TODMORDEN U3A Science Group recently enjoyed a visit to the Weir Minerals Europe foundry, located on Halifax Road.
The site was established as early as 1893, and from 1903 was owned by the Sandholme Iron Company, making parts for the local textile industry.
It made its name following its acquisition by Simon Warman Ltd in 1972 as a leading centre for pump manufacture.
Since 1999, the site has been part of the FTSE 100 listed Weir Group and serves as both the manufacturing facility and head office of the European business unit of the Weir Minerals Division.
Today, the facility is a Queen’s Award winning 23-acre site, operating 24 hours a day and employing 405 people, many of whom live in the local area. There is a thriving apprenticeship scheme, which over the past three years has given 16 young people the opportunity to develop a career in engineering.
Safety is a primary concern on site, and prior to the factory tour, the science group was given a briefing entailing the health and safety requirements for all visitors and employees on site.
Pump manufacture continues to provide the focus of the site’s operations; indeed some of the largest pumps in the world are made in Todmorden for mining, tunnelling and industrial applications.
The plant uses some of the most up to date engineering techniques. Polystyrene moulds are buried in fine sand and the air is pumped out of the mould. Every component is made from a metallic alloy appropriate to its eventual use.
The metal is melted in an induction furnace and transferred into preheated ladles which are then taken by crane to where the mould is ready. Many tons of molten metal can be poured into a mould. The metal is allowed to cool under controlled conditions before being cleaned up and machined to the final tolerances.
The pumps contain many parts that have to be assembled to the finished product. The world’s largest copper mine in Chile needs one of Weir Minerals’ massive pumps every three weeks!
The science group found the day insightful and finished the tour by seeing completed components being backed for distribution before being treated to a buffet lunch. The visit allowed the group to understand and see first hand some of the world-leading engineering currently being undertaken in their hometown.
l Todmorden U3A has members from all the upper Calder Valley’s towns and has several specialist interest groups.