Re: steam era coil steel cars

Mark Evans <mtevans@...>


This post by Mark Hemphill from the DRGW egroups list is very
infomative as to open vs. covered coil cars and hot rolled vs. cold
rolled steel coils.

Mark T. Evans
Anaheim, CA

ORIGINAL MESSAGE - Message No. 9604 from DRGW list at egroups

From: M. W. Hemphill
Date: Mon Jan 31, 2000 6:56pm
Subject: Re: BN Coil Train

Here's some information about coil steel that may clarify some of the

1. Covered coil cars vs. open coil cars. Covered cars are used when
surface finish of the steel is of great important to the end
consumer. Many
products for which coil steel is used do not require high surface
for instance, highway guardrails, steel culverts, corrugated steel
prefabricated building structural components. Covered coil cars have
greater tare than uncovered, have a higher initial cost, and a higher
maintenance cost, so the freight rate is naturally higher for coils
covered vs. uncovered. An advantage of open coil cars is that the
coils can
be loaded and shipped hot, whereas hot coils shipped in a covered car
damage the rubber and plastic components of the air brake system and
diminish the structural integrity of the car. Because it is more
for a steel mill to load and ship coil immediately as it comes out of
coil box, rather than store it somewhere for a day or so while
steel mills greatly prefer to ship in open cars whenever possible.

2. Coil steel is merely sheet steel rolled up for convenience in
Sheet steel comes in a broad variety of qualities and prices. Several
messages on this group have mentioned sheet steel being used for
body parts and appliances. It is indeed, but not all sheet steel has
exalted destinies. The steel used for auto bodies and appliance
shells is
cold-rolled from hot-rolled sheet steel, and is just about the highest
quality steel made. It is extremely expensive steel. Just a handful
steelmakers in the U.S. even have the technological and manufacturing
capability to make it, for instance, U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel,
and the
financial requirements for a combined hot-roll/cold-roll mill
producing this
steel are extremely high -- like in the billion-dollar range.
Recently, the
big steelmakers have begun producing a thinner and much stronger
sheet steel in order to hold the line against aluminum and plastic
components, making the financial requirements for this product line
more formidable.

Until about 10 years ago, all hot-rolled sheet steel, even the low-
stuff used for silos, oil tanks, and the like, was made from new steel
manufactured at an integrated steel mill from iron ore and home scrap
leftover steel from the steelmaking process itself). Using
consistent raw
materials allows an integrated mill to achieve great consistency in
product, particularly important when the steel's surface quality
for automotive and appliance applications) is an important
consideration. A
steel mill making its steel entirely from purchased scrap, such as a
minimill (e.g., Nucor at Plymouth, Utah) or midimill (e.g., CF&I)
finds the quality of its scrap far too variable to produce any sheet
product requiring a good surface finish. Minimills usually produce
bar, reinforcing rod, wire, and light structural products, which are
undemanding products and can be economically produced from a variety
scrap feeds. In the last decade a handful of minimills have been
built to
produce hot-rolled coil from scrap, using prompt scrap (the scrap
by metal fabricators, as compared to the obsolete scrap from wrecked
demolished structures, etc.) to achieve a feed good enough to produce
low-quality hot-rolled sheet steel. I am not aware of any minimills
producing autobody-quality sheet steel at this time.

3. Geneva does not produce cold-rolled coil, and to my knowledge
none of
its hot-rolled coil currently feeds any cold-roll mill. Under U.S.
ownership, Geneva produced hot-rolled coil to feed U.S. Steel's cold-
galvanizing, and tinplate lines at Pittsburg, California, but I do not
believe any of Pittsburg's cold-rolled steel went to automotive or
manufacturers. Pittsburg's primary market was California canneries.
Tinplate is a much less demanding product than automotive or appliance
steel. What you are seeing in the BNSF cars is probably not destined
become automotive parts or appliances, but more prosaic products.

4. The probable reason eastern road coil cars are more often covered
open is because both the auto body fabrication plants and the steel
that supply them are principally at eastern locations, mostly in a
around the Great Lakes from Chicago into Pennsylvania and New York.

5. CF&I at Pueblo never produced sheet steel products. CF&I was
a rail mill and merchant bar mill, and in the 1950s expanded into
steel oilfield tubing.

6. No mill in the U.S. continues to use ingot steel (pigs refer to
iron, not steel) to produce steel with the exception of very small
quantities of specialty steel. The preponderance of steel produced
in the
U.S. is continuously-cast. Geneva was the last mill in the U.S.
both on ingot steel and open hearth (as opposed to basic oxygen)

7. Coils come in a variety of weights. The last information I saw
Geneva was that it was producing coils up to 80,000 lbs.

8. Plate is a separate product from coil. It is not coiled. As I
(my books are all packed) the cutoff is about 3/8" in thickness
sheet steel and plate steel. Sheet steel is often produced in long
that are coiled, but quite a bit is shipped flat in sheared lengths.
depends upon the consumer's ability to handle coils and their needs --
consumers will purchase coils, because they're cheaper, smaller
will purchase sheets.

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