MACHINES OUTLAST EMPIRES
No sooner had I completed reading the late WL White’s book in his capacity as a war correspondent, Report on the Russians, published in 1945 and based on an eyewitness report on a six-week visit by a party headed by Eric Johnston, then-president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, to the Us-sponsored Soviet war industry in 1944, than, on settling back in the bath to read the March issue of Popular Mechanics, I was met with an amazing coincidence.
Your page 39 makes reference to a 15 000ton extrusion machine from Duisburg, built for the Luftwaffe in the 1930s and now in Canton, Georgia, that squeezes metal like Play-doh. White’s report makes reference to a drop forge from Duisburg that has a 10 000-ton capacity that was then, and probably still is, in Sverdlovsk ( Yekaterinburg).
I find it interesting that truly great marvels of engineering survive the rise and fall of empires and continue to serve mankind. Browsing through second-hand book stores brings the past to the present. I quote this extract from the book, downloadable from the Internet:
“Now we start out to inspect the plants. Sverdlovsk is the Soviet centre for the manufacture of heavy machine tools. In one big shop we see a gigantic drop forge, made in Duisburg, Germany. I can well believe that there are only four like it in the world. It can apply pressure of 10 000 tons and we watch them pounding into shape a huge piece of white hot metal, which will become the roller for a mill. There is near by a row of relatively tiny drop forges fashioning crankshafts for tank motors.
“But the plant itself is the same old Soviet story we have so far seen no light, dirty, bad floors, and in this one the roof leaks.
“Outside there is a summer shower and we watch the water pour down from the high ceiling onto the hot steel and get soaked ourselves as we walk through. But we notice they have mended the roof over the most important machines.
Now we start down a tank assembly line, and at the point where they are welding the frames, I drop back from the party and ask an old man who is a welder’s helper where I can get a drink of water. Almost never do you see a drinking fountain in a Soviet plant. He starts to lead me towards a room that, from its smell I recognise as a toilet, but thinks better of this and bids me wait. In about ten minutes he returns with a glass, and a bottle of carbonated water that obviously came from the director’s room. Nothing less would do for a guest. The kindness of the people is touching.”