The International Steam Pages

Getting Hammered in India

At the end of our last visit to India, we were returning to Calcutta and approaching Howrah, when I spotted unmistakable signs of live stationary steam. There was no time left then to investigate, but given a free afternoon on the first day of our 2008 bash, I was determined to track it down. We had an approximate location, so we chartered a car which crawled through the seething humanity that is the Howrah community until we found the nearest railway station. At which point we had no option but to walk down the shit covered track; however it was immediately apparent that we were still 'in business'. After that, it was easy to find a suitable gap in the wall, trudge down the muddy lane and present ourselves at the office of what turned out to be one of many small scale steel mills in the area. Fortunately, there was no language problem and once we had explained our hobby and how we had discovered this particular steam nirvana, we were made totally welcome:

So what had we found? Yes it's a steam hammer and they've got two more just the same, all made locally and quite recently to boot.

This is one of a pair of hand stoked boilers:

Ingots of steel are bought in and heated in an oil-fired furnace:

No fancy computer-controlled nonsense here, the red-hot ingot is pulled out and manoeuvered into position manually:

Whereupon it is assaulted by the hammer:

There are two key players in the game. This is the hammer operator: 

Seen in the opposite direction, the ingot is worked into shape:

While it's size and shape is monitored by the other key operative:

Steam power is alive and well in India. It was an afternoon which will stay in the memory for ever...

The video must be absolutely splendid, but it will have to wait for now... We'd love to go back and see more of these at work (we spotted another such mill nearby). Even better would be to see where these wonderful iron dinosaurs are built. Alas our bank manager says there are no pennies left in his care.

All the images in this report were taken by Yuehong which goes a long way to explaining why this worker has been distracted

Rob and Yuehong  Dickinson