Foster Falls Iron Furnace
Posted By From On High
Date Sunday, 29 April 2018, at 1:47 p.m.
This structure at Foster Falls is called a cold blast iron furnace. Everything in the area was dependent on its use. It was the center of the area's economy.
Here's how it worked: In order to turn iron ore into iron (and later steel) the raw material had to be heated to melting temperature. To heat the ore timber was turned into charcoal and was then used to stoke the furnace to 500 degrees centigrade (today plants use coke and "hot blast" to smelt iron ore; it's cheaper and far less labor intensive).
Required for production were (a) iron ore (hematite - iron oxide), (b) limestone, (c) heat (charcoal or coke), (d) water, and (e) air.
The water (diverted from the New River) was needed to turn a wheel that operated a huge bellows that forced air into the lower unit of the furnace.
Train car loads of iron ore were hauled in on tracks above and behind the furnace. Workers then wheelbarrowed the ore - mixed with limestone - to the stack at the top and shoveled the mixture in. Generally when the furnace was started it ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
At melting temperature the iron ore (Fe2O3) separated into iron (Fe), carbon dioxide (CO2) and refuse (slag).
The melted iron flowed into molds that were located on the lower left side of the furnace, the slag flowed into a catch basin to the lower right.
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