The Girod Ferro-Alloy Works

Posted By Richard Jefferson on 19 November 2014

Posted in The Vintage Machinery Almanac

This article was originally published in Electrochemical and Metallurgical Industry Publication of January 1907. Information within this article is therefore correct as of 1907. The publication of this material aims to provide historical insight on the subject and its place in industry.

A recent visit to the chief works at Ugine, in Savoy, of the Societe anonyme Electrometallurgique. Precedes Paul Girod and the courtesy of the director of this company in supplying photographs and information have enabled the following brief account to be prepared for the readers of ELECTROCHEMICAL AND METALLURGICAL INDUSTRY. The company at the present time  possesses   three important ferro-alloy works, at Ugine, in Savoy, at Courtepin and at Montbovon, in Switzerland. A total of 18,000 hp is in use, but the harnessing of further power is rapidly progressing, and shortly some 45,000 hp will be available.

The history of the development of these large ferro-alloy works follows the lines which have been so characteristic of many of our most important electrochemical industries. Starting in 1898 a small experimental plant of only 28 hp Monsieur Paul Girod attacked and gradually overcame the great difficulties underlying the production of high-grade ferro-alloys. In 1899 a works employing 1,000 hp was started at Albertville, and with accumulating experience still more ambitious schemes were planned and executed. The great success which this company has had may, doubt-less, in some measure, be attributed to the foresight of its director and to the fact that this early experience was quickly applied so soon as the development of rapid-cutting tool steels and other special steels created a demand for ferro-alloys.

At the end of November, 1903, the works at Courtepin were started with 1,800 h.p, which has been rapidly increased to 5,000 hp, the power being obtained at 16,000 volts. In the same year the water rights of the falls of the Arly were purchased, and the installation of the power plant of 8,500 hp at Ugine was completed in a remarkably short space of time, being available for use in December, 1904.


The French Alps offer many surprises to those unfamiliar with the remarkable hydro-electrical installation in this part of the European continents. The valley of the Arc in its descent from Modane to Saint Michel with its four large aluminium works and numerous other smaller factories; or the valley of the Romanche, near Grenoble, with carbide and ferro-alloy works, both form centers of electrochemical industry which are already comparatively well known. Even in these cases the rapid changes which have recently been effected and the enormous developments which are in progress cannot fail to impress those who have closely followed the trend of electrochemical work in this part of the world.

In the beauty of its surroundings and in the evidence which is forthcoming of extensive and successful development, the works at Ugine are, however, almost unsurpassed. Situated at the foot of snow-clad mountains in a peaceful valley, almost luxuriant in its vegetation, the contrast with the more usual surroundings of works connected with the iron and steel industry is very marked. The fall available is 125 meters, the water being conveyed from the barrage through a tunnel of 3 kilometers, and then by two steel conduits each of 1.32 meters diameter and 550 meters length.

The power house, 120 meters long and 10 meters broad, contains nine 600-hp and nine 300-hp Neyret-Brenier turbines, driving six 600-hp and nine 300-hp continuous-current machines, and three 600-hp alternators. The furnace house runs parallel with that in which the machines are installed, and is equipped with a large number of special furnaces of the "smothered-arc" type, provided with automatic regulation, efficient ventilation and all the equipment necessary for successful and continuous working.

Auxiliary plant, such as crushing and grinding machines and mixers, is also plentifully available.


The present annual output of the three installations, so far as the chief products are concerned, may be  summarized as follows:

5,000 tons ferro-silicon, 50 per cent.

1,000 tons ferro-silicon, 30 per cent.

2,000 tons ferro-chromium.

800 to 900 tons ferro-tungsten.

About 50 tons ferro-molybdenum.

5 to 10 tons ferro-vanadium.

The total value of the alloys sold being at the present time equivalent to over 9,000,000 francs per annum. These figures alone convey some idea of the magnitude of the undertaking.

Image Credit: The Library of Congress