Manganese Steel Rails

Manganese Steel Rails

Since the writer has been intimately connected with the development of manganese steel for many years, some remarks upon the early work with regard to the rolling and forging of this material might be of interest, and particularly as to the question of rails of special quality and of superior wearing qualities.

In a paper on Iron Alloys, with Special Reference to Manganese Steel, read before this Institute at the International Engineering Congress in Chicago, the writer mentioned that, about 20 years ago, his firm in Sheffield produced railroad material, such as tires and axles, of forged and rolled manganese steel, thus showing that this product could be manipulated and worked up into the various required forms. The tires


illustrated in the paper referred to above formed a particularly difficult class of work to produce in a special steel, but no special obstacles were met with. Although there was no difficulty at that time in making and producing manganese steel in various forms, forged, rolled or pressed; nevertheless, on account of its higher expense, sufficient encouragement


was not then obtained from the users to introduce these products on a large scale. There never has been any real difficulty in obtaining forged, rolled, or pressed manganese steel, provided the consumer was willing to pay the necessarily higher cost as compared with ordinary steel.

The matter was further pursued in the present decade: In 1904, a French manufacturer produced rolled manganese-steel rails of 7½ kg. per

manganese steel rails-specimen-of-steel

meter, as shown in Fig. 1. The original tracing prepared by this manufacturer, showing the sizes of the billets and rails to be produced, is reproduced in Fig. 2. These rails were rolled without any incident. One of them was experimented upon by the writer in the following manner: After drilling for 20 min., 11 g. of manganese steel were removed; while, in the same time, 750 g. were removed from an ordinary carbon-steel rail. The results of this test are shown in the photographic view, Fig. 1. A piece of this same manganese steel bent double cold, as shown in Fig. 3. The material showed a tenacity of 60 tons per square inch, with an elongation of 40 per cent.

This test was so satisfactory that manganese-steel rails of heavy section, 100 lb. per yard, varying from 6 to 12 m. in length, were then produced in the same rolling mill. A section of one of these rails is shown in Fig. 4.

A large number of these rails were rolled, and were supplied to the Metropolitan Electric railway of Paris (in the commencing of operations on which, it will be remembered, there was some delay), and put to work, among other places, at the Bastile station in that city. These


rails, after several years of service on severe curve work, have given great satisfaction. After three years’ hard service, the actual wear was found to be not more than about 2½ mm. It has been estimated that the rails will remain in service for six to seven years before being worn out, whereas ordinary steel rails wear out and have to be replaced in less than a year. The rails in position are shown in Fig. 5.

A plant for producing sound ingots under the system devised by the writer was described in a paper presented to the Institute at the February, 1913, meeting. This system, as adapted to the manufacture of manganese-steel ingots, is illustrated in Figs. 6, 7, and 8. No less than 90 per




cent, of sound material is obtained from an alloy steel, which will therefore be seen to offer great advantages Each 1 per cent, of expensive material saved means that much reduction in the cost of production.


The consumer has now to pay for 15, 20, or even 30 per cent, of waste in special steels made in the ordinary way, whereas this waste can to a large extent be avoided. Moreover, better and more uniform quality of alloy steel can be obtained.


W. S. Potter, Pittsburgh, Pa—The second page of this paper contains the repetition of the substance occurring at the bottom of the first page, i.e., “There never has been any real difficulty in obtaining forged, rolled, or pressed manganese steel.”

The writer refers to manganese-steel rails made by the Schneider Co. for the Metropolitan Electric Railway of Paris. In the Revue de Metallurgie, Paris, 1909, vol. vi, p. 550, in a letter dated Feb. 6, 1909, the Schneider Co. makes the following statements concerning the history of its efforts in the manufacture of manganese-steel rails:

“Our first tests made in this direction go back to March, 1904, and consisted in the rolling of some rails of 7.5 kg. per meter, obtained by the transformation of billets forged at the drop hammer. These tests were continued in February, 1905, by rolling, under the same conditions, two rails of 18 kg. to the meter.

“In August, 1906, and in anticipation of a furnishing of rails to the Metropolitan of Paris, we proceeded to a preliminary rolling of rails of 20.35 kg., which permitted us to recognize in advance the difficulties of manufacture which we would encounter, and to take all suitable measures for surmounting them. Six rails of 7 m. were thus rolled. The operation presented this peculiarity, that the transformation of the ingots into rails was effected exclusively by rolling (without preliminary forging of the ingots). Finally, from March to July, 1907, we proceeded under excellent conditions, to the rolling of 60 tons of Vignole rails, of 52 kg. to the meter, from 6 to 12 m. in length, at present in service at the Metropolitan Railroad of Paris.”

On p. 560 of this journal the Schneider Co. makes the following statement:

“Manganese steel may be forged and rolled. Nevertheless, the quite special pains which its heating demands, as well as the very narrow limits of temperature between which one is restricted in working it, render these operations, the rolling of rails of great lengths especially, particularly difficult.

“We have, however, succeeded in rolling, in July, 1907, an important tonnage of Vignole rails, at present in service on the Metropolitan Lines of Paris.”

The makers of the rails referred to by Sir Robert Hadfield differ radically from him as to their experience in the heating of manganese steel for rolling or forging. Until 1906, and after two years’ experimenting, they were still unable to roll the manganese ingots without first forging them. Thereafter they found that the heating required “quite special pains” and that the metal could only be heated within “very narrow limits of temperature between which one is restricted in working it.”

Personally, I have had 14 years’ experience in the manufacture of cast manganese steel, rolled and forged manganese steel, and it would certainly be absurd for me to say that I had found “no difficulty,” particularly in the heating of the cast metal for its conversion into rolled or forged forms.

Nine important steel companies in the United States, one in France, and two in England have wrestled with the heating of the cast manganese steel in their efforts to devise a practical method for its conversion into the wrought state. Hundreds, if not thousands, of men on both sides of the water will agree with me when I say that the preparation of the manganese-steel ingot for rolling is the very name of trouble. This art is entirely the opposite of what one would understand from reading Sir Robert Hadfield’s paper submitted to-day to this Institute.

The first bar of rolled manganese steel which I ever saw was made by the Edgar Allen Co., of Sheffield, England, and was given to me for analysis when I was chemist of the William Wharton, Jr., Co., of Philadelphia. I found manganese 12.6 per cent. It was a very fine-grained, smooth bar, about 3 in. wide and perhaps 3/8 in. thick. This was in the early part of 1901.

During the period 1901 to 1909 (more or less) many good men on both sides of the water struggled with the difficult matter of devising a method of heating an ingot of manganese steel in such a manner that it might then be rolled so as to afford a commercially available product. Outside of England and this country, no important progress in this art has been recorded. In Sheffield, England, the Edgar Allen Co. worked out a method, and in accordance with it rolled more rails than have ever been made by any company outside of the United States.

A representative of the Edgar Allen Co. described the successful Sheffield practice as follows:

“You ’eat it just so ’ot. Then you rowl it to the center, rowl it to the center, you understand. If you ‘eat it just a little bit too ’ot, you crush your ingot. If you don’t ’eat it quite ’ot enough, you break your rowls.”

In other words, as per the written word from the Schneider Co., the temperature range as per the English practice, as developed in Sheffield and transmitted to the works of the Schneider Co., covered “very narrow limits of temperature between which one is restricted in working it.”

During the same years, that is to say, from 1901 to 1907, inclusive, there was developed in this country a method of heating manganese-steel ingots for rolling, which, instead of being limited to a very narrow range of temperature (which according to the best information as to the Sheffield practice was from 850° to 950° C.), enabled the operator to go to 1,150° to 1250° C. in the heating of the ingots. The result was a soft, ductile ingot, corresponding with a 20 per cent, carbon-steel ingot ductility.

In 1912 the Edgar Allen Co. was still selling manganese-steel rails at approximately $250 per ton. In 1913 they took license under my English patents and immediately reduced their price on rolled manganese- steel rails to approximately $125 per ton. The American price for several years has been $80 per ton.

J. W. Richards, So. Bethlehem, Pa.:—We probably all know that Mr. Potter has done more work than any one else in the United States on the rolling of manganese steel, and we all know, also, that Mr. Hadfield was the pioneer in the production of the metal, and that he certainly did forge and roll it a great many years ago. But the reading of his paper seems to confirm Mr. Potter’s statement that he minimizes the difficulties, and as the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof, the fact that by Mr. Potter’s method manganese-steel rails are now being rolled and sold at less than one-half the price at which they were sold before his process came into use, would show that his methods are essentially a great improvement upon any previously known method of rolling this material.

Sir Robert Hadfield (communication to the Secretary).—With regard to Mr. Potter’s remarks, I notice that he quotes a sentence of mine in which it is stated “There never has been any real difficulty in obtaining forged, rolled, or pressed manganese steel.” As set forth in my paper, I again state that we in England have been rolling, forging, and pressing manganese steel as far back as the years 1887 to 1892, and have not found any special difficulties provided the ingots were made in a proper manner. Soon after the years referred to, among other articles, large quantities of dredger pins, all of which were forged, and of quite large diameter, 3½ to 4 in., were produced. This was referred to in my paper to this Institute in 1893; that is, more than 20 years ago. In view of the fact that it was then possible for us to produce forgings and bars from ingots of small and large sizes, it will be seen that my assertion is thoroughly confirmed by the facts.

According to recent statements in the technical press, it has only just been recognized by those new to this art that the question of making a suitable and satisfactory ingot is one of the chief points in connection with the successful production of forged and rolled manganese steel, a point which we in Sheffield have had in view during the last 20 years.

As regards Messrs. Schneider’s remark that manganese steel could be readily forged and rolled, but that it requires care in manipulation, whether as regards heating or other portions of the process, this applies as much to-day as when the statement was made in 1907-1909. It will be admitted by all who deal with manganese steel that narrower limits of temperatures and methods of handling must be employed in its working. There is less latitude as compared with ordinary carbon steel, and it is this which is the gist of the statement very correctly put forward by Messrs. Schneider, especially as they had in view the production of rails up to 12 m. in length, the accomplishment of which is even to-day not a matter of the greatest ease. This is so not merely on account of its being a rolling-mill question, but in connection with other portions of the work which is necessary to be carried out in the manufacture of these rails. There is therefore nothing in the statement made by Messrs. Schneider to which exception can be taken.

In any case, however, as Messrs. Schneider definitely pointed out, they rolled manganese-steel rails in March, 1904, and in August, 1906, they rolled about 20 tons of these rails, of heavy section, 7 m. in length. Then, a few months afterward, 60 tons of manganese-steel rails were rolled, of heavy Vignole section, weighing 52 kg. per meter, and from 6 to no less than 12 m. in length. These rails are still in service, and have given exceedingly satisfactory results, as referred to in my paper. As these were probably the first manganese-steel rails of large section ever put into service with satisfactory results, full credit should be given to Messrs. Schneider. Therefore there seems to be nothing special in the claims they make in the remarks quoted which might not at that time have been made by any one dealing with manganese steel in its then new application for rails.

As is well known by those accustomed to dealing with manganese steel, one of the chief secrets of success is the careful handling during the first stages of the forging or rolling treatment. In other words, as Mr. Potter probably knows, if manganese-steel ingots are heated to temperatures such as those to which he refers, 1,150° to 1,250° C., unless there is careful handling in the rolls, the results will be disastrous. For example, if the rolls are too severe in their draft, then, apart from the question of temperature or the manner in which manganese steel is heated, it will not be easy to obtain satisfactory product.

It is of the highest importance that manganese steel when put to work should be perfect as regards its toughness, otherwise most disastrous results may ensue. This is referred to because some of the manganese-steel rails produced in this country are stated not to have been satisfactory. This is mentioned in the American Railway Engineering Association’s report for July last year, where it is stated that a number of rails put into use were while in service discovered to be broken. This is another proof that unless the manufacture is carried out very carefully, a point I have always particularly insisted upon, the use of this peculiar material, manganese steel, may prove dangerous. As is well known, manganese steel in its brittle condition breaks much more readily than carbon steel. It is also easy to have intermediate conditions in which under ordinary tests the material appears to be tough, yet, owing to imperfect heating and toughening treatments, it has a dangerous propensity to break with little warning. Another point may be emphasized: namely, that if the toughening of manganese steel is carried on at too wide a range in temperature, the risk is run of serious breakages occurring sooner or later. In such case the material would be blamed, when it is not really at fault, but the incorrect methods of treating it. These facts have in the past been fully and specially emphasized in my various papers and other communications.

With regard to the further remarks of Mr. Potter that there have been difficulties to overcome in dealing with this peculiar steel, this statement of course is quite correct. Others among us interested in the forging and rolling of manganese steel have at times not felt very happy in the past when visiting the scrap heap! In view of the facts previously referred to, it must be admitted that the problem was solved in England more than 20 years ago; and as regards suitable methods for producing rails, these were fully set forth to the metallurgical world in 1903, as a result of experimental work which had been going on for some time previous to that year. For example, attention may be called to the fact that in a recent technical publication it is stated that the method by which manganese-steel rails can be satisfactorily produced is “by using inverted molds (that is, ingots cast with the large end up and the small end at the bottom) with refractory tops, putting carbon on the top of the ingots after pouring, and keeping this in a state of incandescence with compressed air.” If this system was not employed, the maker, it is stated, met with innumerable difficulties in handling the fluid steel, or, to use the language of the article referred to, before using this device. “We were making some of the most beautifully piped ingots you ever saw.” Methods of this nature and similar to those above described have been urged by me ever since 1903, and full details have been set forth in my papers and other communications. Under the system my firm has made, in a most satisfactory manner, very large tonnages of perfectly sound manganese-steel ingots, and showing little if any more waste than ordinary carbon steel.

Under the same system are produced carbon-steel ingots absolutely sound and free from piping.

It is therefore no little satisfaction to find that if the article referred to in Iron Age correctly represents the facts, as no doubt it does, the successful production of manganese-steel rails in this country is being based upon the system described so many years ago. If this system is a success for producing ingots from which manganese-steel rails are made, may I not urge that it also possesses the same advantages for ordinary steel ingots from which carbon-steel rails are made.

With reference to the statement that “Nine important steel companies in the United States, one in France, and two in England have wrestled with the heating of cast manganese steel,” I can only repeat that long before the date mentioned, 1901, we had wrestled, and this most successfully, with the art of producing rolled and forged products of this steel. It will be seen, therefore, that it is not possible to agree with the remarks made under this head, and it seems to me that others, in the light of the above-mentioned facts, will take the same point of view.

Reference is made to the efforts of those who were not the inventors of manganese steel, and therefore could not have been the first to produce it. It was probably not until some 10 or 12 years after my company produced this material in rolled, forged, pressed, and other worked forms, that the firms referred to produced the material which I discovered and first worked at between the years 1883 and 1887, before announcing to the world in my papers this discovery of mine. Therefore, at least 15 years before 1901, the date when Mr. Potter says he first saw a bar of rolled manganese steel, my firm had been doing this, which was naturally so, seeing that I discovered the material. Moreover, in view of my papers to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1888, and later to this Institute in 1893, and the references therein to the many tons of rolled bars, sheets, axles, tires, forgings and other forms of manganese steel, I am at a loss to understand why in the remarks referred to these evidences are overlooked.

With regard to the temperatures used for forging and rolling, there is full and definite evidence on record that the early practice of dealing with manganese-steel ingots from the year 1887 and onward was to heat the ingots very much hotter than the temperatures to which Mr. Potter refers. He seems to have got an erroneous impression both with regard to the large quantities and as to the manner we in England have been rolling, forging and pressing manganese steel during the last 20 years. I should be very glad to show him our experimental records, and am sure he would then see that many of the suggestions he makes were anticipated by our early work. He would also then see the very large tonnages of forged manganese-steel work we have turned out from the year 1887 and onward.

I should like to point out, with reference to the remarks of Professor Richards, that there seems to be some misunderstanding about the question of the work previously done with regard to reducing manganese steel by forging and rolling from ingots. May I once more emphasize that for more than 20 years rolling, forging, pressing, and otherwise manipulating manganese steel in forms other than those cast has been carried out on a large scale. Long before the year 1900 many thousands of tons of such forged and rolled products were manufactured and used. The methods of carrying out such work—that is, the temperatures employed for rolling and forging—are practically the same to-day, 1914, as at the end of the last century.

Moreover, in the paper presented to this Institute by the writer in 1893, entitled Iron Alloys, with Special Reference to Manganese Steel, full particulars and photographs are shown of manganese steel (a) forged into railroad axles, (b) rolled into railroad tires; also many other worked forms of this material.

As regards the selling price, that is quite another matter. There were in former years many reasons why the selling price should not have been reduced, but the cost—and this is the important point— of working manganese-steel ingots into, say, billets, blooms, bars, or forgings was, as just mentioned, pretty much the same many years ago as now, excepting of course improved machinery, such as more powerful rolling mills, presses, etc., effecting diminution in cost; this, however, would not make a large reduction in the cost. It would be quite possible to show the original costs of working manganese steel and compare them with to-day’s figures, in order to show that the above statements are correct; in fact, owing to higher wages and more costly fuel, probably there would be a slight increase in the cost.