From the Campus Chat, Sept. 9, 1968:
Geography Class Visits Steel Mill
One of Great Shows in East Texas
By Susan Jordan, Chat Staff Writer
Each summer Dr. Walter Hansen loads his Geography 442 class onto a bus and makes a pilgrimage to one of the great shows in East Texas. He did it again last week.
The theater was a shed, with standing room only — no seats provided. Music was provided by an orchestra of equipment — with roars, clanks and hisses being the main sounds. Admission was free, so everyone gathered round to see the star put on a show.
It was quite a show.
It had everyone in the audience in a sweat.
The star: an open hearth furnace being tapped. The set: Lone Star Steel Co.'s mill at Lone Star, near Longview. The sweating: well — who wouldn't be sweating after 30 minutes in a 130-degree room.
THE CLASS, which has 30 members this year, drops by Lone Star on its swing through the Piney Woods of East Texas. Other points of interest on this year's trip include historic Jefferson and oil-rich Kilgore.
This trip is one of four taken by the class. Others are half-day trips to Pilot Point to see conservation practices on a farm, to Renner to visit the Texas Research Foundation and to Wise County to see the "worst eroded county in the United States," according to Dr. Hansen. Dr. Hansen also wanted to include a tour of the Salt Mines at Grand Saline in this trip, but the mine has been closed to tours.
DR. HANSEN, who has made the trip with his class for the past 12 years, served as tour guide. He noted specific points of interest such as physical signs that signify entrance into the East Texas geographic region, as the soil color changed from black to red, and pine trees and oil derricks became more frequent.
The highlight of the trip was the tour of the steel plant. Don Hitt, public relations man for Lone Star Steel Co., guided Dr. Hansen's class through the mill as he has for 12 years.
In its modern laboratory, separate from the furnace area, samples of the steel being made are analyzed in seven minutes. In older mills, the laboratory is often found in the same area as the furnaces.
THE PRODUCTION of steel at Lone Star begins at the mines a few miles away. Lone Star has enough ore there to last 100 years, Hitt said.
At present, Lone Star is experimenting with methods to beautify mined-over areas. Hitt said, "Pine trees will probably be planted."
The blast furnace heats the ore along with coke and limestone to approximately 3,000 degrees to make iron. Hitt said that all blast furnaces are named for women. He refrained from giving the exact reasoning on this since there were women on the tour.
Lone Star fondly refers to its blast furnace as "Flossie Belle." This furnace produces as much as a ton of iron every minute around the clock.
THE PIG IRON from the blast furnace is put into an open hearth furnace with scrap, limestone and other ingredients and heated to 2,880 degrees Fahrenheit to make steel.
To produce a "heat," as a batch of steel is referred to, the mixture must stay in the furnace from four and one-half to five hours. When the laboratory says it meets specifications, the furnace is tapped into ladles and poured into ingot molds. Tapping a furnace simply involves removing the molten steel from the furnace. It is a spectacular sight, although not a most enjoyable one. The temperature in the shed rose to 140 degrees when the pale yellow liquid was poured into the ladle and then into ingots.
AFTER THE STEEL in the ingot has cooled a bit, the mold is stripped off. The steel is then reheated and rolled into a slab five or six inches thick. The slab is cooled and checked for imperfections. If an imperfection is found, it is removed and the slab is rerolled.
The tour of Jefferson was brief, but Dr. Hansen pointed out the major points of interest. In the late 19th century, Jefferson was the commercial center of Northeast Texas. River transportation declined when the railroads by-passed Jefferson.
MANY OF THE old homes and business buildings have been restored. Some of the homes seen were the Manse, the oldest home in Jefferson and the best example of Greek Revival architecture; the House of the Seasons, built by a friend of Gen. Sam Houston; and the Homestead, built in 1851. The Excelsior House, an antebellum hotel, is still in use and has housed many famous persons.
Dr. Hansen goes on this trip only in the summer. His reasoning is twofold. In the summer, most of the students are graduates and their financial condition is a bit more stable. They can usually afford the $4 for the bus ride. Also, in the summer, students only miss one class. In the long term they would miss more. "It's much more convenient," he said.
Besides that, Dr. Hansen's students, as they leave the furnace shed, are perhaps the only ones in Texas who welcome August temperatures as a cool relief.