As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Welding Institute, we spoke with some of our Professional Members about their career memories, uncovering some interesting stories that we want to share with you as part of our centenary celebrations.
We received a message from long-standing friend and Member of the Institute, Fellow CEng Alan Gifford, who went on to tell us the story of what could be the world’s first-ever welded pressure vessel - as well as kindly donating a unique replica of this piece of engineering history to The Welding Institute!
“We all take welding, especially of pressure vessels, almost for granted, but there had to be a first one to be welded and pressure tested.
“Back in 1961, I was welding engineer at International Combustion Ltd (ICL), one of the UK’s seven boilermakers, and they were licensees of the multinational American company Combustion Engineering (CE) with its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. CE, as indeed was ICL.
“CE’s main boiler plant was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and it was deemed desirable that I went asap to learn how they had such a massive output of both boilers and super heaters.
“On my visit to their laboratories I went past a small cylindrical pressure vessel mounted on a steel plinth. From memory it was about 5’0” long and 30” in diameter with two semi ellipsoid ends. I enquired what it was and was told it was the first all-welded pressure vessel ever made. Corbin Chapman, the then chief metallurgist at CE, gave me, as a memento, a very small replica of the vessel mounted on a wooden base. There was a plaque attached which reads:
First All Welded Boiler Drum
Tested May 2, 1930
CE Combustion Engineering
Energy Systems Worldwide
“I retained this as a desk ornament through the next 45 years whilst I followed a variety of welding associated roles in the company until I retired in 1993 and it came home with me, still sitting on my desk. As I now approach 94, I felt it needed to be preserved and so sought more information on the item. Throughout my career I have maintained contact with one of the welding engineers who I met on that first visit – J C Campbell. I emailed him and asked if he knew any more about the manufacture of the vessel.
“He responded to say, ‘It was on display when I started at CE in 1950 and was hand stick welded by a guy called Amaziah Jones Moses –who went on to become VP/GM of the Chattanooga plant. It was hydro tested to failure. The welds did not fail but the manway cover on one of the ends leaked first - at well over the calculated pressure,’ adding, ‘you have made my day full of nostalgia!’ I believe it was done under ASME observation, but not approved by them at that time.
So, as The Welding Institute celebrates its 100th year of life, it seemed right and proper that I should donate there - otherwise it would probably be in a dustbin when I am no longer the keeper!”
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