I was down there not so long ago actually and the blast furnace is just sitting there quiet and cold like slain colossus. Very very sad.

To the OP, thanks for the article very interesting!
 

Domh245

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How thick are the walls of the torpedoes? I imagine they must be fairly thick otherwise they'd melt from the heat.
 

rebmcr

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While it's obviously an amazing vehicle, the question begs to be asked: why not just put the steel plant next to the furnace?

Along with more interesting ones: how long do you get before the contents solidify, and how hot do the wagons get (from residual heat buildup) during the course of a day?
 

theageofthetra

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Other than possibly some of those WW1 & 2 rail mounted guns would these be the heaviest vehicles to ever run on a UK railway?
 

themiller

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How thick are the walls of the torpedoes? I imagine they must be fairly thick otherwise they'd melt from the heat.

I believe that the steel barrel of the wagons are lined with refractory bricks in a similar manner to blast furnaces. If they're anything like the boilers we had on board ship, they have to be 'sealed' by subjecting them to a very high temperature which vitrifies the surface of the bricks hardening them and thus the molten steel does not stick. It's best to keep them in continuous service so that they don't cool down and crack the lining just as a blast furnace is kept running otherwise it takes a long time to restart it.
See also http://www.traintesting.com/torpedo_wagon_tests.htm for a description of torpedo car movements on the BR network.
 
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hwl

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While it's obviously an amazing vehicle, the question begs to be asked: why not just put the steel plant next to the furnace?

One casting / rolling line that runs continuously is fed batches of steel from multiple basic oxygen converters etc. which are fed iron from a different number of multiple blast furnaces that produces batches of iron...
 

Daniel Pyke

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A similar thing once occurred on Teesside . :(

Yes I know, all involved have my sympathies. And on a brighter note they still do run in South Wales too.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I believe that the steel barrel of the wagons are lined with refractory bricks in a similar manner to blast furnaces. If they're anything like the boilers we had on board ship, they have to be 'sealed' by subjecting them to a very high temperature which vitrifies the surface of the bricks hardening them and thus the molten steel does not stick. It's best to keep them in continuous service so that they don't cool down and crack the lining just as a blast furnace is kept running otherwise it takes a long time to restart it.
See also http://www.traintesting.com/torpedo_wagon_tests.htm for a description of torpedo car movements on the BR network.


Yes they are indeed a giant insulated tube, (steel shell lined with refractory bricks). So they don't cool down very quickly.

Great link there from some of the earlier models. We have a couple of very early ones still on site as exhibits which are simply tiny compared to the modern monsters in use today.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
One casting / rolling line that runs continuously is fed batches of steel from multiple basic oxygen converters etc. which are fed iron from a different number of multiple blast furnaces that produces batches of iron...

Exactly. We have 4 blast furnaces on the Scunthorpe site that can produce the molten iron and 3 BOS vessels in a separate location that can convert the iron to steel for casting and further processing. When you see the size of the operations you can then see why there needs to be some room between the plants and some way of moving molten metal about.
 

hwl

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When you see the size of the operations you can then see why there needs to be some room between the plants and some way of moving molten metal about.

Already seen all of the still operating blast furnaces in the UK a while ago... ;)
 

185102

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I have also been past these monsters a couple of days after being used on the tours around Scunthorpe and the heat is still radiating off them,
 

lincolnshire

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The hot metal torpedo,s used to travel along the line between App Frod and Normanby Park works transferring the molten Iron between the two works.

They used to travel by the works private railway at the side of Dawes Lane and pass under the bridge below the main line and pass Crosby Mines Signal Box on to B.R. tracks to access Normanby Park sidings and back onto the works private lines to get to the works.

Yes you could fell the heat when they passed by you.
 

SpacePhoenix

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Did they go onto NR metals or stick to private lines?

[ot]It reminds me of a model railway layout I saw at a model railway exhibition a good few years ago of a steel works[/ot]
 

Ash Bridge

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The Consett to Cargo Fleet trains did back in the early seventies, sixty odd mile round trip hauled by a pair of class 37's, although compared to today's torpedo wagons they only carried 80 tons of molten iron and weighed a mere 241 tons apiece.
 
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