Yesterday, 10:15 PM
Light, Metal, Shadow: The Freedom of Welding
Column by Alex R. Knight III, posted on May 03, 2016
I suppose my first serious exposure to the trade, craft, and art of welding came during a brief five-month stint I did working for a railroad company. Technically, my job title was that of forklift driver, loading and unloading rail cars when freight came in to a small ex-airport on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River. On days when no such freight arrived, I crossed that geographical (and imaginary political) boundary east into New Hampshire to go to work repairing and maintaining those rail cars – some of which, in a small percentage of cases – dated back to the 1960s or 1970s, though rarely do railroad cars last that long. Coupled with the almost endless battery of federal regulations the entire railroad industry is subjected to, after about 30 years of service, on average, most rail cars are relegated to scrap iron.
But during those three decades of use, such freight containers are also subject to a torrent of wear and tear. Parts become broken, bent, dented, warped, knocked out of plumb, and even occasionally vandalized (mostly graffiti). Some things can be merely hammered back into shape. At times that can only be accomplished after the metal in question is thoroughly heated first. Still other times things have to be cut, and often, the application of an acetylene torch is the best tool for that job. And of course, when metal must be patched, or fused back together, in comes welding.