Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A brief history of 'Nystrup Gravel'

The small sand and gravel company, ‘Nystrup Grus A/S’ was situated on the Danish island of Zealand, some 80 km. south west of Denmark’s capital Copenhagen. The company had several small gravel pits and they were all served by 600 mm. tracks. The lines converged outside the town Nystrup and the railway ran through the town’s small industrial district before reaching the company’s sorting facility and loading ramp for lorries.
A train of skips pulled by a loco built by Danish manufacturer
Pedershaab. The photo has unfortunately been damaged by humidity.
Originally the company relied on horses to pull the skips from the pits. Recent findings have confirmed rumours that Nystrup Gravel took delivery of a one cylinder oil engine loco between 1908 and 1910. In 1918 the company acquired their first steam loco. From the late 1920’s Danish built petrol locos supplanted the steam locos. The first diesel loco was a Fowler bought in 1933 as part of Nystrup Gravel's expansion to meet the demand for gravel to the many government construction projects to fight unemployment. By the late 1940’s the steam locos were used less and less.

The Fowler outside the loco shed. probably photographed shortly after delivery as the loco is still devoid of numbering. Photo: Beldringe Local Historical Society.

The company maintained a most unusual feature for a Danish industrial railway – two bogie coaches for transport of workers to and from the work sites. There are indications that the company even allowed non employees to use the trains, making the railway one of the very few Danish industrial lines that carried passengers. The origin of the coaches remains unknown, but they could have been acquired in the 1930's for an unemployment project.
The last steam loco with the company's two coaches. 1953. The photo is probably a staged shot as the train appear to be stationary. Notice the Chevrolet lorry passing over the viaduct.

During the German occupation of Denmark 1940-1945 the Germans started to build an air field not far from Nystrup. Nystrup Gravel supplied a lot of gravel to the construction site. The company didn't miss the opportunity to make good profits during the occupation - even working in two shifts during the summer months. The gravel was so needed that a loco from a German contractor was employed on the gravel line. After the war the company took advantage of the many machines used at the air field and acquired several of them. One of Nystrup Gravel's 600 mm. lines passed close by the outer defensive perimeter of the air field and the railway was unique among Danish industrial railways in having a view to several machine gun nests from the train. Nystrup Gravel's director Holm was for a short period after the war accused of collaboration with the German occupiers because of his efforts to raise production. No official charges were made, however, and he was released from captivity after a few days in May 1945.
'Stalin' -  a huge Soviet tractor salvaged from the nearby German air field after the war.
Gravel production at Nystrup Gravel gradually dwindled through the mid 1960's and the last load of gravel delivered in 1969. The company was finally dissolved in the late 1970´s. The gravel business in Denmark changed during the late sixties and as the management of Nystrup Gravel never seriously took modern machinery into consideration gravel from Nystrup wasn't competitive. As the major stock owner, director Holm, wanted to retire and pull out his money for retirement in sunny Spain the company is now history - and a model. Some of the old gravel pits were bought by a British company - Conglomerate Aggregates - and they emptied the acquired areas completely of gravel to a much greater depth than Nystrup Gravel could have managed.

Unless noted otherwise the photos above are from the Skovby Local Historical Archive.

More recent discoveries from the railway and its environments:
The two Billard-locos at Nystrup Gravel.
An inventory of skips at Nystrup Gravel.
From the archives: correspondance with loco manufacturers.
Fowler diesel loco