August Borsig

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Portrait of August Borsig Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12815, August Borsig.jpg
Portrait of August Borsig

Johann Friedrich August Borsig (23 June 1804 – 6 July 1854) was a German businessman who founded the Borsig-Werke factory.


Borsig was born in Breslau (Wrocław), the son of cuirassier and carpenter foreman Johann George Borsig. After learning his father's trade, he first attended the Königliche Provinzial-Kunst- und Bauschule (Royal Provincial Art and Building school), then until fall of 1825 the Königliche Gewerbe-Institut (Royal Institute of Trade). He received his practical training in engine construction at the Neue Berliner Eisengießerei (New Iron Foundry of Berlin) of F. A. Egells, where one of his first tasks was the assembly of a steam engine in Waldenburg, Silesia. After the successful completion of this task, Borsig was made factory manager for eight years. In 1828, he married Louise Pahl; they had one son, Albert.

Wrocław Place in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland

Wrocław is a city in western Poland and the largest city in the historical region of Silesia. It lies on the banks of the River Oder in the Silesian Lowlands of Central Europe, roughly 350 kilometres (220 mi) from the Baltic Sea to the north and 40 kilometres (25 mi) from the Sudeten Mountains to the south. The population of Wrocław in 2018 was 639,258, making it the fourth-largest city in Poland and the main city of Wrocław agglomeration.

Cuirassier type of cavalry first appearing in late 15th-century Europe

Cuirassiers were cavalry equipped with armour and firearms, first appearing in late 15th-century Europe. The first cuirassiers were produced as a result of armoured cavalry, such as the man-at-arms and demi-lancer, discarding their lances and adopting the use of pistols as their primary weapon. In the later 17th century, the cuirassier lost his limb armour and subsequently employed only the cuirass, and sometimes a helmet. By this time, the sword was the primary weapon of the cuirassier, pistols being relegated to a secondary function.

Steam engine Heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid

A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid. The steam engine uses the force produced by steam pressure to push a piston back and forth inside a cylinder. This pushing force is transformed, by a connecting rod and flywheel, into rotational force for work. The term "steam engine" is generally applied only to reciprocating engines as just described, not to the steam turbine.

August Borsig and his company

Borsig steam locomotive 06-18 type 2-8-2 made in 1930.

From early on, Borsig was a supporter of railroads. Despite the lack of experience with railroads in Germany and the risks involved in the founding of a railroad machinery manufacturing company, Borsig used his savings to buy a site at Chausseestraße (in the Feuerland ) near the Oranienburger Tor, neighboring his old company's factory, and founded his own machine factory, focusing on locomotives. The founding date was declared to be 22 July 1837, the day of the first successful casting in the foundry.

Feuerland was a popular 19th century designation for the industrial nucleus of Berlin. It was located in the historic Oranienburger Vorstadt section of Berlin in today’s district Berlin-Mitte. The word literally means “land of fire”, but it is also a play on words as "Feuerland" is the German name for another geographical location, namely Tierra del Fuego.

Locomotive railway vehicle that provides the motive power for a train

A locomotive or engine is a rail transport vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. If a locomotive is capable of carrying a payload, it is usually rather referred to as multiple units, motor coaches, railcars or power cars; the use of these self-propelled vehicles is increasingly common for passenger trains, but rare for freight.

Technical drawing of the first steam locomotive (1840) Borsig.jpg
Technical drawing of the first steam locomotive (1840)

Despite tremendous costs, the first locomotive, bearing factory number 1 and the name BORSIG, was finished in 1840. This locomotive had an interior frame, a two-axle front pivoted bogie and an extra dead axle behind the only drive axle. On 21 July 1840, Borsig let it compete against a Stephenson-built locomotive on the Berlin-Jüterbog railroad. The Borsig locomotive won by 10 minutes, proving that in spite of the lack of experience, Germans could build locomotives that were at least as good as the British models, and so the import of locomotives and engineers was no longer necessary. After this victory, the number of orders rose quickly. A further six machines of this type were sold to the Berlin-Stettiner Eisenbahn and the Oberschlesische Eisenbahn in 1842.

Bogie wheeled wagon or trolley

A bogie is a chassis or framework that carries a wheelset, attached to a vehicle—a modular subassembly of wheels and axles. Bogies take various forms in various modes of transport. A bogie may remain normally attached or be quickly detachable ; it may contain a suspension within it, or be solid and in turn be suspended ; it may be mounted on a swivel, as traditionally on a railway carriage or locomotive, additionally jointed and sprung, or held in place by other means.

George Stephenson English civil engineer and mechanical engineer

George Stephenson was an English civil engineer and mechanical engineer. Renowned as the "Father of Railways", Stephenson was considered by the Victorians a great example of diligent application and thirst for improvement. Self-help advocate Samuel Smiles particularly praised his achievements. His chosen rail gauge, sometimes called 'Stephenson gauge', was the basis for the 4 feet 8 12 inches (1,435 mm) standard gauge used by most of the world's railways.

In the beginning, the Borsig company also built steam engines for their own needs and machines for other companies as well as cast parts for art and construction. However, the focus soon shifted to locomotive building, and the name Borsig is connected with locomotives to this day. By 1843, railway companies in Prussia had ordered 18 locomotives, and in 1844, Borsig could exhibit his 24th locomotive at the Berlin industrial fair. The one hundredth locomotive was finished in 1846. Meanwhile, Borsig built the steam pump for the fountain at Sanssouci and participated in the building of the domes of the Nicolai Church in Potsdam and the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). The company was expanding rapidly in those years, since new railways were being built all over Germany. In 1847, construction of the new Moabit ironworks started and they became operational in 1849. The machine factory and iron foundry in Kirchstraße was bought in 1850, and this put the total number of employees at the three Berlin factories at 1800, making Borsig's company one of the large-scale enterprises of its time.

Prussia state in Central Europe between 1525–1947

Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital in Königsberg and from 1701 in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.

Sanssouci palace in Potsdam, Germany

Sanssouci was the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, near Berlin. It is often counted among the German rivals of Versailles. While Sanssouci is in the more intimate Rococo style and is far smaller than its French Baroque counterpart, it too is notable for the numerous temples and follies in the park. The palace was designed/built by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff between 1745 and 1747 to fulfill King Frederick's need for a private residence where he could relax away from the pomp and ceremony of the Berlin court. The palace's name emphasises this; it is a French phrase, which translates as "without concerns", meaning "without worries" or "carefree", symbolising that the palace was a place for relaxation rather than a seat of power. The name in past times reflected a play on words, with the insertion of a comma visible between the words Sans and Souci, viz. Sans, Souci. Kittsteiner theorizes that this could be a philosophical play on words, meaning "without a worry/concern" or it could be some secret personal message which nobody has interpreted, left to posterity by Frederick II.

St. Nicholas Church, Potsdam church

St. Nicholas' Church in Potsdam is a Lutheran church under the Evangelical Church in Berlin, Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia of the Evangelical Church in Germany on the Old Market Square in Potsdam. The central plan building in the Classicist style and dedicated to Saint Nicholas was built to plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the years 1830 to 1837. The tambour of the 77 metre high church that towers above the roofs of the city was built later, from 1843 to 1850. Its construction was taken over by Ludwig Persius and, from 1845, Friedrich August Stüler.

Gate of the former Borsig-Werke factory in Berlin Borsigwerke B-Tegel 07-2017 img2.jpg
Gate of the former Borsig-Werke factory in Berlin

The increasing number of orders also increased Borsig's private wealth, and he soon became a rich entrepreneur who was not averse to splendor and a patron for many artists. August Borsig was said to be a strict but just boss with a zest for action. For his workers, he set up a sickness fund, a funeral expense fund, and a savings bank. His company had an instruction room, a dining room and a bath with swimming pool.

Borsig steam locomotive used on the Warsaw-Vienna railway Borsig steam locomotive.jpg
Borsig steam locomotive used on the Warsaw-Vienna railway

Borsig had become sufficiently important by the end of the 1840s that he was able to weather the economic crisis of 1848-1852 with little damage. Starting 1851, foreign railway companies also began to order Borsig locomotives, among them the Warsaw-Vienna Railway and the Seeländische Eisenbahn. After the 500th locomotive had been completed in 1854, Borsig was made Geheimer Kommerzienrat (Secret Commerce Councillor). This allowed him to tighten his monopoly position, and 67 of the 68 new Prussian locomotives in 1854 came from Borsig factories.

Some years earlier, his magnificent villa in Berlin-Moabit had been completed, fulfilling a dream of Borsig's. However, he could not enjoy his wealth for very long. He died in Berlin on 6 July 1854, at the height of his power.

Moabit Quarter of Berlin in Germany

Moabit is an inner city locality in the borough of Mitte, Berlin, Germany. As of 2016, around 77,000 people lived in Moabit. First inhabited in 1685 and incorporated into Berlin in 1861, the former industrial and working class neighbourhood is fully surrounded by three watercourses which define its present-day border. Between 1945 and 1990, Moabit was part of the British sector of West Berlin directly bordering East Berlin.

Further history of the company

After the death of August Borsig, the company was led and expanded by his son August Julius Albert Borsig.

On the occasion of the completion of the 1000th locomotive, a large celebration with many prominent guests was held, among them the explorer Alexander von Humboldt. At this time, the company that had started out with 50 workers, had 2800 employees. It continued its expansion, and moved some part of its production to Zabrze in Silesia in 1862. In 1872, Borsig was the largest locomotive producer in Europe. Albert Borsig co-founded the Maschinenfabrik Deutschland on the Köln-Mindener Eisenbahn line in Dortmund but the most successful chapter in the Borsig business history ended with Albert's death in 1878.

The company continued to be led mostly by Borsig family members and continued to build large numbers of locomotives, but it began to lose market share to other traffic-related companies. The company moved to Tegel, a former suburb of Berlin. The works was inaugurated in 1898. The Tegel works area was one of the most modern facilities in Germany at that time. It had its own harbour where the ships brought the material for the locomotives. The works itself had long road with every production step at its place. The end of this production lane was the BORSIG Gate. The brand new locomotives left the works through this gate. The company also developed new products that are still part of the current manufacturing program: pressure vessels and compressors. The Great Depression made an end the success of BORSIG as a private company. By 1930, the company was on the verge of liquidation, the locomotive business was saved by a merger with AEG. Borsig built a number of famous locomotives, among which was the world speed record holder DRG Class 05, the first steam locomotive to hit 200 km/h. The last of a total of 16,352 locomotives was built in 1954. The rest of the company went to Rheinmetall.

Johann Friedrich August Borsig's family tomb on the Dorotheenstadtischer Friedhof graveyard, after a sketch by Heinrich Strack Berlin Erbbegraebnis Borsig AS.jpg
Johann Friedrich August Borsig's family tomb on the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof graveyard, after a sketch by Heinrich Strack

BORSIG today

The memorial pictured in 2007 in the Berlin cemetery Borsig-tomb.JPG
The memorial pictured in 2007 in the Berlin cemetery

After World War II, the company was called Borsig AG, owned by Rheinmetall (as Rheinmetall-Borsig) and later by VIAG, a company owned by the German Federal Republic. In 1970, Borsig was sold to the private company Deutsche Babcock AG, later known as Babcock Borsig AG. In July 2002, Borsig had to reorganize due to the insolvency of its mother company, Babcock Borsig AG, Oberhausen. In 2004, Borsig bought ZM Zwickauer Maschinenfabrik, a manufacturer of reciprocating compressors and blowers, today known as BORSIG ZM Compression GmbH, situated in Meerane/Saxony. In 2006, Borsig bought the industrial boiler manufacturer DIM KWE, today BORSIG Boiler Systems GmbH. Today the BORSIG Group consists of six companies:

In 2008 the whole BORSIG Group got a new owner, the KNM Group Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The actual product and service programme of the BORSIG Group consists of pressure vessels, heat exchangers, process gas waste heat recovery systems, quench coolers, scraped surface exchangers, reciprocating compressors for process gases, turbo compressors for process gases, reciprocating compressors for CNG filling stations, blowers and blowers systems, compressor valves, membrane technologies, such as emission control units, vapour recovery systems, gas conditioning, advanced separations, industrial boilers, power plant engineering, power plant services and industrial services.

See also

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This article is based on a translation of the German article August Borsig, which cites the following references: