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Report - - The Steel Beast - Teeside steelworks (2009-2011) | Noteworthy Reports | 28DaysLater.co.uk
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Report - The Steel Beast - Teeside steelworks (2009-2011)

Dempsey

The Human Turbine.
Regular User
#1
Where to start with this ey?


So it started around about 2009 whereby a few friends and I drove by the then working Blast furnace at Redcar. Instantly we were perplexed - digging for our cameras, expecting the place to vanish in the next 5 minutes.

Teesside steelworks was an inferno of British industry, and it was right there in front of our eyes, with its raw steel and slag glinting through the palisade fence separating us. Then I reckon, that’s when a strange little affection grew on me.

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If you don’t know of this place, it was one of Britain’s three major steelworks, and primarily the main British Cast products manufacturer, exporting high quality steel all around the globe, basically, without going into the centuries of amazing history, you’ll be hard pushed to find a bridge anywhere in the world that doesn’t have 'Teesside' cast into its steel.


The site is spread over around two miles whereby the majority of the workload involves moving pig iron from Redcar blast furnace (RBF) to the Lackenby basic oxygen steel (BOS) plant two and a half miles away. You’ll find the majority of my photos are from RBF and BOS. Complementing this vast operation is the various ancillary operations like coking production, electricity production, sintering workings and the steel beam works. Alas you need satellite images to get an idea of it all, and surprisingly its downsized; half the size it was in the 1970’s, which to me is hard to imagine and completely out of place in our modern Britain.

I spent a good while researching the steel industry and have endless documents on steel production and the intricacies involved, so give me a shout if you want to know how it works.

Over the years, it’s gone from British Steel to Corus and from Tata steel to SSI. For the worker however, the site was always the same, the same old beast that seemed to employ half of the northeast.

To cut a fairly long story short, after our little fondle with the perimeter fence, LittleMike and I ended up half way up the Blast furnace whilst the place was still switched on under a blue glowing summer sky, right in the centre of it all, a sheer education in the terms of epic experiences. The place was insane; the whole structure rumbled during the various stages of Iron production, and simply put, it was one of those moments whereby you stand by and think, yeah, this is pretty damn cool.

To be honest it was a bit of a laugh trying to negotiate the place with the old ‘sneakybeaky, wear some black clothes and hunch over like you’ve murdered someone technique’, but we learned that had to change slightly. What, with the slag trains, iron trains, coke trucks, workers, alarms, sirens, you name it, this place had it, and it proved difficult to negotiate on that initial run around the Blast furnace.

It was overalls, hardhat and a camera from now on. ‘Dress like you work there and walk like you own the place was the way forward.’


So over the following year, a select few joined me on ventures that took us in and out of the behemoth. Not only was it a thrill to try and get away with more cheeky exploits, but it was also important to take in something, something which inevitably was going to collapse into the ground and never to be experienced on British soil again. Alas that happened, and firstly before all of the headline news during the latter months of 2015 with the plant falling into final closure, the place actually fell into mothballing in February 2010 before the short operation by SSI (commencing during late 2011/12) and consequently over the following months we roamed around its vast proportions with it all pretty much to ourselves. Even though we were wearing the right attire, we felt a little out of character in a place, which was once a beehive of activity, and in a poetic way, was once alive.

One time it came to an interesting head, Brickman and I were wandering around the absolutely huge BOS plant in daylight like a pair of Chinese tourists, pointing our cameras and tripping over each other like a pair of Walters. I turned a corner around one of the steel crucibles and literally bumped into some rogue site foreman. Having bumped into my fair share of workers security and police I started up a traditional conversation along the lines of “Hey up mate, who are you, what are you doing here? I thought all you lads had all been axed!” and surprisingly it worked, we fired up a conversation that lasted at least five to ten minutes, talking back and forth about how the place will never be the same and how we were going to cope without a job. He went his way and so did we.

We both looked at each other had a giggle, wiped our brows and carried on our wanderings which is when, about 20 minutes later, I caught a glimpse of several hi vis security type attire running towards us, we knew it was security because of the spankers high vis; not even brushed against a filthy pipe in its life, but we were truly in the shit, as we were in the centre of the plant and these blokes were running at what seemed like warp speed, so we threw ourselves down underneath a staircase, and literally covered ourselves in oil, dust and crap.


The walkie-talkies eventually appeared around us and were on fire, engaging the police, with each bod ‘querying which way they thought we had vanished into’ all whilst we sit a few metres below them in some sump access stairwell. I peer through the stair slits and to my disbelief I see one of the guards looking directly down into our shaft. ‘That’s us then’ I thought, but thankfully he was just getting his breath. After about half hour they decided to sack it in and leave it to the police patrolling the perimeter outside, and as I’m sure you a few of you on here will know, there are certain times you just have to bolt it, those now or never moments, and that we did; running through the works like a pair of savages covered in oil and shit, straight over the fence and into our neatly camouflaged car just down the road. Fun times ey!

Thankfully, amongst other close calls, like the time we walked into a security hut (the guard snoring away and blissfully unaware of our shocked presence) that was the only real arse nipper moment, and we put it down to the worker passing security before he left and enquiring into who the two lads where back down there, to which aroused the question, ‘who are those guys down there?.' Similarly though, I suppose it wasn’t as bad as the time I had a sudden explosion of diarrhoea and had to quickly position myself over a conveniently positioned waist level pipe and send Karim on a mission to locate some bog roll, and have him roll it to me from under the pipes.

From Redcar blast furnace to the Basic oxygen Furnaces a few miles down the site, Dorman Long Coke Ovens to Lackenby Beam Mill and from Redcar Sinter plant to the Export Import Docks, you can pretty much say we covered almost all of it, excluding the power station, which was just one of those, thwarted by something incredibly random, however I know of someone who has, and heck maybe I’ll give it another crack.

So yeah, its fair to say we had a lot of fun times pretending to be workers, and a lot of reflective times wandering around the desolate caverns of dysfunctional industry.

The majority of my photos were taken using an old Canon film camera, loaded with either Ilford Delta 400 or 200 print film, and I honestly didn't know which to upload so theres a load left out. They’ve been sat in a drawer for the past 6 years! In honesty I wish I’d spent more and opted for colour, but I suppose there might be some artsy-fartsy appreciation on here, however, sadly they have somehow lost quality either through resizing or photobucket, as they are crystal clear and nowhere near as grainy. I have hundreds of photographs, and I've probably left out all the good ones.



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About a quarter of the way up with the recirculating gas pipe in front of us.



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Our first view of the internals of RBF after she had shut down.


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The furnace itself




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Half way up RBF, the power station half right.


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A bit sketchy this one as there was no other way around to climb higher than to walk around the gantry fully exposed to the plant. Who could resist a selfie though?


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The Sinter plant, whereby coke, iron ore and limestone have a bit of a jolly and come together. The sinter plant is basically a furnace which heats the ore into a course mix. This in turn is charged (loaded) into the Blast furnace.



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Even had an Aussie wandering around one night!




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The BOS Cathedral.


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Doesn't handle like a Ferrari anyway.



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A photo from a night running through the sorting piles of raw products whilst the place was still live. These things operate like something from War of the Worlds. We even had a bloke walk right past us and then nearly got crapped on by a few tonnes of limestone.




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BOS



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Brickman



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RBF



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The old tooth doctor enjoying life in a scrap bin



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Dempsey

The Human Turbine.
Regular User
#2
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This photo wasn't even intended to happen as I'd accidentally loaded a cheap roll of colour print film into my camera in the heat of the moment, luckily I did.

Dodge the molten slag boyo's.
 

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ACID- REFLUX

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#3
Needs sticking in NP

Epic stuff :thumb

A great report and pics are more impressive in Mono" i think (anything to get rid of the Sodium and what-not lighting :banghead

It certainly still holds challenges on site even now ( to say the least) and i"ve not had a buzz like it while exploring before, but the come down is a bit naff ;)
 

ACID- REFLUX

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#7
Id say not considering the dates, these boys were running round this place when half of you lot were still in nappies :p
I appreciate the time span involved, but following recent shall we say Public publicity of the SSI site and all that followed, i thought we were still trying to keep it out of public with the rest of the reports for the time being ?

And not when i was in nappies, although at my age i"m probably due some soon ;)
 

Ojay

Admin
Staff member
Admin
#8
Like I said the timeline here makes no odds, these lot were running about the place when it was in full swing, it hardly matters now as its closed and ready to be chopped up and bulldozed
 

ACID- REFLUX

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#11
Like I said the timeline here makes no odds, these lot were running about the place when it was in full swing, it hardly matters now as its closed and ready to be chopped up and bulldozed
So my next question is when are the rest of the reports from SSI going into the "Public" domain ? is there a time frame for it ?

Did someone get caught? :p
I know some people who"ve been detained & i"m led to believe quite a few others have, who wouldn"t admit it ;)
 

Cuuvin

28DL Colonial Member
28DL Full Member
#12
:eek:Sweet Mother of Industry , this is Heaven !!! :thumb:thumb Excellent write up ! and in my opinion ,Sometimes what appears to be Shitte, turns up like a Rose !! Black & White, Grit & grainy, is what the heavy industries are about! Once again ... Kudos, Mate !! :D
 

Dempsey

The Human Turbine.
Regular User
#13
:eek:Sweet Mother of Industry , this is Heaven !!! :thumb:thumb Excellent write up ! and in my opinion ,Sometimes what appears to be Shitte, turns up like a Rose !! Black & White, Grit & grainy, is what the heavy industries are about! Once again ... Kudos, Mate !! :D

Cheers mate, the write up has sat on my computer for the last six years, just had a few jars and though I'd post it ey. I should get round a few more, its an excuse to drink anyway.
 
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