INDUSTRIAL PAST AND TOURISTIC FUTURE
Like in the evolution of the computers, several generations of furnaces were built in Resita. The Resiţa furnace in the TMK area can be regarded today as an “electronic tablet” on which today’s tourist can see the Fire Citadel in the “electronic cloud”.
Turning the Reşiţa Funicular into a “suspended alley” for a high-altitude touristic walk means seeing Resita from above with all its touristic sights: the blast furnace (1961), the welded bridge on Bârzava (1937), the steam locomotive museum (1972), the kinetic fountain (1984) and its picturesque stadium.
Travelling through Resita on the way to Mount Semenic or to the ” chain of lakes” on the Bârzava River, tourists can stop for a moment in their way to see two “testimonies” of the former Industrial Reşiţa, which will soon become two touristic sights on the “Banat Iron Road” and of the future Open – air Museum of Banat Technique and Industry.
This museum will not be a museum for the blast furnace or a cable railway from the industrial centre of the city, but a gallery of labour and life of “Reşiţa”, at this top location from the Southeast Europe of metallurgy and machine-building carried on for 220 years, from 1771 to 1991.
The shade of the first furnaces built in Resita can be seen near the furnace no. 2 at Resita Montana, which can be seen past the CSR passage, in the premises of today’s TMK Company Resita. This is where the history of the Reşiţa industry started. It happened more than half a century after the expulsion of the Turks from Banat (1716-1718) on the 3rd of July 1771, when the fire was lit in the first two furnaces named Franciscus and Josephus during the reign of Maria Theresa , Empress of the Austrian Empire.
The Resita Furnace no. 2, with 700 cubic feet and 60 m high, can be an electronic tablet for the information-age man, from which cloud computing can be seen by downloading a batch of cast iron, pouring ingots steel or rolling a rail.
As in the evolution of computers, several generations of furnaces were built in Resita, during the main stages of evolution of the Resita plants.
The first generation was the furnaces built in 1771, which operated with charcoal brought from the forests of the Mountainous Banat. It is the stage of the Erarium (1771-1854), during which the Resita’s factories belonged to the Austrian Fiscal Administration, which was pursuing the activity through the mining directorate of Banat with the headquarters in Oraviţa. It is worth noting that the first furnaces in Banat were built at Oraviţa in 1718, at Bocşa in 1719 (Alt Werk) and in 1722 (Neu Werk) and then at Dognecea in 1723. [Kladiva O., 2009].
The second generation was built during St.E.G. period (1855-1920), when Resita’s factories were “privatised” and taken over by the National Company of the State Railways of Austria (abbreviated St.E. G), an international consortium constituted with French, Austrian, Belgian and English capital. [Farcaş D., 2008]
Thus, in 1893, the three charcoal furnaces were demolished and two new, 17-meter high coal-fired furnaces were built. The gradual replacement of charcoal with anthracite coal in the blast furnaces and kilns led to the salvation of the country’s woods from being cut down, and consequently Caraş-Severin County is still among the most forests -rich counties from the country.
The first Bessemer converters for steel production are put into operation in 1868 in the vicinity of the furnaces, and in 1876 the first Siemens-Martin furnaces are built, also for the production of steel.
After the end of World War I (1914-1918) and the unification of Banat with Romania, the period of UDR (1920-1948) followed – meaning Steel Works and Domains of Resita, in which they renounced permanently to the use of charcoal in the two furnaces, after the first one was upgraded in 1923, and the second one in 1936, both with a capacity of 250 cubic meters. For a short period (1931-1933), that of the world economic crisis, the two furnaces were stopped.
After the Second World War (1939-1945), on June 11th 1948, “the UDR society was nationalised and dismantled. Reşiţa enterprises became for many years Romanian-Soviet companies (sovroms!), for covering war compensation due to USSR. “[Farcas D., 2008].
The third and final generation of furnaces dates back to 1961, when two modern blast furnaces of 700 cubic meters and with a height of 60 m were built at a distance of 40 m from those with 250 cubic meters. It was the CMR period (1954-1962), when there was only one Metallurgic Compound at Resita.
Since 1962, steel is separated from machine-construction, and the CSR (1962-2004) and UCMR (1962-2004) period follows. In 1986, the first process computers are introduced in operating, both at the blast furnaces and also at the Siemens-Martin steelworks.
After the 1989 Revolution, the intention to turn the good in excelent was not always successful, especially in the market economy. After 220 years of “unquenchable fire,” the furnaces were considered “a pile of scrap metal” and on September 13th 1991, the last furnace was finally shut down. Furthermore, Furnace no. 1 was demolished by implosion at the end of 2004. Only Furnace no. 2 remains for becoming a museum piece for the remembrance of the “Fire Citadel”.
The Siderurgic Plant of Resita, after elaborating the first batch in the modern steelworks in 1999, was initially privatised in 2000 by the purchasing of shares by the American company Noble Ventures Inc and then by the “repeated” privatisation, but this time by the TMK Russian company, at the “price of 1 euro” in 2004.
Still in 2004 the Reşiţa Machine Plant became a joint stock company within the Swiss group INET AG.
With 3D scenic images, visitors will be able to experience the unseen iron road from the ore to the steel, as it is told today by the tourist guide. The iron ore was brought from Ocna de Fier, the charcoal from the Lend stands, and the limestone from the Cross Hill and the Doman Valley quarries, while the coke was produced in 1864 from the black coal (anthracite) of the Secu and Doman mines.
The Reşiţa cableway, built between 1963 and 1964, is a “testimony” of the ingeniously thoughtful transport system of limestone from the Doman valley quarry. The imposing structure is like a 3.5 km long bridge, 700 m of this distance crosses the city, marking the border between Reşiţa Montană (on the right bank of Bârzava) and Resita Română (on the left bank of Bârzava).
The line of the cable railway crosses with the railway in the centre, on which the very first industrial machines from Resita have circulated for the first time: the steam locomotives (1872), the hydraulic turbines (1946) and the large naval diesel engines (1977).
Over the Bârzava River, under the cable railway, you will also see the second welded metal bridge, with a 32 m opening, made in Romania in 1937. The first welded bridge was also built in Resita in the 1930s in the Resita district Stavila .
With your eyes on the limestone cableway pillars, you will also hear the story of timber transport systems from the Semenic forests, for example the one from 1783, called “log floating” in the waters of Barzava, in “artificial waves”, and the removal of the logs from the water with the three “rakes”. One of these was in the place where today lies the first hydroelectric plant in Romania, called “Grebla” (Rake), whose beautiful industrial construction can be seen in Lend district. The 38 km between Klaus and Reşiţa-Lend were covered in 6-7 hours. The woods removed from the water were stacked on the bank and let to dry. Then, by burning in the “pile mounds”, the wood was turned into charcoal.
“The transport of wood on the waterway of Barzava was followed by the one performed on the monumental Semenic-Grebla canal system, built between 1902 and 1904, having an important hydropower role.” [Meila M., 2011]
The canal system, built along the main course of the Bârzava River, forms a network of 10 canals running the water on a length of 78 km through 10 tunnels, 5 metal aqueducts and 11 brick ones, water cascades and forced ducts. The work still impresses with its shape, innovation and elegance over the entire 1040m fall between Semenic and the Grebla hydroelectric plant from Resita.
Coming from the mountain, you will see Resita as a “plant-city” settlement. In Reşiţa Montană, are standing face to face, the furnace no. 2 and the “Cathedral” of the inhabitants from Resita, namely the Orthodox Christian church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, accompanied by the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. You cannot tell if there is a city between the factories or the factories constitute the city itself. From the old “Corso” in Reşiţa only the Workers’ House is missing, being destroyed after the fire occurred on August 15th 2002, on Saint Mary’s Day. It is said that the theatre hall of the Workers’ House, inaugurated in 1936, was one of the most beautiful Banat theatres, and the number of 888 seats suggested the daily division of a day’s worker: 8 hours of work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours of leisure time for recreation.
Beyond the technical testimonies for the industrial cultural tourism, Resita means “a way to work, in respect for labour and craft. (…) There is a morality of labour and a respect for a work well done. Whoever was trained in the “school” of Reşiţa does not conceive to work superficially, or not to confirm his words with his deeds. The trade test becomes a test of humanity. There is a certain reserve in the mentality of the Reşiţa inhabitants, a slowed reaction that does not come from hesitation but, on the contrary, from a confidence and an inner silence. This balance gave him the safety that the presence of each Reşiţa inhabitant was necessary, that no one could take away his profession, and that his work had to be recognised. “[Martin M., 1971]
Being a Resita native means first and foremost that you have been trained here as a human being and as a craftsman, it also means that you are always consumed by the restlessness of the new and the feeling of the safety of “tomorrow” or the certainty to have “a place under the sun “. It is the geometric locus of the passion for work, for labour discipline, for moral beauty, and for the completion of the human stages.
Those who have no traces of fire on their hands cannot prove that they come from Resita. It’s like taking a wild, red, overwhelmingly red apple that you have broken with your hands to quench your hunger and thirst.
It is an Austrian heritage, a Western heritage, in which the German education of those who were sent by the empire to these lands was grafted on the local spirituality of the Romanians and the result was “the Banat pride”.
“The Banat inhabitants do not boast, but proudly say what they have done and what is the obvious. For those around them it seems to be like a praise because they have not managed to do anything comparable to that” says, after the 10 minutes, the famous sculptor of light and stainless steel, Constantin Lucaci. [Sgaverdia D., 2008].
“A successful industry is the one built to manufacture, to produce a skilful work through science, art and passion.” [Lungu I and Popovici Gh., 2010].
Resita is the only place where steam locomotives have been manufactured between 1872 and 1964, out of which 16 pieces can be seen in the open-air museum of the city.
The steel made in Resita has entered (partially, of course) in the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and of the Anghel Saligny bridge in Cernavoda.
Resita is the producer of the turbines of the Great Power Plant at the Iron Gates.
In order to obtain the “batches” for the blast furnaces, the Romanians from Banat were supplemented with waves of settlers from all nations: the Germans (primarily the Austrians from Styria and Carinthia), the Bohemians, the Slovaks, the Italians, the French and the Spaniards, and last but not least , the Hungarians, Croats and Serbs from the neighbouring countries.
The first wave of colonisation took place between 1718 and 1740, also called the “Carolingian Colonisation”. At the same time, from Oltenia came the “Bufens” used for cutting wood in the forests, for preparating the charcoal and for carrier activities.
During the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, the second wave of colonization took place (1744-1772), called “The Theresian Colonization”.
During the time of Emperor Joseph II, the third wave of colonization (1782-1787) was organised, called the “Josephine Colonization”.
Those who came from over the mountains called the natives “frătuţi / little brother,” and these, in turn named them “Buffens” and later “Venetics.”
The time travel will not end without seeing the retro film of the furnace and the SF film of the cable railway.
Once upon a time … there was a furnace, an oven, a mill, a cast of iron, a steel ingot, a locomotive. By imagining the furnace, one can see how it was “filled with iron ore, coals and lime, which came in the wagons on a high scaffold at the top entrance. Using 3D glasses you can make a “zoom” into the hearth of the furnace to see how “the stone cries iron tears “. Finally, the furnace is emptied to the bottom when “molten iron flowed like milk through clay ditches into a large, lined chamber. And in its flow it threw billions of stars, with bright parables filling the hall with magic colours.” [Bureau V.,1982].
Near the furnace one can see the Siemens-Martin furnaces where, by using some pliers, the blast furnace blocks from the furnace were thrown together with the old iron piles and steel ingots coming out of the casting pot. People naked to the waist were watching the melting of the metal by the fire, sweating profoundly, while the slag was blackening the face of the steelworkers. Then the track of steel ingots will be watched down the track to the rolling mill. This is where the “titanic” battle took place between the rollers and the semi-finished products, to “domesticate” them into rails, sheet metal, bars, profiles and wire. Every day, the plant was working in three shifts of 8 hours each starting at 7, 15 and 23 hours. These were the hours when “duda” (the alarm of the plant) issued a short sound for starting the work, after an hour or so before it had called up all the workers to labour with a prolonged sound, keeping alive the “continuous fire” of the birth of steel.
Living in smoke and steel explosions, Reşiţa inhabitants have the delicate science of clean air, trees and plants. At Resita, “whoever works in the plant swallowed more smoke than a locomotive“, and “the one who drank water from Bârzava no longer lives this place.“
In the past, the area was always polluted. Fine dusts, being carried first through the air, slowly returned to the ground, and dust settled on the houses, on the streets, on the clothes. The white shirts could only be worn in the city for a day, after which they needed to be washed. Watching the smoke of the factory towers, the Reşiţa inhabitants could predict the weather. When the winds chased the smoke toward Ţerova, rain was coming. After a rain, the waters would redden the streets.
Turning the Reşiţa Cableway into a “suspended alley” for a touristic path exists only in the locals’ imagination, but it can become a reality in the near future. And, continuing the way to the “Emblem” on the hill, one can arrange a unique touristic stop, as a belvedere place to admire the beautiful panorama of the city.
At Resita, the present has always escaped from the past and becomes future every day.