In 1912 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company acquired an area of low-lying swampy land and at Port Waratah on the southern arm of the Hunter River near the city of Newcastle for the purpose of establishing an integrated steelworks.
Work started in January 1913 with workers floating a pile-driving frame mounted on a punt to the site where 30foot (10m) timber piles were used to help create stable foundations. Retaining walls were created to contain the sand pumped from the Hunter River by the Public Works Department. Slowly the site was raised and foundations were installed.
After the piles were driven foundations of large concrete blocks required for soaking pits, mill engines and associated machinery were constructed. In April 1915 No1 Bloom Mill commenced operations, playing an integral part in the Newcastle Steelworks, taking ingots from moulds that had been filled with molten steel from the Open Hearth furnaces and rolling the red-hot ingots into different shapes and sizes required by the customer.
The source of power for the Bloom Mill and 28inch (710mm) Mill steam engines were installed prior to the erection of the main building. The Mill engines were built by MacIntosh, Hemphill & Co. of Pittsburgh USA. It was a 35inch (890mm) geared mill, of massive construction, driven by twin reversing engines of 12,000 hp (9000 kW) at 140rpm.
The drive from the steam engines was transmitted to a pinion gearbox that drove the top and bottom rolls in opposite directions to each other.
When going onto the approach table the ingot was about 20inches square (510mm) and about 5 feet (1.53m) long. This ingot of steel was first reduced to a bloom 8½ inches (215mm) then to a billet 4 or 6 ins square (100-150mm). Passing along to the shearing machine the billet was cropped at both ends and then cut to any required length ready for the rolling mills.
Between 1915 and 1982 the No1 Bloom Mill was consistently modernised to keep up with steel production at the Newcastle steelworks but was finally superceded by a new Bloom Mill – Continuous Millcomplex in 1983. Construction had begun in 1973 and the design capacity of the new Mill was 3 million tons (3m tonnes) per annum. This Mill was classed as a 48inch (1200mm) mill compared to the 44inch (1100mm) mill at No1 Bloom Mill (after various upgradings), with the design capability of rolling 12ton (12tonne) ingots.
Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association