Monday, March 19, 2018

Locomotive VIN

This is a stainless steel locomotive builders plate, approx. 8" x 5", documenting a General Electric Class B-50/50-IGE733, 25 ton industrial switcher.

Bethlehem #2 — not the one pictured — switched cars around the Bethlehem Pacific steel mill in Seattle for a number of years. Her most dramatic work was moving slag cars from the furnace building out to the tide flats of Elliot Bay, where the slag was dumped; rather spectacular at night!

Port of Seattle Terminal Five now covers the site.

I worked at the mill two summer breaks from High School, 1960 & 1961.

1960:  The first year as a production clerk at the 22" rolling mill; the second year feeding bar stock into a railroad spike drop hammer machine.

At that time, the 22" (558.8 mm) was the widest rolling mill west of the Mississippi.

It was a thrill to watch the magic of manned roll passers, riding guides feeding the ingot through a series of rollers that that reduced an ingot into a cherry red steel plate.

Even more impressive, watching an ingot transformed through a series of rollers into an I-beam, the very essence of the logo I wore on my hard hat.

1961:  Laborer, Bethlehem Steel  Nuts & Bolts facility, Seattle.  Rotated around on a work pool. We waited out in a room, and got work assignments based on folk who called in sick (read actual sick or more likely, hung over) .
One assignment I drew based on that calculation, was "feeder" on the massive and loud drop hammer that formed a railroad spike in one earth shaking bang!

I stood in an unnervingly narrow isle between a holding furnace, holding heat on steel rod cherry red, and the drop hammer.

As the last bar passed into a horrid, intimidating drop hammer, my job was to feed another bar and yank it across the insanely short distance between the furnace. I had a foot peddle that opened the door to the holding furnace, grabbed a cherry red bar with my tongs and yanked from the holding furnace into the jaws of the feeder for the drop hammer.

The machine made 60 railroad spikes per minute.


Even standing on a thick rubber mat, I relived the 60 slams per minute, as I rode the bus back home. Proudly wearing my I-beam hard hat!

I cannot recall how I came into possession of the plate.  That was more than 50 years ago! These days, I can not remember if I had breakfast, never mind what is "breakfast!"


•  Bethlehem Pacific Steel #2
•  Wheel arrangement: AAR  "B"
•  SN: 15701
•  Built:Date: July 1942
•  Prime mover: Cummins HBI-600, 150 hp, 110 kW, inline six.

I do not recall how I became curator of the plate, which I recently sold the builders plate on EBay, hopefully to someone who relishes the extreme rarity of having such a railroad momento.

A delicious bonus to this posting, a copy of the "Owners Manual."

Next:  "Cable Innovator"

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