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Inside the Exhibition Hall of a Steel Works (1902)

Steel manufacturing was one of the main engines of economic growth in Wilhelmine Germany. Firms like Krupp, located in Essen, came to dominate whole industries and gained political power as their products became directly linked to military technology. Industrial capacity and technological sophistication were crucial to Germany’s desire to achieve a more dominant role on the world stage. The country's industrial prowess translated into political influence insofar as it represented a real capability for military action.

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Among the structures at the Düsseldorf exposition, one catches the visitor’s eye in particular: the exhibition hall of the Bochumer Verein für Bergbau und Gußstahlfabrikation [Bochum Association for Mining and Steel Casting]. Situated on the exposition’s main avenue, this hall has three bays and is crowned by a spire. Upon entering this massive building, visitors first encounter marine transmission shafting of forged steel in the center bay. Manufactured for the Italian warship Regina Margherita, the transmission is 50 meters long and consists of four single-throw crankshafts, a pressure shaft and a propeller shaft. The last is 32 meters long, weighs a total of 86,000 kg, and has been forged from a single piece of steel. All the shafts have been drilled hollow; the bored core of the propeller shaft lies under the shafting and shows the superb condition of the inside material. The engine power transferred from shaft to screw is 10,000 HP.

Another behemoth on display is the stern post of a double-screw steamship, which gives the viewer the impression of standing before the fossilized remains of a gigantic prehistoric animal. This mighty colossus is a testimony to the achievements of modern steel casting. Due to transport considerations, this 15-meter-high, 87,000 kg stern post had to be assembled from several parts.

In addition, the Bochumer Verein is exhibiting marine shafts and heavy forged parts similar to those it manufactured in large numbers for the German navy and commercial fleet, as well as for foreign mercantile vessels and warships. Large forged parts for crankshafts and marine engines are among the other products on display.

One specialty of the Bochumer Verein is the production of train tracks from acidic Bessemer steel, a material employed by only a few other steel works, including Krupp in Essen. The Gesellschaft für Stahlindustrie [Society for the Steel Industry], which is a subsidiary of the Bochumer Verein, also uses this material in the production of train tracks, mainly for grooved streetcar rails. Among the exhibited objects of this type, visitors will find a number of interesting butt joints, designed to soften the bumps that occur when trains travel over track ends. A semi-circular arrangement of polished, nickel-plated rolled-steel sections of the most various type and size shows not only the great variety of steel sections available, but also the precise nature of their execution. The different railway components produced by the Bochumer Verein – including tracks, fishplates, ties, and base plates – have been set up in tall columns, and the “frogs” of the crossings, some of cast steel, others with forged tips, are also displayed in groups.

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