The big iron and steel works in St. Chamond (Loire), known as "Compangnie des Forges et Acieries de la Marine et d'Homecourt," was second in importance in all France only to Le Creusot. As in the case of Le Creusot, there were a number of subsidiary plants, and these dependencies were located at Assailly, Rive-de-Gier (Loire), Boucau, Basses-Pyrenees, Homecourt (Meurthe-et-Moselle), Maubeuge, and Hautmont (Nord). The company was capitalized at 28,000.000 francs and the stock was issued in 55.000 shares of 500 francs each. The plant was originally started in 1837 and passed through several changes of control, but since 1874 the developments had been very marked. In addition to the plant at St. Chamond and the subsidiary works, the company owned numerous mines and timber lands. At the Boucau plant Bessemer steel is produced as well as Martin steel, and at Homecourt Thomas steel was made. Speaking generally, however, artillery and armor plate constituted the most important of the St. Chamond output.
For brevity's sake iron and steel men generally refer to this great plant by the name " Saint Chamond," probably due to the fact that in the St. Diamond district no other plant equals it in importance. The output of the St. Chamond works comprised iron and steel billets, axles, wheels, and steel tires for locomotives; rails for railways, armor plate, projectiles, and artillery equipment, ranging from field guns to the heaviest calibers. Torpedo equipment was a specialty of this concern.
In the armor-plate department, there were two rolls, disposed on each side of a 12,000-horsepower reversible engine-one for armor plates, the other for heavy or thick plates. As a rule, only Martin steel was made at St. Chamond, and in No. 1 blast there are three furnaces of 15 tons capacity each and four at 30 tons each, so installed as to permit of single ingots of 130 tons. A 150-tone crane and two 30-ton cranes are installed. No. 2 Martin is fitted with three furnaces of 20 tons each, disposed for furnishing ingots for ordinary usage and for those under 20 tons. In addition to No. 1 and No. 2 Martin there are six puddling furnaces for treating superior steel.
There is produced at St. Chamond armor plate on both the Harvey and Krupp systems, and in addition to the 6,000-ton press there were two presses of 3,500 tons each, four large furnaces for reheating armor plate, and the necessary equipment for tempering by oil or water immersions; four tempering furnaces and the necessary machine-tool equipment for finishing up armor plates to the extent of 5,000 tons per year. This machine-tool equipment is installed in two shops, each of 150 meters length and each fitted with three traveling cranes, each of 60 tons capacity. The big 6,000-ton press was built especially for working up gun and armor-plate forgings and special pieces of exceptional dimensions. In the shop containing the big press are the necessary gas furnaces for treating the forgings. In this department there is a pit 3 meters in diameter and 22 meters in depth, in which gun tubes and hoops are suspended for tempering in oil or water and for shrinking on. The total depth of this pit, including the foundation, is 44 meters. Some of the foregoing figures will give one who is acquainted with iron and steel foundries some idea of the importance of the St. Chamond works.
The armor-piercing projectiles manufactured at this establishment are world famous. St. Chamond, however, does not confine itself merely to armor piercers, but manufactures shrapnel, fuses, and various forms of ammunition. Close to the St. Chamond works there is a proving ground for the test of cannon and of armor plate. St. Chamond built field guns for various governments, and both the screw and vertical-wedge fermetures were employed. St. Chamond was locking the gun hoops through the medium of wide-thread turns. In other words, the hoops for the large caliber guns are screwed into position before shrinking in their seats.
St. Chamond was working 8,000 men. The firm expended, as a rule, about $30.000 a year in premiums or annuities, and no trouble had been experienced here in the way of strikes. As at Le Creusot, there was a great dearth of American machine tools in the St. Diamond works. Why this is so it is difficult to explain, but it is certain that in one instance, at least, American machine tools are not fully comprehended.
The plants of the Saint diamond Company developed before the Great War were specialized in product and located in different parts of France. The principal plant was the one at Saint Chamond. Saint Chamond is situated in the Saint-Eteinne region, the center of the French metallurgic industry. It had been the practice to manufacture there the more difficult parts of railway and ship materiel, and of artillery. Its products included armor plate, shell, cannon forgings, cannon, marine and land turrets, and heavy ingots and billets. It normally employed 3,500 hands. Assailly, a neighboring factory employing 1,500 workmen, was specialized in fine steels, tool steel, springs, and gun-barrels. Due to its need of crucibles this plant built up an important business in refractory products.
Due to the mobilization, these factories were depleted of their personnel and during one month, August 15th to September 15th, 1914, they operated only with a greatly reduced staff. But when, during the last two weeks of September, the French troops' advance, after the Marne, was held up at the Aisne due to lack of artillery ammunition, Mr. Millerand demanded the reorganization of the company in the shortest time possible. Consequently, the workmen and engineers who had been mobilized were immediately demobilized and then began the gigantic effort to supply first ammunition and later all the other munitions required during four years of war.
At the end of September, 1914, ammunition of all kinds was demanded for the supply of the 75's with the least possible delay, and in the largest possible quantities, as the stocks were completely exhausted. It was necessary to have shells, cartridge cases, boosters and fuses. Although the Saint-Chamond factory, like the Creusot, had always been one of the principal factories producing war munitions, and although it hael manufactured for the French Artillery shrapnel and combination fuses, the supplies now needed were absolutely new to them. Work was started immediately. In less than two months after the first order was received, components of ammunition for the 75s were being forwarded in large quantities.
In addition to artillery the Samt-Chamond Company also contributed in a large way to the National Defence by the manufacture of tanks. As soon as the results obtained on the battle field with the American "Holt Caterpillar" in passing over obstacles and going over the trenches were known, the Company immediately got in touch with the Armament Ministry and offered to manufacture quickly heavy tanks equipped with one 75 gun and several machine guns. This proposition was accepted, and 400 tanks of this model were delivered.
In 1910 the merger of Forges de Saint Chamond and Atelier Granat resulted in the founding of SAINT CHAMOND GRANAT. In 1960 SAINT CHAMOND GRANAT merged with SUD AVIATION and manufactured equipment for the aeronautics industry.
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