Memories of the factory in Langendorf by Helmut Rist

Erinnerungen an die Fabrik in Langendorf.

Helmut Rist

(Karsten’s translation…)

I you walked through Langendorf on a business day you would surely see wagons carrying wood to the factory. These wagons were part of Langendorf and symbolic of the role of industry in our village.

The rich forests of the Altvater (Old father) mountains were the important foundation and raw material source for the development of industry in the valley of the Biele river. The papermill of Glogner & Methner in Ziegenhals, the mill in Rothfest and the leather cardboard factory of Filke and Singer in Langendorf all used the spruce trees from the Altvater mountains.

The spruce trees were raised in monocultures and generally harvested by clearcutting followed by the planting of new seedlings. The bark of the timber was peeled off, the trunks were cut into one meter sections and stacked along the timber roads.

Horse drawn wagons were used for the transport. They were solidly built wagons which were generally drawn by a single Clydesdale. The carefully piled load was tied down with chains. On the pole shears the driver would carry a sack filled with hay or fresh fodder. That made a good place to sit. The horse, which did all of the work for hours on end, would be fed at unloading time.

Every day you could see these wagons, sometimes in a whole column, from Niklasdorf through Ziegenhals and Langendorf all the way to Rothfest.

In front of the main entrance to the monastery in Langendorf a broad concrete bridge crossed the Angergraben (the creek which ran through the middle of Langendorf) and the Muehlgraben (a manmade channel to operate a mill) leading to the Viehweg (cattle path). That was the direction for some of the wagons because it took them to the wood storage area of the cardboard factory where long rows of the delivered wood were piled up. Then the horse got a bag of oats hung over its head so it could feed and the wood was unloaded and stacked. On the way back the driver would sit sideways on his wagon and let his legs dangle down. The horse knew its way home and did not need to be driven.

To make cardboard the wood needed to be shredded and boiled. Lime and other additives had to be mixed in. The viscous mass would then run over heated rollers and would be rolled and pressed into cardboard of a variety of thicknesses. The finished sheets of cardboard would be dried in an air heated drying chamber. Finally they would be cut to size and bundled for sale or for inventory. Part of the production would be cut into carton shapes or would be turned into finished cartons for shipment.

The factory owned two beautiful, strong, brown horses which the driver, Rieger, took care of. Right next to the main building of the factory was the stable for the horses and next to it a garage for a horse drawn fire pump. The cardboard destined for rail shipment was taken by driver Rieger with his big wagon to the train station in Ziegenhals. On his way back and downhill he would bring coke to the factory for its multiple energy needs.

Often you could see huge trucks in front of the factory which would take the cardboard all the way to the Ruhr district and the river Rhein. The largest loads were picked up by semi-trailer trucks which had a sleeping berth behind the driver’s cabin for the second driver.

The factory and the fire brigade of Langendorf were in many ways dependent on each other. On the one hand the factory would provide the means to buy, maintain and restore the equipment . On the other hand the factory depended on a quick response in case of fire because of its highly combustible product. The factory was interested in having well trained and reliable firemen. Naturally driver Rieger would drive the fire pump in case of fire. It is no surprise that the director of the factory, Mr. Joseph Filke, was also the captain of the fire brigade. For parades and celebrations he would wear a leather, World War I, artillery helmet, decorated with a golden ball, as well as a saber. The firemen had a dark blue uniform with silver buttons and the commonly used leather helmets. Facing the factory on the main street stood a pub owned by Mr. Blaschke. The pub was also the meeting hall of the firemen.

In the late thirties the factory burned down. I remember that we could see the flames licking high into the dark night from our house. There was also a thundering noise. The firemen fought a losing battle against the searing flames in spite of the help they received from neighboring villages. The house with the office and the apartment for the foreman was saved. Everything else was ravaged by the flames.

The clean-up of the site and the reconstruction of the factory proceeded quickly. There was enough labor available. A new, large, well lighted hall was constructed where all of the manufacturing equipment was under one, large roof. Everything was arranged purposefully and practically. Soon the semi-trucks returned from the Rhineland. Loading was now accomplished with pivoting slides which connected the storage area directly with the trailer floor.

During World War II the carton factory continued to operate. After the war, when the polish government took over, the factory continued to operate for a while. When wood was no longer available from the other side of the border, the factory was shut down and the buildings are now slowly deteriorating.

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