•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dragon Master



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Those who were there recall the day the extruder exploded like a gun shooting the block and shrapnel down the factory floor. At the end of the conveyor that leads from the extruder there is an iron plate to intercept such trajectories; though it is little match for what might be fired at it. On the iron plate someone has drawn a panicked face in chalk. The combination of immense pressure and intense heat inside the dragon can make for nasty dyspepsia.

The system operator is the dragon master. Fred is the system operator. He tunes and adjusts the beast and oversees operation from the master controls. Each job requires a different configuration of dies and other interchangeable parts, and the machine is enveloped in pipes for cooling and heating and hydraulic control. Fred must watch and manage them all.

How does one learn to feed and care for an ancient dragon, the last of its species? Fred says he learned from the previous operator. Before that he worked as a tool maker. There's a back-up System Operator if Fred has to be out. Are they also the last of their species? When asked why he's the one working the extruder Fred says, "None of the other guys wanted to."