A train travelling around our Scunthorpe site
12 Apr 2019

Keeping our business on track

Rob Pearson Team Leader

Hi everyone, today I would like to give you a brief insight into the role of the rail traffic department, part of internal logistics. I have no doubt that you have all seen us tootling around on well over 100 miles of railroad at our British Steel site here in Scunthorpe, but how many of you know what is involved to keep our plant operational?

Firstly, our current operating plan on site is to produce approximately 2.8 MT/A of steel and most departments only deal with their share of this, however, due to the nature of steel making on our site, we move a lot more than this. Firstly, for example, iron is produced at the furnaces, approximately 51KT/week, which is then transported by rail to the steel plant (BOS) to be made into a specific grade of steel.

This then goes to a continuous casting machine to be transformed into slab, bloom or billet of suitable size for further processing. These are then moved, by rail predominantly, to the rolling mills to be processed into various finished products which are also transported from the mills to dispatch areas via rail. Added to this the Rod mill blooms are taken from the casters for checking/processing in the old Bloom and Billet Mill process bays before they travel to the mill, so you get the picture, every ton of steel has been moved several times, sometimes as much as 5 times by our department.

I’m estimating that we move at least 10MT/A. We have had a lot of people come to us thinking that it would be nice to amble around site on a locomotive in the sunshine for a living but what looks quite straight forward is just an illusion, a pixel of the full picture. Our role as RRC (radio remote controlled) locomotive operatives is far more complex than some may think.

Our training and development is extensive as the role can be very dangerous if it is not done correctly because of the tonnages involved. Take the hot metal side for example, generally we move 2 full torpedo ladles (sometimes 3) at a time which gives a train weight of 1200T/1700T, up to 700T of which is molten iron at 1460 degrees Celsius on average.

Getting this moving is not that much of a problem with our Hunslet engines as they are very powerful and designed for the job, once mobile we are restricted to only 10mph, slower in certain areas, this may seem slow but bringing 1 to 2 thousand tonnes to a safe stop from 10mph requires skill and distance, so next time you arrive at a railroad crossing point, look twice, because if you can see the locomotive he’s probably already too close to stop if you don’t. Thankfully these incidents are rare, but humans will be human after all and we have to be focused 100% when moving around our site.

Imagine if you will, our site as a functional living being then we are the circulatory system that keeps all parts of the plant healthy and able to do what is required of them, we take them what they need when they require it and take away what they don’t.

We have 2 team leaders on each shift to coordinate all the rail movements on site, a typical day for me as one of them, is to control the rail operations in all hot metal areas and if things run smoothly then we would typically take 2 torpedo ladles to the BOS plant every 80 minutes or so, which equates to 12/13 per shift at our current operating targets, this is over 2,600T of molten iron safely transported from the furnaces to BOS for making into steel.

The key ingredient for our success is communication, not only between ourselves but inter departmental as there are always other activities to consider such as track/plant maintenance which changes things from the norm so extra care is required to keep plant and personnel safe. We typically run about 15/16 torpedo ladles for the 2 furnace operations with 3/4 locomotives, one torpedo is removed from service every day for inspection on a scheduled system.

The other team leader looks after all other rail movements on site, he controls all the movements to and from the casters, in and out of the various mills or even out to the mainline sidings for distribution around the country. He usually has 5/6 locomotives at his disposal to facilitate all the movements required that shift and this must be coordinated so that the mainline trains do not miss their slot. You’ve probably been on a plane that has missed it’s take off slot due to some nitwit still in duty free, well it’s the same for trains, late or cancelled trains cost money.

The mills require the correct spec of steel delivered at the right time for rolling to our customer orders. So just put simply, you can see that the whole works would quickly grind to a halt without the dedicated team keeping our business on track, come rain, sleet, snow and anything else Mother Nature throws at us.

As with many other roles within our business what you see is only a snippet of what is actually going on so next time you are close enough to see the driver on a sunny day, give him a wave as that’s his reward for all the freezing January nights.


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Steve Pearson / 7 May 2019
Great read Rob more to it than most people think.


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