TSL is currently split over two sites in Sheffield, Effingham Road and Burton Road. I’ve been setting this project up over the last couple of weeks with Andrew Eyre its forward thinking director. Today was my first opportunity to go to Burton Road. Mark, the site manager seemed perfectly happy to let me wander, introduce myself to the seventeen strong workforce and just get on with it. “Don’t touch anything hot!” To an outsiders eye this place excites, every corner houses an alien machine or sculptured object used for imparting a twist here, or a bend there in a piece of metal. I called it exotic, Mark laughed. But he shouldn’t, there are people here who bash bits of important metal, metal that can save lives and what’s more they do it by eye. We are connected these men and I; we measure by sight instinctively knowing what is good or what is scrap.
A workforce such as this has never disappointed me; they answer my stupid questions about quenching in oil or water with good grace. They take their time to show me why things are the way they are and watch my back when pieces of hot metal appear around the shop floor. They in turn are curious about my trade, “can you really earn a living doing that?” Another picked up the German camera engineering. Today I met Thomas, he should be long retired but put it off in order to continue bending three inch diameter red hot lengths of bar into springs for Northern Trains assisted by brother Rob. It’s uncertain at the moment if there is anyone else who can replace the skills he has. He tells me of the longest spring he has made by hand, 26 feet, but prefers instead to tell me about his new Russian girlfriend and their plans for summer.
Mick, an ex-minor, who lost his job like so many post 1984, sprays springs with powder that melts when hot and imparts a beautiful black glaze to the metal. He’s a big man, the last seam he worked on at Manton was a mere 2 foot eight inches high, this job he maintains, is a piece of piss. The paint shop smells, can’t quite put my finger on it, part cat part burnt rubber.
I’m going to enjoy TSL over the coming months.
Above TSL veteran Alan Hockley