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Apprentices restore engineering history

25 July 2008

SHEFFIELD Forgemasters has helped bring the city's industrial heritage back to life with the restoration of a piece of British engineering history.

A group of Forgemasters' apprentices spent two weeks at Kelham Island Museum, part of the Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust (SIMT), helping the museum on its road to recovery after last year's floods with the restoration of the Bessemer Converter.

The three apprentices - Mark Healy, Jonny Jackson and Lloyd Beresford - washed and painted the Bessemer using safety harnesses and a cherry picker operated and driven by apprentice Mark.

After washing debris off the giant 10m high converter, the apprentices painted the outside of it with £700 of micaceous iron ore paint donated by Smith Painters Ltd of Maltby.

The Bessemer is one of only three converters left in the world and was brought to the museum in 1978 as an example of the revolutionary steelmaking process which first took off in Sheffield, but was in desperate need of a facelift after languishing for almost 15 years.

John Hamshere, SIMT director, said: "Thanks to Forgemasters Kelham Island Museum will look its best for the re-opening, which is scheduled for October. It is over a decade since the Bessemer Converter was last painted and it was in need of conservation as rust was coming through.

"It is a giant piece of machinery and represents to many visitors the scale of the steel industry. It is also the first thing they see and the logo of the museum so to have it back to black and in great condition is wonderful news."

This is the second project Forgemasters apprentices have been involved with at the museum, having previously helped with the restoration of the River Don Engine earlier this year.

Dave Allsop, foundry maintenance manager at Forgemasters, said: "The museum provides a great insight into the history of Sheffield's steel industry, which is obviously something very close to our heart at Forgemasters, so we were very keen to get involved when we heard about this restorative project.

"The apprentices did a fantastic job and the project also gave them the opportunity to put some of the skills they have learned at Forgemasters into practice."