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Lucky visitors go behind-the-scenes

17 May 2012

Members of the public were given a rare glimpse behind the scenes of one of the world’s largest steel production and engineering plants and were able to see one of the impressive 90 tonne electric arc furnaces melt a ladle full of steel at more than 1600 degrees.

Sheffield Forgemasters International (SFIL) held a special open day on Wednesday to allow guests to see what lies behind the gates of the Brightside Lane site.

Hundreds attended the day which saw the first group of guests arrive at 9am and the last group leave at 10.30pm.

Hopeful apprentices, former retired workers and proud family members were given the chance to see what their loved ones get up to in the 64 acre site.

One former worker, Tony Williams, aged 66, from Handsworth said he jumped at the chance of having another look round.

He said: “I started working here in 1961 as an apprentice electrician when it was British Steel - I was just 15 years-old and straight out of school.

“I started in the East Machine Shop, which is now the scrap yard.

“I wanted to come back and see how things have altered; it’s brought back a lot of memories. In my day there were no hard hats, no safety glasses or ear plugs and we had to buy our own steel-toe capped shoes, so it’s very different today.”

Visitors were taken on a two and a half hour tour of the site and were able to look inside the different areas of production, like the Forge, Foundry, Melt Shop, the quarter mile long South Machine Shop and the latest addition to the site – North Machine Shop

Father and son Tim Hall, 48, and Bruce Hall, 19, from Chesterfield also attended the tour and said it was an ‘incredible day’.

Tim said: “The scale of the site is unbelievable. I run a small engineering business in Chesterfield and so we work with a lot of the same equipment but on a much smaller scale.”

Bruce added: “My friend is an apprentice here and he knows about our business so we wanted to learn more about his place of work.

“It’s good to see there is still some British industry leading the way.”

Also in attendance was The Bentley Drivers Club, a father and son who travelled from Wiltshire and BT apprentices.

Mark Tomlinson, technical director of the Melt Shop, said: “We started running the annual open day five years ago and it has increased in popularity.

“We get so many requests from people wanting to look around the site and see what we do that we decided to hold a day-long event that gave people that chance.

“It’s also a really good opportunity for employee’s friends and families to understand more about what happens when their loved one heads off to work."

The Bentley Drivers Club has also thanked Forgemasters for the valuable open day and will be making a charitable donation to Neurocare on its behalf.