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Thread: Worthington Buffalo

  1. #1
    John Buscher is offline Plastic
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    Default Worthington Buffalo

    Today at lunch I took a look at the remains of Worthington Buffalo where I started my first engineering job in 1963.

    Does anyone have pictures or stories from this plant? There is almost nothing on the internet although I was surprised to learn that many of the engines we worked on are still in use.

    John Buscher
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    Mike Piersa is offline Aluminum
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    What's left of the plant? Was it originally the Snow works before Worthington? Last year, NMIH acquired a Worthington steam powered air compressor built in Buffalo. Photos of the unit are online at:
    GEO Air Compressor | Facebook
    I don't have any pictures or stories about the plant, but would love to see/hear some. It would be great to add that kind of material to the artifact's file.

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    Joe Michaels is offline Titanium
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    In about 1990, another engineer and I flew into Buffalo, NY. We rented a car and went on to a heavy machine shop in Port Colborne, Ontario where some hydro turbine parts were being refurbished and remachined. The other engineer had been in the Peace Corps and had served in Ecuador in about 1978. He had been part of a group that built a small diesel power plant for a village. I had worked in Ecuador designing and erecting a diesel powerplant, also in Ecuador, but for a paper mill. My friend's plant was based on used Worthington medium speed diesel engines and generators, removed from a plant in the USA. My job was based around a GM Cleveland diesel and a Fairbanks OP diesel. Having that in common, we were driving from Buffalo A/P to get to Port Colborne. I remarked that Worthington had built it's diesels and some very large steam pumps in Buffalo. We both knew Worthington was history, but wondered what became of the diesel engine plant. As we drove around Buffalo on some highway, lo and behold, we saw the remains of Worthington's Buffalo Works. There was a brick wall, painted black, with Worthington's name and the "snakes and wings" insignia. The building was vacant and derelict and looked like demolition may have started. It was just a glimpse, and it made us sad. That was about 1990, and Worthington;s buildings looked like they were not long for this world.

    Worthington was "the" name in steam pumps, and progressed to being "the" name in centrifugal pumps. I saw some of Worthington;s medium speed diesels in various smaller powerplants around the USA, along with plenty of Worthington compressors. Worthington was one of those firms that seemed like it should have gone on forever. It made powerplant equipment, and it was huge. I'd seen a few Worthington steam turbine generating sets, some on the order of 40 Mw. I'd seen Worthington steam surface condensers in powerplants.... In Ecuador, on the job, we had a concrete mixer made by Worthington. I'd seen older turf tractors and gang reel mowers made by Worthington.

    I still find it hard to believe that Worthington is history. My engineering school, then known as Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now known as Polytechnic University of NY) was founded in 1856 by Henry Rossiter Worthington. I'd bet everything that if you walked into 'Poly and asked students and faculty who H.R. Worthington was, you'd get blank looks and not much of an answer. When I started at Brooklyn Polytech in 1968, they had just discontinued the teaching of "hands on thermodynamics" and shut the old thermo lab. The engines and dynamometers and test equipment was being scrapped. In a pile of junk, I found the steam chest cover from a tiny Worthington duplex steam pump, 2" x 1 1/8" x 2 3/4", S/N 122151, pat'd July 7, 1891, complete with rivetted brass nameplate giving all that data, and replete with the wings and snakes in nice fine detail. I always hunted for the rest of that little steam pump and never found any of it. I keep the steam chest cover on my bookshelf at home along with a much bigger Worthington nameplate off a steam turbo generator. A small Worthington vee type air compressor is out in my garage. Like anything Worthington built, it was overdesigned and built to last. It's just a little vee type two stage compressor, but it has an intercooler made by "Harrison radiator" of Buffalo, and Worthington's nameplate is rivetted to the crankcase.

    I know there are (or were) Worthington diesel generating sets and Worthington steam turbine generating sets installed at Coop City power plant in the Bronx. I wonder if the Coop City plant is still run as a powerplant, or if the Worthington engines and turbines are still there. This was a big "total energy" plant built back in the 70's, I think.

    There were Worthington stationary diesels in many midwestern municipal power plants, kept there as standby or reserve units. Usually, when a firm like Worthington dies, engineers and people from within the various groups form spinoff companies to support things like diesels still in service. I wonder if this was the case with Worthington's diesel engine and heavy recip compressor division.

    Joe Michaels
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  4. #4
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    I worked in the old Worthington complex, only for a shot time.
    I was a electrical engineer for a fiberglass company that was
    renting a building in there. Nasty job, more toxic fumes than
    you could imagine, instant migraine headache, quit in short
    order. Anyhow, the remaining Worthington buildings can be
    seen when traveling down interstate 190 going into Buffalo.
    There are a few brick buildings left, maybe 3 or 4. The place
    I was in was a steel skeleton highbay structure with tin siding.
    Before the fiberglass place, it was used by Curtis Screw.
    Part of one of the old brick buildings had either fallen or had
    been taken down, with half still standing. Left up was the
    bridge crane rails and structure open to the outside. This is
    the part you can see from the highway and is why you may
    have thought it was poised for demo. Basically the buildings
    are being rented out to various businesses to scrape any
    possible remaining income out of this complex. This fiberglass
    company's pollution was just unreal. No doubt causing cancer
    in the surrounding neighborhoods. I left after 2 days.
    --Doozer

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    paul39 is offline Stainless
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    Default Worthington Records

    I found this:

    Worthington Corporation Records, 1859-1960.

    At least everything was not thrown into a dumpster.

    Also:

    McNeill Street Pumping Station - #1 High Service Pumping Engine

    Google: Henry R. Worthington Hydraulic Works

    Lots of hits, I did not look at everything.

    Paul

  6. #6
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    In 1972 I went on a field trip to Worthington Buffalo From Alfred State College. We started at the casting building, looked at the shaker floor where the massive castings were broken away for the sand and cores. Then to follow the engine blocks through machining into assembly. There was a massive V 10-16 cylinder engine which then started up. Very cool. so wished I had a video camera on that trip. 39 years ago.

  7. #7
    kennpaul is offline Plastic
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    Default Old Buffalo Plant

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Michaels View Post
    In about 1990, another engineer and I flew into Buffalo, NY. We rented a car and went on to a heavy machine shop in Port Colborne, Ontario where some hydro turbine parts were being refurbished and remachined. The other engineer had been in the Peace Corps and had served in Ecuador in about 1978. He had been part of a group that built a small diesel power plant for a village. I had worked in Ecuador designing and erecting a diesel powerplant, also in Ecuador, but for a paper mill. My friend's plant was based on used Worthington medium speed diesel engines and generators, removed from a plant in the USA. My job was based around a GM Cleveland diesel and a Fairbanks OP diesel. Having that in common, we were driving from Buffalo A/P to get to Port Colborne. I remarked that Worthington had built it's diesels and some very large steam pumps in Buffalo. We both knew Worthington was history, but wondered what became of the diesel engine plant. As we drove around Buffalo on some highway, lo and behold, we saw the remains of Worthington's Buffalo Works. There was a brick wall, painted black, with Worthington's name and the "snakes and wings" insignia. The building was vacant and derelict and looked like demolition may have started. It was just a glimpse, and it made us sad. That was about 1990, and Worthington;s buildings looked like they were not long for this world.

    Worthington was "the" name in steam pumps, and progressed to being "the" name in centrifugal pumps. I saw some of Worthington;s medium speed diesels in various smaller powerplants around the USA, along with plenty of Worthington compressors. Worthington was one of those firms that seemed like it should have gone on forever. It made powerplant equipment, and it was huge. I'd seen a few Worthington steam turbine generating sets, some on the order of 40 Mw. I'd seen Worthington steam surface condensers in powerplants.... In Ecuador, on the job, we had a concrete mixer made by Worthington. I'd seen older turf tractors and gang reel mowers made by Worthington.

    I still find it hard to believe that Worthington is history. My engineering school, then known as Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (now known as Polytechnic University of NY) was founded in 1856 by Henry Rossiter Worthington. I'd bet everything that if you walked into 'Poly and asked students and faculty who H.R. Worthington was, you'd get blank looks and not much of an answer. When I started at Brooklyn Polytech in 1968, they had just discontinued the teaching of "hands on thermodynamics" and shut the old thermo lab. The engines and dynamometers and test equipment was being scrapped. In a pile of junk, I found the steam chest cover from a tiny Worthington duplex steam pump, 2" x 1 1/8" x 2 3/4", S/N 122151, pat'd July 7, 1891, complete with rivetted brass nameplate giving all that data, and replete with the wings and snakes in nice fine detail. I always hunted for the rest of that little steam pump and never found any of it. I keep the steam chest cover on my bookshelf at home along with a much bigger Worthington nameplate off a steam turbo generator. A small Worthington vee type air compressor is out in my garage. Like anything Worthington built, it was overdesigned and built to last. It's just a little vee type two stage compressor, but it has an intercooler made by "Harrison radiator" of Buffalo, and Worthington's nameplate is rivetted to the crankcase.

    I know there are (or were) Worthington diesel generating sets and Worthington steam turbine generating sets installed at Coop City power plant in the Bronx. I wonder if the Coop City plant is still run as a powerplant, or if the Worthington engines and turbines are still there. This was a big "total energy" plant built back in the 70's, I think.

    There were Worthington stationary diesels in many midwestern municipal power plants, kept there as standby or reserve units. Usually, when a firm like Worthington dies, engineers and people from within the various groups form spinoff companies to support things like diesels still in service. I wonder if this was the case with Worthington's diesel engine and heavy recip compressor division.

    Joe Michaels
    I stumbled into this forum so I don't know if this thread is active anymore. In 1962 I signed on to work at this plant and ended up staying there for about one year. I worked as a Machinists Helper, first on a Horizontal Drill, and later, on a large Drillpress (40' track, 30' boom, 20' column, I think I calculated it was capable of over 1,800 combinations of feeds and speeds). I worked in the heavy machine shop, high bay place, large overhead cranes carried the work from station to station. Generally the work was very interesting to a young man with a high school education and a little college, the place was full bore United Steel Workers, the actual machinists (machine operators) were some of the crustiest folks I've ever met, but generally good people. The company seemed from my worms eye view to be decent, but the union was a real problem, militant, uncooperative, aggressive.

    After all these years my accurate memories fade, so I stand to be corrected on any "fact" I write here. Generally I was elbow deep in cutting oil within 10" of starting. Almost every tool I "helped" with required me to use my own small crane to lift/carry/position the tool for the machine operator. For example, we might have had to drill and tap the bolt holes for the port covers on certain engines. Each drilling jig might be two or three feet long and half as wide, and it would be 1/2" to 1" thick. Heavy things. Some of the pieces we worked on were sometimes massive. Maybe twice we cast and machined very large diesel engine blocks. The largest I saw had the crankcase cast in two halves, with the two halves cast to be fit and bolted together at installation in the field. (I think I was told they were for some large Navy warships.) They were shipped on two flatbed railcars, each half filling the entire length of one rail flatcar. Don't know if this part is true but I was told (in all apparent seriousness) the crankcase of the thing held 2,000 barrels of oil. Pistons were huge, the ports in the side of the crankcase were probably 2' wide and 5' high. We cast (in the foundry across the alley) and machined in our shop all the basic parts for this equipment, pistons, cylinder liners, headers, crankshafts, connecting rods, etc. The most interesting part of all this was the milling and drilling and machining equipment. I was struck by how these huge lumps of metal could be machined to such tolerances by the equipment we used, by men with mostly practical education, and generally they could easily beat the rates (all piece work, a rate of minutes per operation set by some young college guys) any time they desired. The machinists jealously guarded their secrets for set up/teardown efficiencies that allowed them to earn extra money at will. However, they also generally did a moderate pace and flow of work so as not the "break the rate" because then the rate guys would notice, and management would want to reset the rates. Lotta union fights over that issue, and woe to the lowly machinist's helper who shot his mouth off about those secrets.

    I could go on with more stories and detail, but I'll do that only if asked. Is anyone reading this stuff anymore? Kenn Paul

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    sandiapaul is offline Stainless
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    Yes we are reading. And I'm pretty sure more than I would want more!
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    Default Re: Worthington Buffalo

    Unfortunately, i live right around the corner of that eyesore. I had a job for a few months at Curtis screw that was in one of the Bays of that complex. I was amazed by the size of the building, n couldn't imagine the size of the machinery that used to be there. I work on mostly large parts now, but nothing like what must have come out of that place..
    As i went to the metalworking institute of wny, the cnc teacher there was a machinist there in the 70s. He would tell us that it took two guys to use a inside mic to measure a bore. One on the to and one on the bottom taking the measurement.
    I have a fetish for old large machine ships, factories. I've had the please (illegally) to sneak a peek at the old Niagara machine plant here also, n before they tour down the old westinghouse plant for the airport, i managed to sneek in there to.
    Also just recently, got to check out the old bell aerospace plant in Niagara falls. Same thing there as Worthington, one building left, n shared by a slew of companys. Moog, nuttall, precious plate, etc....

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    Dose anybody know what was made at the Harrason NJ plant of Worthington? I have a B4 Worthington Diesel engine that the builders plate says Harrason NJ. I belive that complex is now Machinery Values.
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    Lester Bowman is offline Aluminum
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    Not a large Worthington but a small one..a horse and a half Worthington hit and miss gasoline engine.I figure about 1920.Worthington had an entire line of gasoline stationary engines sold for farm work and such.The larger sizes would also run on Kerosene and were throttle governed.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 100_1396.jpg   100_1392.jpg   100_1395.jpg   100_1394.jpg  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Michaels View Post

    There were Worthington stationary diesels in many midwestern municipal power plants, kept there as standby or reserve units. Usually, when a firm like Worthington dies, engineers and people from within the various groups form spinoff companies to support things like diesels still in service. I wonder if this was the case with Worthington's diesel engine and heavy recip compressor division.

    Joe Michaels
    I have one Worthington integral compressor engine still running at one of the plants were I am foreman over the maintenance. It is an inline 8 cylinder, SUTC. Good sized engine, roughly a 18" bore. Honestly, and sadly, it is really a POS and we almost never run it unless we have one of the Cooper engines down and need some additional 4th stage compression for the plant. There were 5 of those Worthington engines in that plant when it was built in the late 60's. The other 4 all had crankshaft failures and went to scrap. Other than the SUTC, I have 1 Worthington Cub compressor still in service. It is a 4 throw divorced unit driven by a 7042 Waukesha. It is a decent compressor for the most part, but it isn't loaded very hard.

    To answer your question Joe, nobody is supporting the Worthington products that I have. Literally everything has to be custom made (even gaskets) or sourced out from used parts. Used hard parts are nearly non-existent.

    The last Worthington engine I have will be shut down for good December of next year and removed. It is being replaced by 3 new Waukesha engines driving screw compressors. The old Worthington cannot be supported anymore and there isn't enough money in this country to make it pass current emissions standards. We are upping the production capacity of the plant and the 3 new units will produce more than 3 times the volume, be cheaper to run, and all 3 combined will make less than half the emissions of the old girl. It will probably go to scrap since no one has expressed interest in buying it so far. Heck, the cost of moving it would far outweigh what it is worth.

    The 4 throw compressor will remain in service for now, but I can see the day in the not too distant future that it will be replaced, and if it remains at all it will be as a stand-by unit for back up. It has the same problem of not being able to support it with spare parts.

    It is sad for me to see these old units go away. I love the old units, but business decisions cannot be made biased on the fact that I like something. When you have contracts for deliver a certain amount of product to your customers every day, you can't accept having equipment that doesn't get it done and leaves you high and dry when it breaks.

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    kennpaul is offline Plastic
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    Default Worthington Buffalo - large horizontal milling machine

    Quote Originally Posted by sandiapaul View Post
    Yes we are reading. And I'm pretty sure more than I would want more!
    My first job at Worthington was a helper on a horizontal drilling machine, on the midnight shift. The drill was an older thing, but still useful, if somewhat limited in capabilities. The machine operator was a smart young guy who reasoned he liked mids cuz he could get more work done...nobody bothered him (us). I was just grateful to have a decent paying job, he was actually decent company, willing to teach me what he could, and good to work with, but mids still sucked for me. Anyway, the work on this drill was placed by a crane on a little rail flatcar which rolled back and forth on steel railroad rails embedded in the floor, and the operator would drill whatever needed to be drilled/tapped, vertically milled, whatever, while I, the genius helper would use a 5' long crowbar (can't recall what it was called) to move the entire thing along the track. Had sort of cog teeth in the wheels and when you levered it, it would move. Inertia was a bitch, but once it was moving, it rolled easily....trick was to start and stop at the right moment. The objective of course was to get the piece to the drill bit for the hole to be drilled. The drill mechanism could only move vertically, so the work was arranged to minimize horizontal movement, relying on the operator to hit his marks vertically but of course it was necessary to move horizontally too...my job. The operator and I became a pretty good team cuz I felt the way he did (easier to BE busy than to try to look busy) and it was absorbing to anticipate each other, me to get the piece in place at the right time, him to anticipate me doing so before he started the feed on the bit. I think maybe we broke one bit off....he fed before I was done moving....my fault, but he was cool about it (the tool crib guy was not as cool....got mad at me for breaking off one of his precious drill bits, however.) This machine handled smaller pieces, and frequently there would be a bunch of them to do for the entire shift. So the work was repetitive, same motions over and over, same set of jigs, etc., so the interesting thing was how you might do the work most efficiently. Basically, you got to practice over and over. The operator didn't much worry about breaking the rates because he liked to go fast so as not to get bored, and he figured it was harder to look busy than to actually be busy. He had some arguments with the older, more militant union guys about rate busting, but since they sure didn't want to work mids nor work on this horizontal drill, they pretty much left us alone on our output. After the piece was set in place and secured, the appropriate jig was mounted (had a little crane for me for that), and we drilled holes/tapped holes, enlarged holes, etc. alllll night long. Your basic industrial job in the late 50's/early 60's.

    Yesterday I described the large drill press I worked on, and between the horizontal drill and the large drill press, these were the only machines I was assigned to. Next to me was a huge lathe run by a redhaired Brit. Whistled while he worked...all the time. Also friendly guy, big smile, missing a couple of teeth. He had no machine helpers, however, because his work consisted of turning out mostly large driveshafts. So they (large overhead crane) would drop a piece of raw stock into his cradle....he could probably accept something maybe 30'? long, maybe longer. He would set the work up, set the tool bit up, and start turning the piece. Given the hardness of the steel, and the length of the piece, he might spend an entire shift watching the thing turn down. He spent a lot of time measuring diameter, etc., and he made what seemed to me to be pretty minute measurements. As I said, no helper for him, mostly he watched the piece turn and the shavings fall into the vat of cutting oil under the machine (all the cutting oil was reused of course, it just kept getting recycled via pumps from the tank to the cutting head and so forth). The wonder of it for me was that when he was done, his turning bits produced the most amazingly smooth finishes, all without polishing anything....very slow feed, fast rotation, smooth finish.

    The "king of the machine shop" (yes, there was one, he was a temperamental prick, his helper was arrogant) because his work was the basis for almost everything else that was done in the shop. He had the best rates, but had the burden of getting it right the first time. His machine was the horizontal milling machine. This was a monster, the bed was maybe 75' long, maybe longer, the bed was maybe 3' - 5' above ground level, and the milling station was probably 25'? high (and again, please don't hold me to these exact measurements, it was a long time ago for me). The newly cast raw engine block, maybe as long as a rail flatcar, was put down on one end of the bed, and secured to the bed. The bed moved the piece slowly through the milling station, where there might be several milling heads turning at once. For example, they might be milling the head surface as well as the side port faces on opposite sides of the crankcase at the same time. It was important because this was the basis for any further measurements that might be taken for additional work to be done to the crankcase. If this machine screwed up the measurements, and milled off a few thousandths of an inch too much, the entire piece might have to be scrapped - an expensive proposition. We generally agreed he was a temperamental prick, as I said, but we didn't argue with him cuz he was almost always right. Anecdotally, he apparently beat the set rates for some of his work three times, the company reset the rates each time, but after the third time they left him alone, concluding (probably rightly) if they screwed with him too much, he might leave - and they knew they couldn't find anyone good enough to replace him. His one running battle was with the guys in the foundry right across the alley between the buildings.....sometimes, when he was milling a long face, the guys in the foundry would drop some large casting on the floor, and the ground would shake enough that the shock would travel through the ground - maybe 100'? away - and leave a mark on the face being milled, and then he would have to redo that face to get it properly smooth This displeased him, to put it mildly.

    I can probably dredge up more stories, but I don't wanna just ramble on boringly. Anything of particular interest for you?

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    snydersux425's Avatar
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    Default Re: Worthington Buffalo

    [
    I can probably dredge up more stories, but I don't wanna just ramble on boringly. Anything of particular interest for you?[/QUOTE]


    Very interested. I like hearing Old stories about those old plants. Heard a pretty chilling story today about the old days at Bethlehem steel! How a supervisor, a real prick from what it sounds like, feel into a molten steel vat, and the Three guys that were working with him hated him so much that they never said anything other than, "haven't seen him all day".... I hear he was assumed missing.
    I do not know how much of this story is true, but i could see it happening. also heard a similar Worthington story a while back. about a couple guys in the foundry getting into a fight , 1 of them mysteriously "disappeared" and apparently the guy was brought up on charges. But never convicted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snydersux425 View Post
    [
    I can probably dredge up more stories, but I don't wanna just ramble on boringly. Anything of particular interest for you?

    Very interested. I like hearing Old stories about those old plants. Heard a pretty chilling story today about the old days at Bethlehem steel! How a supervisor, a real prick from what it sounds like, feel into a molten steel vat, and the Three guys that were working with him hated him so much that they never said anything other than, "haven't seen him all day".... I hear he was assumed missing.
    I do not know how much of this story is true, but i could see it happening. also heard a similar Worthington story a while back. about a couple guys in the foundry getting into a fight , 1 of them mysteriously "disappeared" and apparently the guy was brought up on charges. But never convicted.[/QUOTE]

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    kennpaul- welcome to PM. Feel free to ramble. We'll listen.

    allan

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    Interestingly, my younger brother started as a Rigger's Helper, later to be a Rigger, then into setting rates for Riggers. He was one of the last Bethlehem people out the door at the old Lackawanna Plant when it shut down for good. He tells some very interesting stories about working around those hot ovens......but none involving disappearing people that I can recall. Couple of accidental electrocutions (place that old, everything carelessly juryrigged, even with the breakers thrown, there was still loose juice in those wires), some interesting happenings when they had to dynamite the blast furnaces to get the slag clinkers loose.

    Worthington was a dirty and dangerous place to work. Their safety practices seemed good to me, and I always felt they had a good focus on safe work, but given the things that could go wrong, it was dangerous. They used oxycetalyne (sp?) torches in a variety of applications, and they carried the torpedoes (compressed tanks of gas) around the shop on a sort of skid loader thing....the driver stood like riding a chariot, the gas bottles upright in front of him on the bed of the vehicle, chained together so they wouldn't fall. This particular guy did get careless, I think he somehow removed the governor from the buggy he drove, drove too fast. One day he hit a bump at the top of our aisle as he turned down our aisle, the chain holding everything slipped, one of the bottles fell off and hit the valve end just right that it snapped off. Loud hiss and the thing took off straight down our aisle, past me and Adam (the machinist) as we stood there with our mouths wide open, down the aisle all the way to the end and punched through the heavy wood doors at the end of the aisle to the outdoors, came to rest against the brick foundry wall across the alley. Dented it too. If it had hit anyone it would have severely injured, even killed them, but we were all fortunate, no one was hurt. Don't know what happened to the driver of the thing, I left Worthington at that point.

    We had one other incident that always stuck with me. As you can imagine, we had a lot of different ethnic types, and a wide range of people working then. One day at the end of the shift we were all in the locker room changing into street clothes, washing up, etc. Typical day, 50 guys, lockers banging open and shut, good natured yelling, etc. At one point we all became aware there was a more serious disagreement at the far end of the locker room between one of the immigrant Sweepers who barely spoke English but had a bad, wiseguy chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, and one of the other Machinist Helpers. I barely knew that guy except he always seemed either just unfriendly or sullen. Anyway, words shouted at each other, typical male posturing, when all of a sudden the Sweeper guy whips out a large butcher knife from his boot, shoves the other Helper guy up against the lockers and puts the knife to his throat. Silence. A couple of the older guys started to talk them both down (the Helper guy a little white-faced at this point), somebody calls a foreman, who escorts them both away to the "office" (with a couple of extra guys to help). So we don't see the Sweeper around for a couple of weeks, we're told he was fired on the spot, and the Helper is reassigned to another department. So far, so good. BUT, one day, here comes the Sweeper again, all smiles, cockier than ever, yelling at everybody in broken English, back at work. So I asked Adam (my Machinist) what happened...."Damnfiknow, ask the steward." So I do. I confront the shop steward and ask him how it is this Sweeper is back here. His answer blew me away...rather proudly "We filed a grievance and made the company take him back." I said, "But he pulled a knife on one of our own guys here. Why is he back again?" The steward says (again, rather proudly) "Well, we can't let the company get away with that. We can't let them get away with just firing someone." So I tried one more time...."But he pulled a knife on one of us!" "Yeah, well, the company can't get away with that shit." End of story. I wasn't a fan of labor unions, but that incident put them, for me, in the category of organizations that need to be abolished.

    I suspect there are a lot of stories like these from the "old days". People were a little more direct back then, and settled their differences more directly too.
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  18. #18
    snydersux425's Avatar
    snydersux425 is offline Aluminum
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    Default Re: Worthington Buffalo

    Agreed on the unions.. Learned my lesion working at Eastman machine Co. in downtown buffalo about how old time unions work. Same thing, don't break the rates, don't turn on a union "brother" and don't let the company win. Also was a Teamsters steward at another Co. it's organized backstabbing!

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    wheels17's Avatar
    wheels17 is offline Cast Iron
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    My dad was the last president of the Worthington Buffalo operation and managed the closure of the plant. As I recall it, there was a merger between Dresser Industries(who owned Worthington at that time) and Ingersoll Rand. There were foundries in Olean, NY and Buffalo, and the size of the market for the equipment required the closure of one of the foundries. A decision was made to close the Buffalo plant and consolidate operations in Olean.

    I'll send him a link to this discussion, and see whether he has anything he'd like to correct or add.
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  20. #20
    Joe Michaels is offline Titanium
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    Re: What was made in the Harrison, NJ works of Worthington: The answer is centrifugal pumps. Worthington got its start when Henry Rossiter Worthington patented a direct acting steam pump. This was probably in the 1850's. Whether it was the first direct acting steam pump is something I don;t know. A direct acting steam pump has the steam piston and the water end piston (or plunger) on the same rod. Worthington really made their name and grew with the basic "duplex" steam pumps. At some point, they got into the manufacture of centrifugal pumps and became one of the biggest in the industry. Towards the end of their existence, Worthington employed Igor Karassik (sp ?) as their chief engineer or chief designed for centrifugal pumps. Karassik wrote textbooks on the design of centrifugal pumps and is still looked at as one of the "names" in research and development of centrifugal and turbine pumps.

    I know that when Worthington was at their peak, they had divisions making all sorts of divers product lines: centrifugal pumps was a big division, once recip pumps fell into relative disuse. Holyoke, MA had the Worthington plant making the higher speed recip air compressors (such as are used in garages or similar). Somewhere along the line, Worthington had divisions making grounds-keeping tractors, concrete mixers, central air conditioning units, steam surface condensers, heat exchangers, and then they had their "turbodyne division", in Minnesota, which built steam turbines. The biggest units to come out of Turbodyne were about 40 Mw. I've got a few of the old Worthington nameplates in my office at home, one of which is actually the steam chest cover (complete with the bronze Worthington insignia) from a tiny duplex steam pump (rest of the pump was long gone, unfortunately), and a large Worthington nameplate off a 10 Mw Turbodyne steam turbo generator. Both of these have the Worthington insignia with the snakes, supposedly something from ancient Egypt. I've got a small two stage vee-compressor out in my garage, made by Worthington in Holyoke in the late 40's. It is direct coupled to the motor with a "Thermoid" dampener coupling and runs at 1725 rpm. Nice and smooth and quiet. The intercooler has a tag soldered to it from "Harrison Radiator", in Buffalo, NY. The compressor has the Worthington nameplate riveted to the crankcase with the wings and snakes. Great old compressor.

    As for stories of bosses disappearing on the job, this is nothing new. Years ago on powerplant construction sites and in heavy shops, there was a kind of "code". You did not rat out anyone. You covered for the people who were in your crew.
    You did not cooperate with the law as a rule. I remember on one powerplant job, it was a couple of weeks before Christmas when the law showed up at the project gate. The local deputies had an out of state officer with them, and he had a warrant and extradition papers to pick up a guy working on our jobsite on a murder or manslaughter charge. The fun began at the gate. The old security guard was a former iron miner who had taken the job to make ends meet, and had no real love for law enforcement. He let the law know he did not think much of their coming to pick a working man up right before Christmas. The word went like wildfire over that powerplant site. It took the law over two hours to find the man they were looking for. Everyone said they had not seen the guy all day. He kept moving around the site, from the new units under construction into the existing units, out in the coal yard, up on the bunker floor, all over the place. Eventually, the law caught up with the man they were looking for and took him into custody, in irons. About that time, the shop stewards for the different crafts and from the various contractors all showed up with a sack of cash, having had spontaneous collections. They got the word as to where the guy's family was and got it to them. All the men who could were jeering and booing as the law led the guy out the gate. Management knew better than to say a word about it.

    That was the code on the jobsites. Years later, I was working with a crew inside a hydro turbine. I had a hunch as to why there was water spurting out of concrete a good 50 feet from the turbine scroll case, and let it be known that I believed there was a crack in one of the longitudinal seam welds in the scroll case which has been propigating over time. One thing led to another, and we put the unit on clearance and unwatered it. I was being accused of heresy for my theory. As soon as we could enter the scroll case, the crack in the longitudinal seam weld in the biggest diameter part of the casing was evident. The crew was uproarious that I was right, in high spirits. I was ready to tell the crew to stop drill the crack and vee it out for a repair weld. About then, my previous boss showed up. He was not a mechanical engineer and had disdain for the mechanics. He was an electrical engineer, and into the latest and greatest in controls and protective relaying. He tippy toed into the scroll case, and we showed him the crack. Instead of saying: "Great thinking, Joe... go fix it", he started hemming and hawing that we should "photograph it, document it, and let corporate engineering decide what to do..." His order was to close the unit up (it takes about 12 hours to take a unit off line and get it unwatered, and has to be scheduled way in advance). I said I knew how to repair the crack, and my boss started whining "You and the mechanics might make it worse... how do you know how to fix it ? What if you make it worse ?" I told my boss that the crack was in carbon steel pressure vessel grade steel plate, and I'd seen worse on parts of locomotive boilers and come up with repairs that worked. I also pointed out we had one very experienced mechanic who was prepared to do the repair welding and a crew standing by to support the work. My boss kept whining, and I got so mad I was frustrated. I kept telling my boss I'd put my PE stamp on the job, and his ass was not on the line, and that corporate knew the least about this sort of thing and consulted me when things like this came up at the other plants. My boss kept on about NOT doing any repairs. I started to lose it, and my thought right then was to deck my boss, right inside the scroll case. The chief mechanic read the situation right and got next to me and put his shoulder against mine. The Scroll Case is like a giant pump casing, and it is cylindrical in cross section, smooth steel with epoxy paint, and water laying in the 6:00 area of the tubular section. Welding lead and lead cords and air hoses were already strung out. I felt the chief mechanic push against my shoulder, and right then, a fellow who outranked my boss stepped in between. He put his back to my boss and said: "Joe: can you fix this with the crew ?" I said we could. I said I estimated I'd release my clearance at midnight (we had come on site at 6 AM that morning), and we'd be watered up and ready for test operation by about 4 AM the next morning. The chief mechanic said we'd work straight through. The fellow who outrnaked my boss said: "I knew you'd figure it out, Joe. Good luck. I'll clear out so you guys can get to work." My boss was outranked, outflanked, and disregarded. He muttered "good luck" and left. Years later, the chief mechanic reminded me of that morning. He said he knew I was close to decking my boss, so he'd put his shoulder against me. He saved my job and my career and all else. He told me that had I swung at my boss, the other mechanics would have pulled the power to the lights in that scroll case. That is absolute darkness. They would have sworn to the last man that my boss slipped and fell hard against the steel scroll case. Nice to hear that the crew had my back. We did make the repair as a temporary weld (the plate of the scroll case was 3" thick, so we could only vee out for enough depth of weld to take the internal pressure, not time enough for a complete penetration weld). The temporary weld held for 3 years. We went back in, gouged it out, and did a complete joint penetration weld and by then, I had a new boss who really has been a friend and has encouraged me and turned me loose to do what I need to do. He's heard the story about his predecessor from the crew and laughed about it with them. I think in workplaces where people work on "real things" rather than office work or business environments, and particularly when they work on large and heavy stuff, people tend to be direct and tell it like it is. If someone screws them over or is a prick, it is not long before he gets his in one way or another.

    If you are going to be a boss in that environment, you have to know how to reach your crew and how to work with them. Anything human resources, psychology courses, motivational speakers, or anyone or anything else along those lines has to say is generally inapplicable in this kind of work environment. Usually, in this type of work environment, unless a boss has "made his bones" and come up from the tools, he has little or no credability. If he announces he has a degree and a professional license, he is generally more mistrusted if he is the theoretical sort. We have some engineers who will not go to a crew briefing unless ordered to, as they know they are not held in particularly high regard.

    I am on deck with the crew for the morning briefing every morning I can, even though I do not have to be there. We kid around, and the crew knows they can ask me about stuff for their personal use, whether it is how to pipe up a pump in a maple sugar shack, or what size framing lumber to use to carry an opening thru a bearing wall in their home, or what courses their kids should take in HS or college. They ask me about the jobs assigned to them, even if I am not the responsible engineer. I sketch and show them reasons for the design, how the forces act in the different parts, or whatever they want to know about. We kid around, and if the HR and politically correct patrol from corporate heard us, we'd be in for discipline, or people would think we were all mortal enemies. Every shop and powerplant and heavy construction jobsite had its stories and legends. There was always a prick or rat who, in the least case, got Never Seez or Prussian Blue in their shirt collar or hardhat headband, or who had a roadkill or a carp put under the seat of their car, to name a few standard things done to pricks and rats. Accidentally "tripping" over an "Igloo cooler" of water or a bucket of turbine oil so it just happened to spill thru the gratings and catch some deserving soul at a lower elevation in the plant used to be quite common. Back "in the day", a LOT got settled "on the shop floor" and never made it to HR or beyond. Now, we live in a kinder, gentler, and politically correct world. We are so entangled in corporate policies for all sorts of things that have no relevance to the main business of the company that it is getting next to impossible to get anything done. About all this sort of evolution has accomplished in our plant was to help me decide my era was nearly over and it is time to retire.

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