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Mclouth Steel Trenton Plant

Wayne County, Michigan

Mclouth Steel Trenton Plant

Trenton Complex

The McLouth Steel Trenton Complex is a source of asbestos exposure. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of Mesothelioma. In 1948, McLouth Steel started its $100 million expansion program by purchasing riverfront property in Trenton, MI. Construction on the first major construction program was started soon afterward. The site was laid out and four sixty-ton electric arc furnaces were installed. Soaking pits, a blooming mill, a Steckel mill, a down-coiler and finishing equipment were installed. McLouth was soon established as a growing factor in the marketplace. The first ingots were poured in 1949.

A few years later in 1954, the Trenton Plant was dedicated, and McLouth Steel became able to produce iron as an integrated steel mill. Number One blast furnace was constructed with a capacity of 1250 tons a day. The three original 60-ton basic oxygen furnace (BOF) vessels were installed and McLouth became the first plant in North America to make steel via the basic oxygen process. Adding to the melt shop were two 200-ton electric arc furnaces. The reversing Steckel mill was replaced by a six-stand continuous 60-inch (1,500 mm) hot strip rolling mill and a roughing stand was added to compliment the blooming mill. More soaking pits were installed as well as a plant to supply the BOP with oxygen. Two pickle lines were also added along with the slitters.

1958 saw another major expansion of the plant. A new blast furnace was constructed (Number 2), two 110-ton BOP vessels, and the related support equipment for the BOP and blast furnaces also had their capacity increased. Gas cleaning systems were installed for the melt shop as well. Two Rust slab reheat furnaces were installed to handle stainless steel, as well as the massive grinder and slab unpilers. The grinders, unpilers, and the pusher/bumper units for the two furnaces were supplied by Composite Forgings, Inc.

Between 1960 and 1964 one more 110-ton BOP vessel was added bringing the 110 ton vessel count to three. McLouth also became the first company to use computer controls on a hot strip mill on November 1, 1962, using a GE 312 computer. Significantly, the first “straight stick” slab caster was installed during this period. It was the first continuous caster in the United States.

Profitable operations as well as market demand prompted a major commitment to build a Continuous Casting department in 1967 with the announcement of four curved mold continuous casting strands and six lines of three induction slab reheaters. Two additional 110-ton BOP vessels were also added to replace old and obsolete equipment (the 60 ton vessels). With these improvements to McLouth’s steel making process, McLouth became the first steel mill to eventually produce 100% of its product by the continuous casting process, which added significantly to the efficiency of the operations and improved the quality of the finished product. Ladles were moved by overhead bridge cranes to the casting machines which can handle two at a time.

The record slab length for the plant was between May 9–11, 1972. The slab was 44″ wide and 9,972 feet (3,039 m) long, total weight was around 8,500 tons from 75 ladles.

First Use of Slab Induction Heating

McLouth Steel’s decision to cast unusually thick slabs (12 inch) led them to reheat the slabs inductively. The whole setup was difficult to undertake, as well as uneconomical to use. The giant heaters resembled upside-down toasters and made a loud buzzing sound when in operation.

The nature of the induction heating process is such that heat input to the slab is not restricted to the surface, but actually penetrates into the slab. The depth of penetration is determined by the frequency of the electrical power supply and the metallurgical makeup of the steel.

Although induction heating was well established as an effective and economical process fulfilling many types of heating requirements, it had never been seriously considered for heating anything like the 12″ thick by 60″ wide by 26′ long, 30-ton slabs McLouth wanted to produce. The fact that they wanted over 600 tons of steel heated per hour did nothing to help the situation.

Ajax Magnethermic from Warren, Ohio informed McLouth that they had a new coil design which would be capable of doing the job. After discussions, McLouth entered into a shared cost, joint development venture with the company to design, build, and test a prototype coil system.

Early in 1965, several small 12″ thick slabs of rimmed steel were repetitively heated in a prototype 1,000 kW rectangular coil. The tests proved that cold 12″ thick slabs could be heated to rolling temperature in less than one hour.

The next year, McLouth ordered 21 heaters (including three spares) as part of a $105 million program expected to be completed by the summer of 1968. The program expanded the hot metal facilities with a four-strand caster and the new induction heaters. Production capacity at the plant was raised from 1,800,000 tons a year to 2,400,000.

Overall, the system was a novel idea, but really only worked on paper. Auto transformer failures were frequent, as were bus connection failures.

The plant was sold in 1996 to Detroit Steel Company. After several failed start-up attempts, the Trenton complex rots away. The plant’s electric distribution infrastructure was ripped out in the summer of 2009. The main office is powered by diesel generator, while the rest of the plant is left without power.

Trenton Plant Assets

Iron Making

Two blast furnaces

Number 1 and number 2 furnaces were built in 1954 and 1958 respectively, by the Arthur McKee Company. The hearth diameter was 28′ 6″ with a working volume of 56,676 cubic ft.

  • Sinter Plant

Phased out in 1969. Only the first floor of original building remains. Very inefficient – it produced low grade ore from wastes from the blast furnaces.

  • Three Ore Bridges

Built by Dravo Corp. Two cranes in 1954, with the last in 1958. 12 net tons each.

  • One conventional ore yard opposite of the blast furnace, and two conveyor fed auxiliary yards.


The OP or Oxygen Process Furnaces convert molten iron to steel by adding additional materials. The steel was poured into ingot molds until the 1980s and concast was utilized to make all steel at McLouth.

Oxygen Process shop: OP 1 Three 60-ton vessels added in 1954.

First successful basic oxygen shop in the United States. This shop was dismantled in 1968 as a result of the high operating costs compared to OP 2.

OP 2 Five oxygen process vessels. Two 110-ton vessels added in 1958, one more 110 ton vessel added in 1960, two more added in 1968. All five were built by Pennsylvania Engineering Company (PECOR). The reason that relatively small 110-ton vessels were used, was due to the low ceilings in the existing building.

Electric furnaces: Scrap steel is melted at the electric furnaces. Each furnace takes three to four hours for 125 tons of steel. Brick, castable, ramming materials and mortar were used at the electric furnaces. Many of the known refractory materials were asbestos containing.

Melt Shop: Four 60-ton electric arc furnaces installed in 1948 as the first expansion project. Two 200-ton electric arc furnaces installed in 1954 to replace the four original furnaces.

A.O.D shop: Installed in 1977. 100 Net ton heat size. Three argon oxygen decarburization vessels were installed by PECOR. Only a 39 of heats produced by this process. Average time per heat was 2 hours and 15 minutes. Later dismantled and turned into the ladle metallurgy station. The entire steelmaking building, with the exception of the lime storage building, was demolished in 2005. The lime storage building was brought down with explosives on 18 April 2010.

Continuous Casting: Pilot plant the first straight stick slab casting machine in America was installed in 1963. The machine was located south of OP 1. Schloemann was the main equipment vendor. Dismantled in 1968.

Concast department: Four low profile curved molds with progressive straightening. Three molds cast 12″ thick while the other casts 9.5″. All molds could adjust the width from 36″ to 57″. Typical casting speed was 34-46 inches per minute for a 12″ slab, and 48-55 IPM for a 9.5″ slab. Maximum 120 inches per minute. Main building was demolished in 2006. The four underground strands are still intact; however, they are flooded. Cutting tables, control rooms, and service cranes have severe flood damage.

Hot Strip Mill:

Soaking pits

5 two-hole batteries. Natural gas fired. Built by Amsler Morton and the Rust Furnace Company in 1948.

Reheat Furnaces

Two conventional three zone, natural gas furnaces that were primarily used to reheat stainless and carbon slabs prior to the caster installation. 125 Net tons per hour each.

First furnace was installed in 1954. Second in 1958. Both were built by the Rust Furnace Company of Pittsburgh, PA.

Eighteen induction slab heating furnaces

Three lines of three heaters were installed in 1968, the last three lines were installed in 1969. Heaters were provided by Ajax Magnethermic and the slab handling equipment by United Engineering and foundry.

Maximum rated capacity was 645 tons per hour.

Walking beam furnace

Built in 1985. Natural gas fired. 350 tons per hour. 1 hour heating time per slab.


Blooming Mill

Two high 41″ diameter x 92″ rolls. Built by Continental in 1948. Accepted ingots up to 24″ x 44″ and slabs up to 57″ by 12″ thick. Twin 3000 horsepower motors.

Roughing Mill

Two high 43″ dia. x 59.75″ rolls. Built by Mesta in 1954. Twin 2500 horsepower motors.

Six Stand 60-inch (1,500 mm) Rolling mill

Four high mills stand, 25.75″ x 64″ work rolls and 53.75″ x 60″ back up rolls. Built by Mesta in 1954. Five 5000 HP motors and one 3500 HP motor. Maximum entering plate is 1.25″ thick. Minimum exiting strip is .071″

Two down-coilers

Installed in 1965 by Mesta. Produced a 78″ maximum opening coil

Finish Departments

Pickle Line

Built by Mesta in 1954. Used sulfuric acid. The line accepted coils up to 60″ at a rate of 90 net tons an hour. The line is 553 feet long.


Number 1 slitter

This line had a maximum coil width of 44″ and 70″ in diameter. Slitting width was 2.001″ minimum, 42.5″ maximum. Built by Wean in 1948.

Number 2 slitter

60″ maximum coil width 72″ diameter. 5″ minimum, 55″ maximum slitting width. Built in 1948 by Wean.

Number 3 slitter

60″ maximum coil width 72″ diameter. 2.001″ minimum, 56″ maximum slitting width. Built by Wean in 1948.

Number 4 slitter

60″ maximum width. 5″ minimum, 56″ maximum slitting width. 45,000 PSI shear. Built by Wean in 1954.

Number 5 slitter

20″ minimum, 60″ maximum entry coil. 50,000 PSI shear. 9″ minimum slit width. Built by Production Machinery in 1964.

Pilot Plant

In 1963, a full-size single strand, vertical casting machine was added to the original Oxygen Process Shop. The machine was operated for five years, helping to pioneer techniques that would be useful when the larger four strand shop was constructed in 1968. The pilot shop was operated mostly during the day, while the afternoon and midnight shifts would repair, modify, or tune the machine.

Initial slab sizes were 8″ x 36″, afterwards they began to cast bigger slabs by about 10″ increments up too 10″ x 52″. There was a noted improvement in quality, as with the ability to cast using larger molds. The pilot plant was limited to about 50 “heats” (ladles of molten steel), from the original OP shop. Over the course of operation, the pilot plant cast a little over 300,000 tons of steel.

The five-year run of the plant produced the opportunity to help develop both the equipment and casting techniques. Extensive work was performed on the design of the molds and the casting speed relative to the slab quality.

Casting Plant Description

Four single-strand curved mold casting machines cast around 3000 tons per day. Only two casting machines will normally cast at one time and many people questioned the need for four units. McLouth felt that the third caster is there for coordination reasons while the fourth is a reserve for maintenance shutdowns. Ladles are moved by overhead bridge cranes

Steelmaking equipment, massive and complex, requires the skills of many people such as millwrights, pipefitters, carpenters, welders, and various craftsmen who perform necessary maintenance and repair work. Others behind the steelmaking scenes who contribute greatly to steel production are those employed in the Operations, Production and Supervising Departments.

Exposures to the asbestos products at the mill can cause Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Asbestosis and other cancers 10 – 40 years later. Even if you smoked you may be entitled to compensation if you are suffering an asbestos related disease.

There are numerous departments and occupations that experienced heavy asbestos exposure at the McLouth Steel Plants were the Boilerhouse/Powerhouse, Air Separations,  Blast Furnaces, OP, Soaking Pits, Rust Reheat Furnaces, and Ajax Furnace areas.


There is high asbestos exposure to asbestos covered steam pipes, block insulation and boiler jackets.

Boilerhouse/Powerhouse Job Descriptions:

Boiler operator: Inspects and operates boilers.

Water Tender: Works under the direction of boiler operator, monitors the high-pressure steam equipment.

Boiler Cleaner: Assists in cleaning inside and outside of steam boilers and auxiliary equipment.

Laborers: Helped in clean-up work after tradesmen.

Mechanical Repairmen: Responsible for multi trade work including turbine repair, pipefitting, and mechanic work.

Pipefitters: maintains steamlines and worked with turbine repairmen on big jobs.

Turbine Repairmen: Maintained boilers and turbines – covered turbines, pumps, drums, and feed pump heads. Also removed boiler jackets and helped pipefitters tear-out and recover lines.

Blast Furnaces:

Iron ore pellets, scrap and limestone are melted into iron-ore at the blast furnaces. The iron-ore is transferred by hot metal cars to the Oxygen Process and Electric Furnace where it is converted to steel.

Blast Furnaces Job Classifications:

Keeper: Taps iron from furnace; maintains tap hole troughs, and runners.

Keeper Helper: Assists in tapping iron from furnace, assists keeper.

Laborer: Clean up work.

Larryman: operates larrycar of ore, limestone, and scrap to charge the furnace.

Stove Tender: Adjusts and regulates heating and changing of blast furnace stoves.

Pipefitter: Maintains pipelines.

Bricklayer: Maintains furnace lining, hot metal cars, troughs, and runners.

Box Anneal Furnaces:

Reheat the coils before rolling. The annealing process tempers the steel to meet the specifications of the purchaser. These were located at McLouth’s Gibraltar Plant.

Job Classifications:

Annealer – operates annealing furnaces.

Crane Hooker – hooks crane to top of furnaces.

Crane Operator – operates crane to lift furnace covers.

Pipefitter – maintains pipes.

Bricklayer – rebuilds furnaces.

Laborer – clean up work.

Soaking Pits:

They are deep pits that are rectangular in shape. At the soaking pits the steel ingots reheated by gas to 2400 degrees. When the steel leaves the soaking pits, it is rolled, coiled or finished.

Job Classifications:

Bricklayer: rebuilt work on soaking pits walls and floor.

Laborer: Tear-out work on soaking pits.

Pipefitter: Repair of gas piping.

Nozzleman: Spray fireproofing of soaking pits.

Crane Operator: Lifts steel slabs in and out of the soaking pits.

Slab Furnaces:

The slab furnaces reheat the slabs in order to go through the roughing and finishing mills.

Job Classifications:

Pipefitter: Maintains pipes in furnace area.

Bricklayer: Repairs furnace lining and patch repair work.

Laborer: tear out of furnace lining for rebuild work.

Heater: operates slab furnaces.

Heater helper: assists heater in operation and maintenance of furnaces.

Other areas of exposure at the McLouth Steel Trenton Plant:

Ladels: The ladels were relined in a ladel reline area, next to the open-hearth furnaces. Castable, brick and mortar were used in the relines. Some of the castable and possibly some of the mortar may have been asbestos containing.

Hot Metal Cars: The hot metal cars or bottle cars transfer the molten iron to the OP furnaces. Brick, mortar, and ramming material was used to line them.

Pickler: The steel is dipped in vats or tanks of acid at the pickler. Brick and mortar were used on the tanks. The acid lines are high temperature lines that are made from and covered with asbestos. The acid changes the pipes and they had to be replaced.

Bar Mill Furnaces: There is one furnace at the 10” Bar Mill and one furnace at the 14” Bar Mill furnace. These are reheat furnaces – brick and mortar were used.

Hot Strip: There was one Rolling Mills slab furnaces that reheat slabs which are in turn rolled into steel sheets and coils.

Mold Yards: There are mold yards at the Trenton mill. The steel is poured into ingot molds at the OP and Electric Furnaces. The molds had an asbestos insert, which was prepared in the mold yards. There also were two different types of hot tops were board/sheets or brick lined covers.

Other occupations exposed to asbestos:

Maintenance Foreman and Supervisors:  They schedule and supervise the maintenance and repair of the buildings and equipment.

First Line Supervisors/Managers Production and Operating Workers: They directly supervise and coordinate production and operations employees (Precision Workers, Inspectors, Machine Setters and Operators, Assemblers, Fabricators, and Plant and System Operators.

Maintenance: Construction and Millwrights, Bricklayers, Electricians, Insulators, Machinists, Oilers, Painters, Pipefitters, Welders, and other trades. They construct, maintain, and repair the buildings and equipment throughout the plant.

Heavy/Mobile Equipment Repair: Industrial Mechanics maintained and repaired Kress Carriers, payloaders, fork trucks, dump trucks, tow motors, hoists, and other equipment

Material Handling: Hi-Lo Operators, Crane Operators, Equipment Operators, Laborers, Sludge Operators and Tractor Operators. They handle and move the raw materials, steel, and equipment for the mill.

Transportation: Railroad Laborers, Switchman and Engineers operated the locomotives for transporting molten steel, Ingot molds, and other materials.

Receiving and Shipping: They receive and ship materials for the various plants and departments.

Asbestos exposures at McLouth Steel came from a number of sources including asbestos containing blankets, brick insulation, brakes, clothing, electrical products, fireproofing, gaskets, granite, hot tops, furnace cement, insulating cement, pipecovering, refractory insulation and sideboards.

In addition to the Trenton Plant, there were numerous departments and occupations that experienced heavy asbestos exposure, at McLouth’s Detroit and Gibraltar Plants:

If you or a loved one have questions regarding asbestos exposure at McLouth Steel or anywhere in Detroit, Trenton or Gibraltar, Michigan, we have Michigan based and licensed lawyers with over 50 combined years of experience that would be able to assist you. John Kelsey and John Pomerville are Asbestos & Mesothelioma Attorneys with Goldberg Persky & White. They are very knowledgeable in regards to asbestos exposure at McLouth Steel, Mesothelioma and the other asbestos diseases caused by asbestos exposure. They have represented many individuals with mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis in Wayne County Circuit Court in the past 20 years. If you have any questions concerning your exposure to asbestos and mesothelioma at McLouth Steel in Detroit, Gibraltar, or Trenton MI call one of our Michigan Lawyers. Our Michigan-based mesothelioma lawyers may be able to give guidance if you were exposed to asbestos in Detroit, Gibraltar, or Trenton, Michigan.

If you have been diagnosed with Mesothelioma you should immediately speak with an experienced Michigan based Lawyer to preserve your legal rights as this is a time sensitive matter and knowing the facts will help you make the best medical and legal decisions possible and help you recover financial compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering.

We have represented people injured by exposure to asbestos whose work histories include McLouth Steel in Detroit, Gibraltar, or Trenton, Michigan. Our extensive database of jobsites and asbestos product identification built over 30 years of specializing in asbestos lawsuits allows us to effectively and efficiently represent those injured by asbestos in the workplace.

Why does it matter that McLouth Steel Detroit, Gibraltar or Trenton, Michigan is in our jobsites database?

In order to successfully pursue an asbestos claim, your lawyer needs to be familiar with the jobsites you worked at, including

  • the companies that employed you,
  • the products they purchased and used, and
  • the companies who produced those products,
  • depositions, testimony of other McLouth Steel Detroit Trenton or Gibraltar asbestos disease victims
  • documentation from the Plant and Defendants

After more than 30 years pioneering asbestos litigation, we have a vast knowledgebase covering things such as company diagrams, invoices from asbestos product manufacturers, revealing company memos demonstrating their knowledge of the risks, asbestos product packaging through the years, depositions from leading experts, and medical and scientific literature dating from the late 1800’s to the current day.

Mclouth Steel Trenton Plant in Detroit, Gibraltar, or Trenton is one of tens of thousands of jobsites in our database.

Being familiar with many different industries, manufacturers, and products means we can efficiently and effectively identify all the asbestos containing products that contributed to your injury. It’s a breadth of knowledge gained from years of experience representing people injured by asbestos and their families.

Asbestos Exposure Injuries

Asbestos exposure can cause a variety of non-cancerous and cancerous injuries such as:

  • mesothelioma
  • lung cancer
  • colon and colo-rectal cancers
  • throat cancer
  • laryngeal cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • asbestosis

We have successfully represented hundreds of McLouth Steel Employees and Michigan USWA members in lawsuits against the responsible asbestos product manufacturers. Millions of dollars in compensation has been recovered for these asbestos disease victims. We have the resources and experience to take on the Asbestos Industry and demand fair compensation for you.

Did you work at Mclouth Steel Trenton Plant in Detroit, Gibraltar, or Trenton, Michigan? Have you been injured by asbestos? Contact us today for a FREE, no obligation consultation: 1-800-799-2234