formerly located in Joliet, Illinois - ca. 1920.
Langfords: George Sr.(1876 - 1964), George Jr.(1901 - 1996) &
George III (1936 - )
Copyright©2005 by George Langford III
A "bar" is one of the two steel "fish plates" or
"angle" bars, bolted on each side to two abutting rail ends in a
railroad track. The track becomes rough and bumpy when the joint
is much worn. In December, 1924, the McKenna Company (i.e., George, Sr.) conceived the idea of "re-forming" or reshaping worn rail
joint bars in closed dies under a power press.
The McKenna Process Company was originally organized in 1896 for the
purpose of "renewing" or rerolling worn railroad rails, but finally
this industry waned as Open Hearth steel came into more general
use. Another was needed to take its place. The natural
thing was to look further into the possibility of some as-yet untouched
source of railroad material which might be reclaimed.
Railroads had practiced more or less the reshaping of worn rail joint
bars in swages under s steam hammer. The results were crude, and
so this sort of work was not very popular.
In December, 1924, I had a talk with Mr. Cheney, Special Engineer of
the C.B. & Q. Ry. (the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, George,
secured permission to visit the C.B. & Q.
shops at Galesburg,
Illinois, where a particular method of reclaiming worn bars was
used. Mr. D.H.
Lentz, Jr., my assistant, went with me.
The method used at Galesburg was a milling down of the two worn contact
surfaces of a bar, making a smaller bar with new contact surfaces to
fit a smaller rail instead of to fit the same rail as I considered
essential. The process of milling was laborious, slow and
costly. It had no attractions for me. But there was
something else at the Galesburg shops that impressed me deeply: huge
piles of worn steel bars classed as scrap which the C.B. & Q. Ry.
was extremely anxious to salvage in some n
manner. Here was opportunity for business of considerable
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:
In about January, 1925, I secured authority from my
directors to build a bar
re-forming plant. Press and die work was new to me, and so I made
a deal with the E.W.
Bliss Company of Brooklyn, New York, to do some
trial re-forming with one of their big power presses at Brooklyn.
Mr. Haynes, Purchasing Agent of the C.B. & Q., agreed to furnish
bars for my trials.
Meanwhile, we visited many railroads to get bar re-forming
business. Mr. Shaud, Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad,
was among the first. Our method of re-forming in closed dies
under a powerful crank press aroused general interest. With the
information gained at Brooklyn, I designed and built a plant at Joliet,
Illinois. It was a small but well equipped plant. We had a
two row, gravity, continuous, oil-fired furnace; a 1,500-ton crank
press, a large, oil-quenching tank; and numerous smaller machines to
round out the main equipment.
We encountered plenty of grief when we finished building and began to
operate. It was just one thing after another, but we finally
began to get the tonnage out. There was no end of business intil
others stepped in and made the going tougher.
|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
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."
There is no
picture of the mechanism for charging
bars in heats, although worn bars were being charged at the time
through one of the furnace side doors (image not present - George,
III). Pulling hot bars out of the furnace
image) The bar is being drawn
from the side of the furnace near the hot end. The furnace was of
the continous type, oil fired. Bars were charged in at the cold
end, as fast as they were drawn from the hot end. Proper heating
was about the most important of bar re-forming operations. View of hot bar going into press
(image missing) This was a
1,500-ton Toledo Crank Press, electrically driven. When fully
assembled, it weighed over, 200,000 pounds. The heated, worn bar
was completely re-formed with one stroke of the press. Pins were
incorporated in the dies to insure proper sizing of the bolt holes in
the bar while being re-formed (see patent image - George, III). View of hot bar in dies (no image) This was the
outlet side of the press. The crosshead with upper die is about
to descend upon the hot bar lying in the lower die. Hot bar being reformed (no image) Outlet
side of the press. The top die is shown descended upon the
bar. Hot bars going
through Oil Quench (no image) Quenching
was the third major operation, following the ones of heating and
pressing. The re-formed bar, still hot, dropped into the oil tank and
was conveyed through the hot oil, which gave it hardness. The
quenching tank had oil circulating and water-cooling pumps to keep the
quenching oil at the desired temperature.
|Image 25 - Views of re-formed bars being
piled for proper cooling.
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
|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 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
C.B. & Q. = The Burlington RR.
PENNA. = The Pennsylvania RR.