Monday, October 10, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  In the 1820s extrusion, a new technology, was called squirting. The extrusion press is the giant machine that I photographed puffing steam on my first visit to the factory. It is definitely a mega-squirter. It requires five men to run, and it combines the best features of two classic toys supersized. 

The conveyor system that feeds blocks to the extruder begins at a four track bin and might double as pretty good electric trains. A swing bridge that pivots around one corner carries blocks across an aisle and aligns them to sidetracks that feed three ovens. It's an intriguing system, but it has apparently been abandoned. However, the trip from ovens is still pretty good railroading.

One at a time each hot block is sent down the conveyor from its oven. My Lionels never carried glowing hot metal. At right turns the blocks become 300 lb. wheels rolling to the next conveyor before advancing again. On the way to the extruder the hot block is first lowered and then raised and turned on elevators, until it is finally positioned between the extruder's maw, more politely called the container, and its giant ram, The ram is powered by 50 feet of hydraulics that make a throbbing, sad, metallic whine as they crush. Play-Doh, anyone?

Fred has momentarily stopped the extrusion press as it is lifting and rotating the next block into position to be plunged through the press's cutting die. The steel push-die (commonly called the dummy) that is supposed to protect the mandrel has fallen over. Someone must go in beside the block and the constantly dripping, cooling water and right the push-die with a crow bar before the process can continue and the ram mandrel do their tubular work.