The Anonymous Widower

Crossrail’s Fans At Canary Wharf Station

I have just watched today’s episode of The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway on the BBC.

In one storyline, they negotiate a giant ventilation fan into Canary Wharf station.

Installing the fans is a fascinating tale, where in the end the last movements are performed using hover-pads and several strong men.

I am reminded of a tale I heard in my youth.

  • At the age of 15 and 16, I spent two summers working at a company in North London called Enfield Rolling Mills.
  • The boss of the company was John Grimston, who was a friend of my father and ERM were the largest customer of his printing business.
  • I got a superb introduction to working in a large factory, where I installed simple valve-based electronic control systems on heavy machinery.

The most important rolling mill in the company, was a mill, that reduced copper wirebars to wire about half a centimetre in diameter.

  • The machine had been acquired from Krupp, as war-reparations after the First World War and was still marked with Krupp’s trademark of three interlocked railway tyres.
  • Enfield Rolling Mills had a trademark of four rings.
  • The hot wire zig-zagged from one side to the other and it was turned by men using tongs.
  • The machine was powered by a massive flywheel driven by an electric motor.

At some time in the 1950s, the flywheel needed to be replaced, by a new 96-ton wheel.

The Chief Engineer of the company was an Austrian Jew, known to all as Shimmy, which was a contraction of his surname Shimatovich.

  • He had spent some time in a Nazi concentration camp and walked with a distinct stoop.
  • He was widely recognised as one of the experts on roll grinding and very much respected by management, staff and workers alike.
  • He had supposedly calculated, that if the new flywheel had come off its bearings at full speed, it would have gone a couple of miles through all the housing surrounding the factory.

There was very much a problem of how the new flywheel would be installed until Shimmy announced at a Board Meeting. “We will do it the way, we’d have done it in the concentration camp. We will use men! But our men are fit, well-fed and strong.”

So one Sunday morning, a large force turned up and rolled the flywheel off the low loader and into position using ropes, blocks and tackle and other equipment, that would have been familiar to ancient builders, after which it was duly fixed in place.

The job was completed just before one and the Managing Director of the company then asked if anybody would like a drink and indicated that everybody follow him to the company’s social club.

They arrived just as the steward was cleaning the last of the glasses and getting ready to lock up. On being asked to provide a large number of pints of bitter, he announced he was closed.

On this the Managing Director, by the name of Freddie Pluty, who was a strong man picked up the steward and sat him on the bar.

He then asked the two large workers at the front of the queue. “Are you going to hit him or shall I?”

They got their drinks.

 

June 12, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,

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