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BMT Story, Chapter 2 - industries advance

This article was published May 17, 2012.

In 1921 it was time to expand the factory, only three years after the first building was raised. As before most of the neighbourhood was already working for him and new people outside of the area were coming to find a job.

New buildings were needed and that was the first new job available.

Sir Riff both wanted to be able to add new buildings and be able to expand even more in the future. He was thinking a lot on how to do this. Finally he got the idea to expand two blocks at a time, from a main street and outwards. This way he could maintain the logical path of material through the factory and did not need to reconstruct current work-areas each time they expanded. In 1921 only the right side of the main street was built up. Raw materials was meant to be feed on the left side and finished match crates were meant to be loaded from the right side, on to the trains.

Also they needed a purpose built office for both financial work and an artist studio for label making and commercials, the labels were very important and were adapted for each new market they expanded into.

Further the space for the storage of aspen trees were in great demand.

Storage space for the finished crates was never a problem, as an everlasting market was screaming for every crate they managed to make.

During the 1920´s just after WW1, industrial buildings were still mostly built with bricks, BM factory was no exception.

The main street had something of a Wild West feel to it, sandy streets and catwalks out of wood-planks with roofs on top. Only difference was the 18in rails in the middle of it and the use of red paint on most wooden buildings. Cars were available, but so far only the local doctor or Sir Riff were the ones who could afford them. Local farmers still used horse and wagon to transport things, if not on the tramway.

Sir Riff was very generous when it came to transports. If even slightly related to the estate, everyone could use the tramway. The fees were very modest, almost symbolic. For him the little railway was not just a way of transport, he really liked it as it was. He even had names for each loco. When he ran out of family names and names of prince´s and princesses, he started to use names of famous employees to every ones delight.

Only 18 months later, both office/studio and the left side of the main street had been built. Several new tracks were added for loading and unloading and a complete new area was cleared for a new sawmill, the previous one was way too small to keep up with the demand.

Also the crate making shop was now a major part of the factory, same with the print shop. They needed a daily stream of supplies for both labels and packaging, different colours of ink, writing paper, hard card and wrapping paper.

After the government had forbidden the old phosphorus, in favour of the new safety matches, the personnel climate improved a lot in the factory. Several of the previous chemicals were very poisonous, specially the yellow phosphorus.

The sawmill now not only did partition off the bark from the trees and cut into sheets, they also did prepare several different kinds of wood for crates, match boxes and packing. They also sold almost every wood needed for building in the local area. It was built as a sawmill for the factory, but several different customers were buying from them. Cutting mine supports was another big thing.

The chemical department did blend the match head and the mixture for the matchbox sides. Their safety is due to the separation of the combustible ingredients between the match head and a special striking surface, and the replacement of white phosphorus with red phosphorus. The striking surface is composed of powdered glass and red phosphorus, and the match head is composed of antimony(III) sulphide and potassium chlorate. The act of striking converts some of the red phosphorus to white by friction heat. The small amount of white phosphorus then ignites, and this starts the combustion of the match head.

For the warm temperature climates, a new product was introduced. To keep the matches dry, these crates were covered with welded zinc-plates on the inside. Sir Riff did hire specially skilled welders for this job. It was hard work, but paid well.

At first Sir Riff put ordinary park benches in some goods vans for transporting personnel to the factory, but soon these were in more need for transporting crates. Something had to be done. Sir Riff now had his own workshop for the tramway and he ordered them to build a special kind of coach. They should be low to keep balance and heated during winter. No platforms, instead they should have doors on the sides. Very similar to some British narrow gauge coaches. Same thing with travelling on the tramway, as long as you were employed by Sir Riff, you could ride the rails for a very modest fee. Else you had to pay standard costs. Sir Riff also ordered a special coach for special guests and family. All were built on top of the standard frame used by most wagons on the line.

The Woods

For vans, coaches and flat wagons the standard frame was used. But for long logs, they needed a special kind of bogie. The daily log trains did not only contain aspen trees for the factory. The sawmill did increase a lot. First the war needed a lot for the trenches and war efforts, later all of Europe screamed for even more to rebuild the countries. After the war industries did start to flourish again and the need for logs never seemed to end.

The many log deals Sir Riff did with Russian sellers, also included other wood types other than aspen. These he either sold right off as they were or cut them up at the sawmill for special needs.

The Clay Pit

When the first expansion of the factory site took place, most of the clay for bricks was imported from other areas far from Borkum Estate as finished bricks. But soon Sir Riff found a new business to explore. He had several areas with this kind of ground, which previously wasn´t of much use. First attempts did not work out too well, but he was stubborn and soon a prosperous new brick industry evolved.

They started with standard bricks and pipes and for many years this was the main income, but later when metal and other materials started to get used more and more for buildings, they had to improvise with new products.

The Brewery

Sir Riff´s second brother was very interested in making beer. At first only for family consumption but he was very serious in his attempts, so he put a lot energy into this. As all of the family, they didn´t need to think of money, so Thomas could spend several years of perfecting his product and after a while he started to get famous for his beer. Each time he finished a brew, the male element of the population queued for test-tasting the beer. This was put out on notes all over the place. Sir Riff and Thomas took the first sip outside the brewery, and after that a long row of eager men got their glass each. After each first sip, each man was asked about their opinion thoroughly and as you can understand this did take awhile.. Even if Sir Riff was the one supporting their little estate population, Sir Thomas was the one with greatest reputation as a great man, at least among the men..

Everyone wanted him to start making heavier stuff, but he insisted he wanted to make a business out of this. And he did, 1922 was the first year when the brewery made more money than it costed. After that it just increased from year to year, to reach a point not far from what the mine raised each year and that was a lot.

Still the Match Factory held the main income without competition. A side business of this was that the sawmill did start to make beer barrels. The bottles were imported, but it wasn´t long before Sir Riff did see business in this too, Sir Thomas didn´t approve of Riffs attempts to make business of everything, he just wanted nice bottles to pour his beer into. But he allowed his brother to make beer crates and other packing materials for his products. Later products he started were porter´s ale and stout. All of this was transported on the tramway down to the waterfront and pier.