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  • Steel - Milestones

    Newcastle Steelworks Timeline

    1896   BHP purchases 10 hectares (24 acres) of land fronting the Hunter River in Newcastle from the Waratah Coal Company.
    1912   David Baker appointed first manager of the works
    1913   Preliminary work begins on the site; 600ft Ore Wharf and Yard; DC Power Plant; Blast Furnace ready for lining.
    1915   18 March - 350 ton Blast Furnace "blown in'.
    1915   April - First steel tapped from No 1 Open Hearth, one of three 65 ton Open Hearth Furnaces; First ingot poured and rolled (9 April); First rails produced (24 April).
    1915   2 June - Official opening of Steelworks.
    1915   No 3 Open Hearth Furnace.
    1916   £500,000 was allocated to four more open hearth furnaces, by-product coke ovens and other essential plant; Engine Drivers and Firemen at Steelworks dispute.
    1917   Union unrest concerning Sunday work; Award for BHP Steelworks issued; 18' Structural Mill, 12" and 8" Merchant Mills, Steel Foundry with Acid Open Hearth Furnace; Commonwealth Steel Co Ltd formed; Steelworks Union calls members out; Works brought to standstill for 3 months.
    1918   100 ton Blast Furnace; 33 Ovens of No 2 Battery Semet Solvay Coke Ovens; Steel Foundry Furnace; Single Strand Rod Mill; No 2 Blast Furnace (450 ton).
    1919   Iron and Steel Workers Union formed; Austral Nail Company begins production.
    1921   Administration Building occupied; NSW Labour Government introduces a 40 hour week; Essington Lewis replaces Delprat as General Manager of BHP.
    1924   David Baker retires and is succeeded by Leslie Bradford.
    1925   Australian Wire Rope Works commences adjoining steelworks.
    1927   Titan Nail Wire Pty. Ltd. taken over by BHP.
    1929   6% interest acquired Vickers-Commonwealth Steel; major shareholding acquired in John Lysaghts Bros & Co.
    1930   Open Hearth extended.
    1932   About 10,500 tons of steel supplied for Sydney Harbour Bridge; 18' Continuous Mill scrapped; Billet and Sheet Bar Mill established; No.5 Soaking Pit.
    1933   80" Plate Mill and 18' Bar Mill commences; 8' Merchant Mill scrapped; Master Mechanics Office built.
    1934   No I Blast Furnace capacity increased by 40%; extensive extensions throughout the plant.
    1935   Merger with Australian Iron & Steel Ltd; Shareholding increased in Australian Wire Rope Works (to 91%) and Commonwealth Steel (59%); No 10 Open Heath Furnace first tap; extensions to Alloy Steel and Cold Rolling Building; new Benzol Plant; new Incline Trestle to Blast Furnace; No 2 Blast Furnace 18'T Hearth blown in for fifth campaign; Cold Rolling Mill commences operations; Steckel Mill installed.
    1936   Rotary Shears at Plate Finishing Mill; new 10 ton Ore Bridge; Fabricating Shop extensions; Steel Foundry extensions; No 11 Open Hearth Furnace; No 5 A.C. Boiler; extensions to DC substation.
    1937   Titan Nail & Wire taken over; 2million cubic feet Coke Ovens Gasholder.
    1938   First tap No 13 Open Hearth Furnace; 3million cubic feet Blast Furnace Gasholder.
    1939   Newcastle Steelworks, with I million tons a year capacity, is the biggest integrated steelworks in the British Empire; BHP ceases mining at Broken Hill; World War II begins.
    1940   Essington Lewis appointed Director General of Munitions; Newcastle metallurgists discover ways of making bullet proof steel plate from local raw materials: No 3 Blast Furnace (l6'3" hearth blown in for 4th campaign); No 1 and 2 Ferro Alloy furnaces.
    1941   Extensions to chemical laboratory; magnesium plant; Tool Room; Ferro Alloy plant; Cold Rolling Mill; Coke loading plant; tungsten carbide first produced; Steel Foundry extended; second hand sintering machine bought.
    1942   Magnesium plant; 2 munition annexes; Open Hearth Mould Conditioning building; Sinter Plant Pilot (Folly Park); Japanese submarine shells Newcastle (June).
    1943   Keith Butler appointed Manager.
    1944   Cold rolling Mill Skin Pass Mill; Shortland Central Research building; Coal Cleaning Plant; No 1 Sinter Plant.
    1945   World War II ends August 14.
    1947   Wagon Repair building completed.
    1950   Two wharf luffing cranes installed; reclamation work begins on Platts Channel, Hunter River realigned.
    1952   Basic Oxygen Steel making (BOS) process developed in Austria; John Norgard takes over as Manager of the Steelworks.
    1954   Steam locos start to be replaced by diesel electric; new No 2 Ore Bridge completed; No 1 pig casting machine installed; No 4 Coke Ovens battery (Otto-Wilputte) starts production.
    1956   George Bishop becomes Manager: two additional wharf luffing cranes installed; No 2 stockyard built.
    1957   Central Research Laboratories Shortland open.
    1958   18" continuous skelp mill starts operation; new coal cleaning plant opens.
    1959   Steelmaking plant - new building erected over existing OH building using unique way of erecting roof trusses developed by Newcastle engineers; No 6 power plant boilers start operation; eight open hearth furnaces demolished to make way for BOS plant.
    1961   Apprentice Training Centre opens; Central Control Laboratory opens; Central Roll Shops begin operation; conversion of steam locomotives to diesel electric (begun 1954) completed.
    1962   First BOS furnace commissioned; new Rod Mill built on reclaimed Platts Channel.
    1963   Employees' credit union formed.
    1964   Robert Coulton appointed Steelworks General Manager; No 2 Coke Ovens battery rebuilt; By-product and hot mix asphalt plant completed; BHP News newspaper introduced.
    1965   First Apprentice of the Year Award presented; 50th anniversary of Steelworks; Olympic Swimming Pool at Mayfield donated to city; Employees Retirement Plan announced; Last open hearth heat tapped (December 2).
    1966   General Office Building completed; Steel Strapping Line installed.
    1968   William Burgess, Steelworks General Manager; Continuous billet casting machine commissioned; Tourle Street Bridge built; No I Ore Bridge demolished.
    1969   Murray Dwyer Orphanage purchased.
    1970   Brian Loton, General Manager; BOS plant -larger oxygen lances; partial reline No 4 Blast Furnace; new computer centre completed; last heat tapped at steel foundry open hearth (October 21); No 2 Merchant Mill - billet reconditioning.
    1971   No 5A Coke Ovens Battery (Otto) starts; general store building completed; last plate rolled at Plate Mill.
    1973   Cecil Hall, General Manager; Lysaghts property purchased.
    1974   Australian Industrial Refractories acquired; Main Gate Clock Race building finished; No 2 Rotary Lime Kiln.
    1975   Decommissioning of Ferro Alloy Plant and continuous casting machine; No.2 Merchant Mill double stranding equipment; No.2 Bloom Mill cold Commissioned
    1977   Rodney Harden, General Manager
    1979   Bloom Mill pulpit automation; No.5 B Coke Ovens battery commissioned; No.2 bloom mill starts production; 60 tonne BOS vessel produces special steels
    1980   John Risby, General Manager; Leaded steels facilities at Caster
    1982   Closure of No 1 Blast Furnace; No I Coke Ovens battery; brick plant; brass foundry; No I Bloom; continuous mill and 60 tonne BOS furnace.
    1983   Production of Tempcore started; centrifugal casting facilities commission; natural gas introduced.
    1984   Five-year Steel Plan begins.
    1985   Newcastle Steelworks becomes head of Rod and Bar Products Division; BHP celebrates centenary.
    1986   Bill Farrands, General Manager.
    1987   Continuous Bloom Caster commissioned.
    1989   Rob Chenery, General Manager; Newcastle earthquake (December 28)
    1990   Skelp mill closes; health and fitness centre established.
    1991   Paul Jeans Group General Manager.
    1992   Tonnage Oxygen Plant commissioned; Stage 1 Sydney Steel Mill commissioned; Future Directions.
    1993   Bob Kirkby, Group General Manager
    1994   Single logo unites BHP.
    1995   Coke Ovens biological treatment plant.
    1997   Front end closure announced.
    1998   Lance Hockridge, Group General Manager.
    1999   Newcastle Steelworks close, Rod & Bar mills continue as Onesteel.

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