Formerly known as Queenborough Rolling Mill, the plant was established in the mid 1970s specifically to re-roll used rail track into 6–20mm diameter rebar. During the 1990s, additional roughing stands were added to allow the mill to re-roll billets in addition to rail. This change resulted in the capability of the mill being expanded to produce a range of merchant bar products. In 1999, the site was acquired by ISTIL Group who carried out a substantial refurbishment of the mill and associated equipment and concentrated on rolling merchant bar products solely from billet for sale within the UK and Europe. In 2008 ISTIL Group was sold to the Russian based company Estar and in 2010 the plant was renamed Invicta Merchant Bar.
Mechel Group became the plant’s strategic partner supplying Invicta Merchant Bar with billets and marketing its products through Mechel Services Global. In 2011, the plant became part of the Mechel group until February 2013 when production ceased and the plant was sold by Mechel.
The feedstock to the plant prior to its closure was steel billet 110 x 110 – 140 x 140mm. Prior to rolling, the 6m long billets are heated in a Bendotti dual fuel, two zone pusher furnace with a rating of 38t/hour. Preheated billets are fed to a train of 7 roughing stands (Stands 1-7) which reduces the billet to around 48mm diameter. The material is then fed to a train of 3 intermediate stands (Stands 8-10) before being fed into one of two finishing lines.
Line 1 comprises stands 11-22 with repeaters to turn the material through 180 degrees after stands 10 and 14. The precise configuration of stands is governed by the product being rolled and the line includes a down-looper and up to 3 unloopers to allow tension free rolling. Product finishing speeds are in the range 2-20m/min and the line utilises fast or slow shear stands complete with grip and brake rolls before the material is fed onto a double entry brake slide, walking beam cooling bed. The cooling bed is 48 m long with layer beam discharge to a 400mm wide conveyor and cold shear where the product is cut to length (usually 6m) before being bundled, strapped and weighed before being loaded onto railway wagons. Products rolled on Line 1 include Rounds 8-42mm dia, Flats 12 x 3 -100 x 10 and Squares 10-25mm A/F.
Line 2 was installed in the mid 1980’s and comprises stands D-N with repeaters to turn the material through 180 degrees after the exit of stands E and G. Product finishing speeds are in the range 4-13m/min and the line utilises fast or slow shear stands complete with grip and brake rolls before the material is fed into twin discharge buckets before entry onto the 36m walking beam, cooling bed. The product is transferred to a cold shear where the product is cut to length (usually 6m) before being bundled, strapped and weighed before being loaded onto railway wagons. Products rolled on Line 2 include Rounds 12-22mm dia, Flats 20-30 x 5 and 6, and Squares 10-16mm A/F.
Got that? Good.
There are some interesting historic photos to be found of the site including the rail lines feeding the site in more productive times. Most of the rail is now gone and the place is silent apart from the clatter of pigeons up in the roof space and the wind pulling at the fabric of the building. The tooling inside is for sale and being sold off, and you can see why. There's some high-value kit inside there.
The evidence of the dark humour that its former staff left behind really added to the experience.
I found it to be like a smaller-scale, more intimate relative of the big steelworks down the road. It seems like there was a relatively small and close-knit team working it.
The full range of photos are on the link below.