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Florange Steel Works / HFX, France - June 2017 | European and International Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Florange Steel Works / HFX, France - June 2017


AndyK

Behind Closed Doors
Staff member
Moderator
The "HFX" Saga

Cast your mind back to May 2015. While I was still following the Euro tourbus trail, like many other explorers at the time we had stopped off at the location often called "Bureau Central", which was the administrative offices of the Wendel family. The family were big players in the steel industry in France, and happened to have built a rather large steel works next to their offices, which dominated the towns of Florange and Hayange. Anyone visiting the old, grand office block surely couldn't miss the huge steel works. We considered heading in, but were unsure about the status of the place and frankly, we were a bit sceptical about it.

Fast forward a few years. bullullarrrrrbbzzzzzzzwwwwaarrrbbbb. That's my best fast forward sound effect, so you get the picture now. We were in the area, I think we may have been visiting Richemont power station, or something like that, and happened across the steel works once again. This time around, my interest was much more piqued. By then I'd had enough of the tourist trail and was venturing off on my own. We had a drive around the perimeter of the expansive site and noted a few potential access points. We had another quick look at the old offices, and had a go at squeezing through a little gap in the fence. I knew I wasn't going to fit, but sometimes you do things anyway. Well, I do. Shortly after, a security van pulled up along the inside of the fence and the guy attempted to have a quick chat with us. We can't speak a word of French and the security guy spoke even less English, but did a pretty good mimed impression of me trying to squeeze through the fence. Thanks for the intel, Mr Frog, although we couldn't see them we now knew they had cameras covering that area. Handy!


Sneaky sneaky!​

Buzzzzzwubbblllaaaaarb. Yup, I've wound the tape on again, it's now June 2017 and @SpiderMonkey and I were graced with the company of @extreme_ironing whilst visiting some more power stations. One happened to be not too far away from Florange, so I'd already made the steel works a target for the trip. The power stations were overnight jobbies, so bright and early one morning, feeling pretty tired, we raced to what appeared to be a pretty promising access point at the steel works and found our way in pretty easily. The day was surprisingly chilled, but fatigue set in before we got around the whole place.

A few weeks later, I was back in the vicinity, this time with @darbians, so we headed back to finish the job. I'm glad we did, as we got to see the old power station / blower house which was out of the scope of my first visit. I know one or two people had previously tried to access the steel works, with varying degrees of success. It didn't take a great deal of effort in the end, although far from the walk-ins many euro-explorers have become accustomed to. But still, it's an all too common occurrence in Euroland that massive places like this don't get any umbex attention for ages. It's almost like the so called "explorers" need someone else to do the actual exploring and post it online before they go. Up until this point, I'd played along and code-named European locations, mainly to keep the Euro lot happy. But, as always happens, everyone rushed to the newly found location, the code-name was just pointless, and security at the site was tightened up. This was an exercise that changed my mind on code-naming European locations - why should I play their game to keep them happy when I'm over there finding new locations for them?! All European locations I've found since then have had the same philosophy applied as the UK locations get - because that way it's not silly and actually means something to Joe Public reading it. Anyway, we got dirty, took pics, had fun and posted it online!


The blast furnaces and steelworks while they were in use

History

The late nineteenth century saw rapid developments in the production of iron. Areas with an abundance of iron ore benefited from the expanding industry and large plants were constructed. The blast furnaces and steel works in Florange is one such example, with massive expansion taking place in the early twentieth century. The first blast furnaces were built at the site in 1906, and later a huge steel works to convert the iron into steel.

In total, six blast furnaces were built at the site. During the 1970s three of the six blast furnaces were refurbished, and their capacities increased. The other three furnaces were decommissioned and later demolished.

One of the oldest remaining parts of the site is a huge hall with 1919 emblazoned above the main entrance, which now contains a set of turbo-blowers for injecting high-pressure air into the blast furnaces. The hall would have originally contained an array of classic industrial machinery including mechanical blowers and alternators similar to those found at Power Plant X in Luxembourg. Electricity generation on the site ceased in the 1950s when Richemont Power Station took over, running on the blast furnace gasses produced by a number of steel works in the region.

Production of iron and steel ceased in 2012 when the last remaining blast furnaces at the site were mothballed. It was announced the two blast furnaces would be maintained so they could be restarted if market conditions improved in the future, but were permanently shut down the following year.

Now, the steel works and blast furnaces lay dormant, slowly rusting and being reclaimed by nature. Wagons stand still in the rail yard surrounded by overgrowth, the steel works silent and the furnaces lifeless.

Bureau Central

Let's start off where it all started off. The Bureau Central, the main offices of the Wendel empire.

Have a look at Dweeb's excellent De Wendel Steel Works Offices report for a bit more of a write-up and some rather cracking pics. His report reminded me about this place and inspired me to finally put together this all-encompassing report.


Exterior of the old office building. Not bad, eh?


The interior has seen better days




Many rooms and corridors had glass blocks in the ceiling to let natural light through to lower floors






The Blast Furnaces


Workers at the blast furnaces, pictured in 1952


Blast Furnaces viewed from the rail yard


Coal wagons lined up below the blast furnaces


Base of one of the blast furnaces


Inside a blast furnace building


Inside another blast furnace building


Spiral staircase


Exterior with the water tower in the distance


View up a blast furnace


Wagons under a blast furnace


The blast furnace control room had been modernised

Continued...
 

AndyK

Behind Closed Doors
Staff member
Moderator
Turbo Blower House and Workshops

The blower house is where the turbo-fans are located. They were responsible for blowing the huge amounts of air required by the blast furnaces. This cavernous building would have once housed a set of classic engines for blowing the air, along with a power plant, all of which was removed in the 1970s.


Turbo-fan sets 1 and 2


There was one blower set for each blast furnace


Side view of the huge blowers


Turbo-fan 3


The green motor for fan 3


Historic control panel from when older machines were used


The machines this panel controlled were removed a long time ago


Newer control room for the turbo-blowers


Turbo-blower control room


Workshop area


Workshops


Locker room

Railway and Coal / Iron Ore Delivery Area

The steelworks had its own station for the delivery of coal and raw materials such as iron ore which would be emptied into hoppers below. A lot of wagons are parked on the tracks.


Wagons parked in the delivery station


Track over the coal and iron ore hoppers with blast furnaces behind


Nature is starting to reclaim the tracks


Blast furnace and wagons


Trains would drop their content directly into the hoppers below

Continued...
 
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AndyK

Behind Closed Doors
Staff member
Moderator
Steel works

The steelworks took the pig iron produced by the blast furnaces and converted into steel.


Historic photos of the steelworks, pictured in 1952


Sign in the steelworks


View along one of the many long sections


View down the steelworks


View in the opposite direction


Work area between machinery


Ladles lined up in the ladle bay


One of the ladles tipped up


Wider view of the ladles


One of the work bays


Another work bay


Crane lowered in one of the bays


Furnaces for melting iron and scrap


Track for moving ladles


Electromagnetic lifting gear

Rolling Mill

The mill is where the steel products are finished off and rolled or shaped into their final forms.


Plant in the rolling mill


Plant in the rolling mill


Lifting gear in the mill


Crane hooks in the mill


Tracks leading to mill equipment​

So there you go! The story of how Florange steel works became "HFX". And the story of my Euro-nonsense awakening.

And in case you're wondering - I called it HFX in keeping with the other European steelworks known as "HF4", "HF6", "HFB", etc. It's actually the abbreviation for "Hauts Fourneaux", the French plural of Blast Furnaces.


Accidental selfie with a "HFX" sign​
 

Oja

Admin
Staff member
Admin
n**ger please!

Smashing pics/write up and about time you whacked this lot up :p

It's a massive site and a shame the consequences are huge if caught out these day's. I know a fair few have had hassles here and been detained/banned from trespass in Florange etc etc

What is it again 70,000 euro fine or 4 years in prison if caught again take your pick...

Shame we ran out of time at the offices as I spotted a proper cheeky way into the steel works for next time ;)
 

darbians

28DL Regular User
Regular User
I think you could of been a bit more comprehensive.
Great stuff mate.
I am totally with you on naming our finds over there. They come over here and get all our spots, yet we ask and get "I can't share it, blah blah blah." Beat them at their own game, job done. Ffs, this isn't the only tourist spot with epic next to it as you fully well know. I really don't understand how this happens over there.
 

Grom

Camera Drowner
Regular User
Not sure how I missed this one! Incredible stuff.
I went to Bureau Central admin building and loved that but didn't realise how much more there was to see. Top teir stuff!
 

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