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The Dripby Mark Reutter11:44 amJan 23, 20130

Thousands of items to be auctioned at Sparrows Point today

On-site auction with webcast begins as plant undergoes its first phase of dismantlement.

Above: Three of the dozens of hydraulic cranes going on sale today at Sparrows Point.

Everything from office furniture to giant 32-wheel, 200-ton “torpedo” cars are up for grabs.

Starting this morning, the company that purchased the Sparrows Point steel mill is holding an auction to sell off specialized equipment as part of the wholesale scrapping of the one-time largest steel facility on the globe.

Hilco Industrial has put up for bids more than 1,700 pieces of equipment, including railway locomotives, hot-metal transfer or “torpedo” railcars, mobile cranes, slab haulers, industrial tractors, pneumatic and cutting tools, lifting magnets, fork lifts, heavy motors and other plant-support machinery.

The on-site auction today and tomorrow will be held inside the plant on Sparrows Point Blvd., which has largely been cordoned off since the property was purchased at bankruptcy sale last August by the Chicago-based liquidator and its partner, Environmental Liability Transfer (ELT) of St. Louis.

More Than 2,200 Jobs Lost

After holding out a slim reed of hope that the plant would be resold to an operating company, the United Steelworkers Local 9477 conceded last month that the sprawling facility will be scrapped in its entirety.

More than 2,200 union workers, independent contractors and office staff were laid off over the summer after parent company, RG Steel, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Controlled by billionaire financier Ira Rennert, RG Steel owned the steel mill for less than 15 months before declaring bankruptcy.

The plant and its 2,500 acres of harborfront land were sold for $72 million to Hilco-ELT after being valued on paper at $1 billion.

Opened in 1891

Opened in 1891 as a state-of-the-art “rail-rolling” (or railway track) manufacturer, Sparrows Point was capable of producing 15 tons of hot metal a minute in the 1950s, when it became the world’s largest steel mill.

Sparrows Point underwent five separate ownership changes after longtime parent, Bethlehem Steel Corp., was liquidated in 2003, but it never regained profitability.

Here is more information on today’s auction, which will continue on-line through next Tuesday.

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