When the United States entered World War II in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill had to find a way to defeat the Axis Powers threatening Europe. At the heart of their strategy was the desire to provide immediate relief to the Soviet Union in the form of war material: weapons, ammunition, and industrial machinery and equipment. The move was designed to assist the Soviets by enabling them to survive and repel the Nazi onslaught. One of the industrial machines sent by the U.S. to the Soviet Union was a large 9-inch high-duty upset-forging machine designed and built by National Machinery Co. of Tiffin, Ohio. The outcome of the war is history, but the upsetter in Russia was recently purchased, dismantled and shipped back to Ohio for re-manufacturing.
With the Soviet Union battling the Nazi army at the gates of Moscow and Leningrad and in southern Ukraine in October 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill were greatly concerned about the survival of the Russians. The invading Nazis had captured or destroyed an overwhelming percentage of Russia’s industrial capacity, and what remained was being evacuated from European Russia to beyond the Ural Mountains to re-establish capacity to supply the pressing needs of the Soviet army. Something clearly needed to be done. The answer was to give them what they needed to keep fighting.
Among the most significant industrial machines sent by the U.S. to the Soviet Union was a large 9-inch high-duty upset-forging machine designed and built by National Machinery Co. of Tiffin, Ohio. The 9 inches refers to the size of bar the machine can forge. At the time of its manufacture, this is what National Machinery had to say about this machine: “1941: 9” Forging Machine. We built our first 9” Forging Machine weighing just over 525,000 pounds. This machine was known throughout the world as the largest forging machine ever built.”
Weighing over 260 tons, this massive hot upset-forging machine, completed in 1942, survived the ocean journey to Murmansk and was received by the Soviets and hurriedly placed into production in a factory 1,000 miles east of Moscow. It turned out tank driveshafts and large artillery shells that contributed to the Soviet army’s recovery and expansion. It supplied key industrial war capacity that led – after four bloody years of battles and millions of casualties – to the eventual defeat and destruction of Nazi Germany in May 1945.
History and Development
The historical development and manufacturing of mechanical upset-forging machinery is closely tied to both Cleveland and Ohio, and it remains vital to this day. Incredible as it may seem, the fundamental design of the mechanical upset-forge machine, patented by John Blakeslee more than 130 years ago, remains unimproved upon to this day. Current world-competitive processes for upsetting drill pipe ends and tool joints for oil-field exploration is through mechanical upset forging. Axles for light trucks and flanged driveshafts for agricultural and mining machinery are also made in this manner.
The reason is that the speed and accuracy of the mechanical forging machine process is uniquely suited to rapidly clamping the workpiece and rapidly heading (gathering) the end of the hot bar, often through successive tooling stages, to ultimately arrive at the final desired shape. This is the only way to quickly and accurately shape the hot metal with sufficient force in one continuous process before it cools and requires reheating. Thus, mechanical forging remains as fast, accurate and competitive a process in 2016 as it was in 1886. The Forging Industry Association currently publicizes the advantages of strength and toughness of forged products versus machined products for many engineered applications.
Now, more than 70 years after the end of World War II, this very same upset-forging machine, produced by “The Arsenal of Democracy,” has returned to America. It is remarkable that this machine, one of approximately 15 ever made by National, still survives. It is even more remarkable that this machine remains a vital and relevant technology in today’s world of the Internet, Cloud computing and social media.
The Journey Home
TrueForge Global Machinery Corp. of Rockville Centre, N.Y., a leader in supplying forging machinery for industry, acquired this machine and invested in moving it from the plant deep within Russia all the way back to Cleveland, where it will be offered once again to forge manufacturers. The idea is to refurbish and resell it to a forge that serves industries including oil-field equipment, automotive and heavy truck, and agricultural and mining equipment.
It took more than one year to dig the machine out of its foundation, completely dismantle it and then slide it inch by inch on make-shift rails from the center of the huge plant to the rail spur, where the two extremely large frame sections (one weighing 200,000 pounds and the other 130,000 pounds) were ultimately loaded onto railcars for the long journey to the port of St. Petersburg.
Since no cranes were available to lift the two frame sections, the TrueForge crew devised a creative means to jack the frames up little by little using wooden 4x4s to build each corner higher and higher until they reached the proper level for sliding them onto the railcars.
Again, each frame section was slid inch by inch on rails until it lined up with the railcar center. The rails had to be taken out from under each frame section, which also required jacking and bracing to remove the rails. The frames were eventually let down little by little until they rested directly on each railcar. The whole process took more than one year of constant work. The seven containers holding the components of the machine were sent to the port of St. Petersburg by trucks.
Once received at St. Petersburg, the cargo was loaded on board a vessel headed for the port of Antwerp, Belgium. It arrived there in December 2015. Once there, it was put into winter storage. It was then shipped out of Antwerp in mid-March and arrived in the Port of Cleveland on March 31.
Back in the U.S.
TrueForge will store the machine at Henry & Wright Corp., which is located in a former Eaton Axle plant site in Cleveland. Henry & Wright specializes in the rebuilding and remanufacturing of forging machinery, while TrueForge buys and sells used forging machinery and represents several companies that design and build new mechanical and hydraulic forging machines. Both companies have developed a close association over the years and work in cooperation on various rebuild, upgrade, reconfiguration and sales projects on an ongoing basis.
The trip from the port to Henry & Wright required the use of special hauling trucks. The larger front frame was situated aboard a mammoth 205-foot-long, 19-axle twin gooseneck trailer, and the smaller rear frame was placed aboard a more modest, but still huge, 11-axle trailer. Interstate 90 was closed to permit passage of these two immense trailers from downtown Cleveland 8 miles out to East 140th St., where the trailers were brought to Henry & Wright.
Upon reaching the storage yard, an immense 250-ton-capacity mobile crane secured by Henry & Wright was on hand with a skilled crew who chained up and lifted the front frame to allow the trailer to be pulled away. The frame was then set down on timbers on steel plates to keep the massive frame from sinking into the ground. The next day the rear frame was similarly off-loaded and placed. The seven steel containers holding all the parts for the upsetter were off-loaded and organized for future assembly later in the week.
As a rebuilder and remanufacturer of forging equipment, Henry & Wright will be talking with potential customers about putting this upsetter back into service in “as good as new” condition. The price and lead time for a rebuild of this sort are, of course, yet to be negotiated. The lead time on a project like this is measured only in months, however, and the cost would come at a fraction of buying a new piece of equipment. Also, besides simply restoring the bearings and liners to “original running clearances and specifications,” Henry & Wright can equip the machine with its System 4005 Forge Safety Control Package, which provides the precise air-clutch machine control demanded by modern industry today.
Co-author Ronald Jaggie is president of TrueForge Global Machinery Corp. of Rockville Centre, N.Y. He can be reached at 516-825-7040 or email@example.com. Co-author Austin Moore is president of Henry & Wright Corp. of Cleveland, Ohio. He can be reached at 216-851-3750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.trueforge.com and/or www.henrywright.com for additional information.