Werkbau Soehlde
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Chalk industry in Söhlde in general

Christoph Behrens was the name of the man to whom Söhlde owes its economical boost and the fact that its development differed from other country villages.

He was a farmer and an innkeeper and moreover he worked as a glazier. When ploughing at the hill above the town Söhlde, white stones which were not very hard emerged; these stones met his special interest.   Using a dull knife he scraped these stones until he got fine powder. This was the first chalk of Söhlde, which later became known in wide areas of Germany. He mixed this dry powder with linseed oil. In this way he prepared the putty he needed for his work as a glazier.

In those days a customs post was connected with the guesthouse and all the goods which were supposed to be taken over the nearby boundary to Brunswick had to be duty-paid there. Many wagoners came to the guesthouse and very often they had to wait a long time for the customs clearance which was rather leisurely in those days. Sometimes whole columns of wagons stopped in front of the yard.

The wagoners watched Mr. Behrens carrying out his interesting work and recognized that the innkeeper was able to produce the putty himself - in those days it was quite troublesome to get putty.

They took along samples and convinced themselves of the quality and durability. As a result Mr. Behrens got more and more orders and he realized that he was no longer able to obtain such quantities by means of the scraping procedure.   He now used a hammer to break the stones, but this, too, was very hard. In 1817 he installed a stamping mill on his yard. He used capstans to drive it; the capstans were set into motion by a horse running in circles. A washing facility was connected to the stamping mill to refine the quality.

In 1820 the company was extended again and moved out of the village. The first windmill on a trestle was erected at the north side of the chalk crest of Söhlde. When the weather conditions permitted it, they produced up to 20 centners of chalk per day and approximately 1,600 centners of finished chalk were put on the market per year. Christoph Behrens died in 1830.

In 1857 there was a change-over from the stamping procedure to the grinding procedure. Thick millstones which stood vertically and were fixed at a shaft and moved in circles on a strong iron plate, formed the first edge mill in Söhlde. The chalk became much finer, however, it did not fulfill the increased requirements. In 1863 they changed from dry grinding to wet grinding. The mill type changed as well, now a windmill made of stone with a turning roof (the Dutch type) was put into use. Furthermore the production sites were placed close to the village. The chalk powders became finer. The next step was to establish dry sheds. Here the chalk mash was stored on large chalk plates which, due to their porosity, absorbed the moisture.

In 1869 the production method was modified again. In a large vat the edge mills worked under water. Chalk slurry ran into the vat and via gutters, the slurry was lead to washing pits where it deposited itself.

The water was returned to the edge mill and was then reused. Sun and wind dried the slurry which was then cut out, loaded onto trucks, and taken to the dry sheds.   In the course of the years, more and more chalk plants were established. In 1906, the chalk producers quickly realized the benefits of electricity. They built an electric power station which delivered current for all the chalk plants, Söhlde, and most of the villages around Söhlde, too. The wind-mills were no longer important.

The newer chalk plants were designed like factories. The long dry sheds built in rectangles adjoined the main building; within the rectangle the washing pits were located. As a consequence of the technological development, the facilities in the plants were constantly being modernized. Often you could find old things next to new things. The necessity to deliver even better quality while keeping prices as low as possible, called for rationalization and elimination of the manual labour wherever possible, even in those days. In 1955, high-speed size reduction machines which were equipped with a disc fit with beaters achieved approximately 3,000 rpm and reduced the size of the raw material thus giving the chalk the fineness for the required purpose.

Today, a mobile crushing and breaking plant transports the chalk rock from the mining wall via a belt road with a length of one kilometer to a storagee hall with a capacity of approximately 10,000 tons. There, a drag picks up the stockpiled material and a belt system transports it to the machine building, where dryer drum, screening machines, swing-hammer mills, and separators are located. The area filter dedusting system is state of the art and cleans the outgoing air. The entire system is controlled by a central supervision with the aid of a process-control system (PSE).

- Source: among other things Allgemeiner Heimat Kalender 1955 für Stadt und Land
- Die Söhlder Kreide - Industrie by O. Dröge, Kleinhimstedt.

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