Historic Markers Across Alabama

Boilers - Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

Marker ID:  
Location: is located on the grounds of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark on 32nd Street North, Birmingham, AL
County: Jefferson
Coordinates: N 33° 31.224    W 086° 47.478
  33.5204    -86.7913
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


The Process
The boiler was the source of power for most of Sloss. The boilers burned blast furnace gas to provide the heat necessary for converting water into steam. The steam produced here powered the blowing engines and turbo-blowers, the skip hoist, and the electrical generator in the powerhouse. A network of pipes distributed water and steam throughout the plant

The company installed six boilers (illustrated below) in 1910-11. The four boilers on the south side of the walkway were added in 1926-28.

The People
Six men operated the boiler plant at Sloss, including a foreman, a fireman, and a laborer. Ultimate responsibility for maintaining the proper steam pressure lay with the foreman, who told the fireman when the boiler needed more fire. The fireman raked out the hot ashes from the boiler and added new coal. The laborer, also called the ash puller, shoveled the ashes into a wheelbarrow and took them to the ash pit. On the day shift, three additional workers—two flue blowers and one reamer—cleaned the boilers. The plant had sufficient boiler capacity to allow one boiler to be out of service at all times for cleaning.

"You never ran the boilers on straight gas. You always put some coal in them. I've had one or two or three shifts where I didn't put in but one fire for the whole shift, and I didn't put much in there then. The gas was just good enough to run them at that time. I had so many more shifts that the gas wouldn't run them boilers, and you couldn't hardly get enough coal in there to run them....I have seen the superintendent shovel coal when it got tight. I've seen him, the stoveman, I've seen as much as twelve men down there trying to hold that steam....There are only two things out there to do. If the steam fall, you put coal in the boilers. And if you running good, you just run on...

We always would go in there and do our work. We knowed what to do, and the quicker we'd do it the better break we were going to get when we got it did... As long as it take you to do it, if it take you all night, you had to do it. If it took you one hour, you had to do it, That's just the way it was."

Erected by Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

End of Boilers - Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark