|This is a
picture-book prepared by George Langford, Sr., to illustrate
the plant used to reroll rails according to the rail
renewing inventions of Edward
McKenna, Chief Engineer of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul
basic concept was that worn
rails retained 98%
their original mass.
He reasoned that it ought to be possible to
redistribute the remaining mass so as to restore the essential original
dimensions: the rail height from base to head and the head dimension
required to maintain the original gauge of the installed tracks.
This could be done by re-rolling the rail.
During 1897, the first year of operation of the McKenna plant at Joliet, Illinois, about 20,000 tons of rerolled rails were shipped; I know this because I found, in an old ledger that had been discarded by McKenna and then appropriated by George, Sr. to catalogue his paleontological and archaeological specimens, four pages of debits & credits dating from August 17, 1897 to December 31, 1898. One of the entries was a rebate of $50 on the tarriffs charged by the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern RR for switching 1,987 cars through December 31, 1897. At 20 tons of rails per car and two handlings per car (once into the McKenna yard and once out) that works out to 20,000 tons. In an article in Railway Age (March 2000) there's a retrospective article about a tour of the McKenna plant conducted in 1900. By that time, the article says, there were 80,000 tons of McKenna's re-rolled rails in service.
George Langford, Sr., started with the McKenna company in 1898 and was successively foreman, superintendent, director and, finally, president of McKenna from 1929 until 1946. On June 30, 1928, about the time that George Langford, Sr. became President, the McKenna Process Company was reorganized in order to include George, Sr. as a small stockholder. Later, after George, Jr., joined his father at McKenna in 1929, George, Jr., was given a share (August 6, 1929) and on December 6, 1932, another share. That made the Langford family 0.13% owners of the McKenna Process Company. However, family ties may have played an indirect role as well. George Langford, Sr.'s text on all these pages is in green italics. George Langford, Sr.'s history of the McKenna Process Company follows on the next page. George Langford, Jr.'s biography of George, Sr. is next, after that. Richard L. Leary of the Illinois State Museum has published a fine biography, "George Langford, Sr. (1876-1964): Amateur paleobotanist and inventor" as a chapter in the Geological Society of America Memoir 185, 1995. Next is George Langford, Jr.'s history of the McKenna Company, written from a slightly different perspective as the son of the principal character.
A list of George, Sr.'s many patents is here. Steve Reynolds of DATAMP graciously and generously found them for me.
George III prepared the scanned images in order to give a talk about the life of George Langford, Sr., at the invitation of Michael Henderson of the Burpee Museum, Rockford, Illinois, at their Second Annual Mazon Creek Open House, October 21, 2000. The subject of the talk was the quite cyclical rail business of the McKenna Proccess Company that gave George, Sr., the resources as well as the time to pursue his many scientific interests, among which were the Pennsylvanian coal flora and fauna preserved in the fossils found on the spoil heaps of coal mines in Wilmington Township, Will County, Illinois. Many of the fossils collected by George, Sr., are preserved at the Illinois State Museum, Springfield, Illinois. Images of these fossils are available on line in the Mazon Creek Collections Database. George Langford, Sr., authored two important compendia, both published by the Earth Sciences Club of Northern Illinois (ESCONI): The Wilmington Coal Flora, 1958, and The Wilmington Coal Fauna and Additions to the Wilmington Coal Flora, 1963. After the failure of the McKenna company in 1946, George, Sr., became Curator of Plant Fossils at the Field Museum of Natural History (later, Chicago Natural History Museum). George Langford, Sr., also participated actively in the archeology of prehistoric Illinois, first on the Kankakee River in 1919 and then at the Fisher Mound and village site and the Adler Indian Mounds between 1925 and 1929, as well as conserving the remains of a mastodon found in Kendall County, Illinois, in 1910. At the conclusion of his salvage work at the Fisher site and the Adler mounds, George, Sr. wrote an essay describing his work and its impacts and also making an impassioned plea for the preservation of the remaining sites in Illinois (such as Dan Dickson's) using the state-owned sites in Ohio as positive examples. George, Sr., also authored three novels published by Boni and Liveright: Pic, the Weapon Maker (1920), Kutnar, Son of Pic (1921), Stories of the First American Animals (1923); one published by Liveright Corp.: Senrac, The Lion Man (1954); and one, serialized in American Boy Magazine: The Mammoth Man (1922).
|Notes by George
photographs from which these images were made are contact
prints from eight by ten inch negatives made with a large format view
camera. The photographer is unknown; it was probably not
George Langford, Sr., as my grandfather had long since lost his left
arm in an accident with the rolling mill seen in these images.
That accident occurred before
his marriage to my grandmother, Sidney Holmes (Langford), and before
the birth of my father, George Langford, Jr. The accompanying
high resolution of the images in this picture book
cannot be reproduced on the Internet without dividing the images into
managable portions as I have done here. There are many details
available in the images which can only be viewed comfortably by the
substantial enlargement made possible by the digital scanner. The
images below are mere thumbnails; the larger images are reachable by
clicking on the appropriate links alongside the images.
I am unsure of the precise location of the plant that you see here, except that during a visit to Joliet in 2002 I stood in front of a building, now housing the Police Department of Joliet, that was the Joliet Prison (not the State Penitentiary known as Stateville) at the time these pictures were taken. When I stood facing that building's left front corner, the McKenna site would have been directly behind my back. The twin towers of a large school and a Joliet church can be seen just to the right of center on the skyline of Image 2 below. George Langford, Jr., drew a map of his best recollection of the locations of the McKenna offices and plant in Joliet late in his lifetime. The office was located at the corner of Abe Street and East Jackson Street; it might be that building that can be seen at the extreme left rear of Image 1 below, because George, Sr., describes it as having a tile roof in his history of the McKenna Company. Use Mapquest to study the local streets and railroads; here is a composite of Image 1 and Image 2. These two pictures were probably taken from the East Jackson Street viaduct, looking northwest. See also this image of Joliet, taken from the air by George Langford, Jr., in 1917, showing the school seen above along with the McKenna Process Company plant and the much larger Elgin, Joliet & Eastern railroad yards next to the plant. In April, 2005, the former McKenna yard is just rubble, but the McKenna office building on East Jackson Street at Abe Street still remains. The former Bates Machine Company plant is right across Jackson from the McKenna office building.
Image 1. Rail rerolling plant viewed from the southeast.
Image 2. Rail rerolling plant viewed from the southeast.
not in the original book; however, you will
be able to see the magnetic-hoist crane in the image below.
Image 3. Unloading old rails with locomotive crane and
Image 4. Rail unloading and storage yard viewed from
Image 5. Grading old rails for rerolling. After
Image 6. Grading old rails for rerolling. The rails
Image 7. West (front) end of Rolling Mill showing
Image 8. Charging rails into the furnace.
Image 9. Drawing rails from the furnace. The hot
Image 10. Hot rail entering the Leading Rolls.
Image 11. Hot rail receiving its first pass in the
Image 12. Leading Rolls being turned up in a lathe.
Image 13. Hot Sawing. After leaving the Finishing
Image 14. After sawing, the rerolled rails are branded,
Image 15. After spacing and turning over, the rerolled
Image 16. Cold-straightening with press and "gag."
Image 17. Cold Straightening with press and hammer
new bolt-holes. The drilling-machine
is set at the same angle as the rail lying upon its side.
This insures rapid and accurate drilling.
a. Drilling New Bolt Holes-Overall
Image 19. Inspecting rerolled rails. When finished, the
|Image 20. After
rerolled rails are
sorted for length and quality by a roller conveyor
which delivers them to the loading beds.
Details scanned from the original print:
|Image 21. Loading
yard viewed from the west. The
rerolled rails standing upright in the foreground are
awaiting inspection. Those piled beyond have been
accepted and sorted and are ready for loading.
a. Loading Yard From West - Overall
Sr.'s patent drawing, showing the
re-formed rail joint bar and the re-forming process:
patent drawing, showing the press and die for re-forming the rail
bar, including the important pin:
|Image 22 - Piles
of heavily rusted C.B. & Q. 100-pound bars to be re-formed.
When we got our bar plant running, the C.B. & Q. Ry. sent us many bars that had been piled up for several years and which were deeply caked and pitted with rust. Cleaning them up was a serious problem.
a. Closeup view of the rusty splice bars.
|Image 23 -
Rattling heavily rusted bars.
The worn bars were often so rusted, or covered with oil and dirt, that we had to clean them in some way. We tried this foundry rattler at first but soon gave up the practice in favor of grinding with emery wheels. Grinding was the only way to smooth up corroded fittings.
Probably the worst diffuculty encountered in re-forming was the discovery in 1926 that many worn bars had cracks in the middle of their tops. This would eventually cause breakage, and so we had to find and eliminate bars that had these cracks.
|Image 24 - View
showing welding of the cracked bars.
a. Detail of the welder's truck:
The sign on the side of the truck reads, "Will County Welding Co., Electric and Acetylene Welding and Cutting, 366 So. Chicago St., Joliet, Ill., Phone 145."
|Image 25 - Views of re-formed bars being
piled for proper cooling.
The re-formed bars, conveyed throught the hot oil, were dropped onto outside conveyors. Although they look cool, they are too hot to handle, and the man has an iron hook at each end of the bar to lift it from the comveyor and stack it in the pile.
but in the Winter
|Image 26 - Closeup view of a stack
of re-formed bars.
Note by George, III: The heat treatment used here is an approximation of isothermal transformation. The intent was, first, to avoid as much as possible the formation of pro-eutectoid ferrtie (which weakened the steel) by initially quenching in hot oil and, second, to keep the bars hot while the relatively slow decomposition of the high-temperature austenite into bainite or pearlite was given time to take place within the slowly cooling stack. It later turned out that Alexander Langford, great-great-grandson of George, Sr., became expert in the measurement of continuous cooling transformation curves during his employment at Foote Mineral Company in Exton, Pennsylvania, in the late 1970's. Alex still has the ISA - ADAMEL LHOMARGY high-speed dilatometer as well as the Reichert metallograph that he used at Foote.
|Image 27 - Re-formed bars ready
a. Detail of workman:
|Image 28 - View
showing our method of straightening crooked bars after re-forming.
a. Closer view of the two workmen:
|Image 29 - View
showing the machining of the dies.
Note by George, III: It turns out that in my penchant for collecting old machine tools, I happened to end up with an 1870's Pratt & Whitney planer much like the planer shown at left. The image below shows some of the tool-crib tokens used by the mill hands to account for company tools they were using.
|Image 30 - Bar at the top below was reformed
without the use of pins for the
holes, while the bar at the bottom was forged with pins in the die (as
for the patent drawing) to keep the
proper size of the bolt hole.
||Image 31 - This
view shows the special type of hole put in by McKenna so that
an oval shanked bolt may be used. This hole was originally square.
|Image 32 - US
Patent No. 1,890,687 splice
||Image 33 - US
Patent No. 2,034,046 splice bar model
|Image 34 - Typical
splice bar cross sections used by McKenna Process Company
||The models seen in Images 32 and 33 were
used to demonstrate George Langford Sr.'s processing methods and design
basis to prospective customers.
The splice bar cross sections at left are for rail that is puny by today's standards, about 100 pounds per yard, but considered quite heavy at the time the McKenna Company was operating.
C.B. & Q. = The Burlington RR.
PENNA. = The Pennsylvania RR.