Stories from the Forge

Based on a story by Richard Butler

Richard served as a Blacksmith at No. 1 and 2 Smith shops Eveleigh. Bay 3 was the blacksmiths’ heat treatment room. 

At the forges, the blacksmiths would heat metal to a temperature where it became easier to shape.  A lot of wrought iron was used by the blacksmiths. This almost pure iron had characteristic seams, or a grain, running through the metal, and had to be forged, rolled, hammered, and more, to change its properties. Wrought iron can be seen throughout the buildings in the workshops, including the roof of the Eveleigh Railyards. 

The heats reached in the forge were such that wood or bitumen would catch alight, and cement would shatter. Because of these risks, dirt floors were preferred. Small pieces of wood lit the forge and crushed coke (distilled coal) was used to reach and sustain heat. The fire was centred in a hollow above a tuyere iron, through which a blast of air entered the forge, and this was surrounded with water to keep the area cool.  

Coke was used instead of charcoal, as charcoal could result in too much sulphur which would make the iron brittle when hot. The team were careful not to create a ‘clinker’ by mixing water with the forge, as this would create a congested mass of burnt coke.

All of the locomotive parts at Eveleigh were joined through welding. Each piece was placed in the fire and slowly rotated. When it reached a cherry-red at 850 degrees Celsius, the air supply would be increased until it became a yellow white, then a small handful of sand would be thrown over the end. It was hard work, and often done without welding glasses, safety goggles or leather gloves.  

When the metal became almost elastic, the blacksmith would line up the two pieces and forge these together through hammering. To do this, both pieces of metal were heated and the ends jumped up (thickened) to form a common scarf weld, a joint made by overlapping, and welding together the tapered ends of the two pieces.

When complete, the steel was finished and polished with an engineers file and wire brush.