Salamanders in iron? What? Fear not! Salamander is an iron industry term. This post, which is about iron salamanders, all started with a conversation with a neighbor when we bumped into each other on the way to a sunset.
Sunset Hill by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Sunset Hill in Ballard, Seattle, Washington, was where my friend and I headed to watch the sunset. My day photos of this location are better than the sunset ones, but you can see how inspirational it is.
I hadn’t seen her for a while. She is a technology historian, and she had been thinking about biproducts of mining industries. She knows I visit the Portland area often, so I told her about the historic iron industry in Lake Oswego.
Lake Oswego is currently a charming town near Portland. Named after Oswego Lake, once a former channel of the Tualatin River, but now a dammed reservoir, the city lies along the shores of the Willamette River and surrounds the modified lake. The city celebrates its history with the Oswego Iron Heritage Trail. At least two salamanders are within that park. Assumedly, they are from the 1866-constructed blast iron furnace that once smelted the ore, removing oxygen and impurities from it.
During the smelting process, the heavy molten iron descended to the bottom of the furnace, while the lighter impurities floated to the top. The salamander, made of the pure, molten iron, was the stuff at the very bottom of the furnace. It was removed from the apparatus when miners worried about it blocking the furnace’s tap hole.
So that’s it!
Salamander: Big, pure blob of iron that forms at the bottom of the iron blast furnace, removed when it threatens to block the tap hole.
Note: All information was obtained from the interpretative signs at George Rogers Park, the site of the 1866 blast furnace in Lake Oswego, Oregon just south of Portland. The furnace, now restored, still stands. Not only that, it (according to the Oswego Iron Heritage Trail website), is the oldest surviving iron furnace west of the Rocky Mountains. Not only that, it was the first iron furnace constructed on the Pacific Coast.
Iron Furnace in Autumn by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This is the iron furnace in George Rogers Park. Constructed in 1866, it was so well-built that it survived attempts to demolish it with dynamite during the early 20th century. The City of Lake Oswego restored it in 2009.