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Right side hall - Expo Brussels 1935

Right side hall at the Exhibition Expo Brussels 1935
© L'Epi
Architect(s) : Jos. Van Neck

Divided into three central corridors and two side aisles, it contained the sections of metallurgy, mechanical industry, electricity, mining and mining equipment. At the entrance a huge map of Belgium was laid flat on the floor. On this map a number of bulbs pointed out all the communes of the kingdom that are electrified, indicated the places where electricity is supplied to industries by private distributors, and showed the main high voltage lines.

The Union des Exploitations électriques completed the visitor's knowledge of this social and industrial aspect of our country by means of graphics and dioramas.

Large-scale industry was particularly well represented: huge steel ingots weighing up to 25 tons, beams of various profiles, U and T-irons, rails, bearing plates, sheets, special construction steels, etc., etc. were on display. One of our main factories exhibited a large steam locomotive.

Most of our collieries; water pipe manufacturers; rolling mills also had a remarkable participation. In addition to the natural or manufactured products they exhibited, they presented with the help of graphics the various social works of which they are the promoters.

Among the industrial participations, those of the factories manufacturing mining equipment deserve a special mention.

This equipment requires great robustness as well as rare precision and easy handling. Tools, engines, bridges, cranes, roller frames, etc., must be tested by severe reactions in order not only to increase production but also to save the energy of the workers and to spare their health and even their lives.

Therefore, some Belgian companies have specialised in this type of manufacture: industrial locomotives of all types and powers, special wagons, automatic or not; cranes, travelling cranes, roller frames, light metal descent hoods; mine drainage piping; electric or pneumatic cutters; impact bars; pick hammers; electrical equipment; safety cables, oscillating corridors; compressed air motors for these corridors; ventilation piping.

As everyone knows, Belgium occupies a leading position in the field of metallurgy and the exploitation of underground resources.

The iron industry, which dates back to Roman times, took off in the early 19th century. In 1817, the Cockerill factories were founded.

From 1830 onwards, a number of discoveries contributed to its primary importance: the substitution of coke for wood as a fuel in blast furnaces; the creation of the first railways; and advances in electricity and technology, which made it possible to use the rich iron deposits of Lorraine and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The Belgian metallurgical industry includes the manufacture of cast iron, steel and finished iron.

The former resulted in a production of 2,745,000 tons in 1933 against 690,000 in 1880.

The share of our country in world production is about 5.58 p. c.

62 blast furnaces exist in Belgium. Although only 45 were in operation in 1934 because of the economic crisis, they absorbed 2,471,520 tons of coke, almost all of which came from indigenous coking plants, and employed 4,359 workers at the end of 1933.

The manufacture of steel and iron has expanded considerably since 1890. At the end of 1933 the number of steelworks in operation was 33, with a consumption of cast iron of nearly 3 million tons, of which only 2.68 p. c. came from abroad, and a workforce of 6,428 workers.

As for the rolling mills, they numbered 39, with 154 trains and a workforce of 19,327 workers.
The finished products include merchant steels, special sections, rails and sleepers, tyres and axles, beams, bars, serpentine steels, thick and thin plates.

Belgium's contribution to world crude steel production in 1933 was more than 4 per cent.
It is true that the crisis which is gripping the world has hit the Belgian metallurgical industry, but whereas from 1929 to 1933 the fall in world production of cast iron and steel was 47 p. a., the corresponding fall recorded for Belgium alone was 33.6 p. c.

As for the zinc industry, it is dependent on foreign countries. Only the Moresnet and Montzen deposits produce crude zinc. This production amounted in 1934 to 85,000 tons.

Rolled zinc, whose annual production varies from 45,000 to 55,000 tons, occupied 6 factories and 870 workers in 1934.

The quarries, for their part, are particularly prosperous in Belgium. The main quarrying basins in the country are the Porphyry and Sandstone Quarries, which mainly supply paving stones for all types of roads and gravel for roads and concrete; the quarries for building stones, limestone, etc.

The underground quarries number 206 and normally employ 2,216 workers; the open-cast quarries number 710 and employ 28,911 workers.

The most important products are rubble, stone and ballast, with 4 1/2 million tons; then in order of importance chalk and marl for cement factories; lime; natural cement; plastic earth; dolomite; porphyry paving stones; limestone slabs and tiles, etc.

In 1930 the value of all quarry production amounted to 931,060,000 francs.

As for exports, in 1930 they reached 383 million francs for cements; 102 for fibre cement slabs and tiles; 83 for lime; 51 for crushed stone and 88 for works in marble or other cut stone.

But it is not only in the field of quarrying that our country has made a name for itself abroad, it is in the field of cement manufacturing. This industry is very old. At the beginning of the 19th century, Roman cement was made by firing the clay-limestone rocks found in the Boom area in kilns, and natural cement was also made using the clay limestone found in the Tournai area.

In 1824, the Englishman Aspdin invented artificial cement under the name of Portland cement.
It was not until 1870 that Portland cement factories were opened in Belgium. However, this industry soon took off in Belgium to such an extent that there are currently 31 factories, 30 of which are equipped with rotary kilns.

The materials used are chalk and clay, of which there are considerable deposits in the country. Some factories use hard limestone mixed with clay or shale; others use mixtures of clayey limestone.

Much progress has been made in the preparation of the raw materials; in the kiln system and in the grinding apparatus.

Portland cement production, which was 150,000 tons in 1890, reached 3,200,000 tons in 1929. Although the crisis subsequently reduced production figures, production capacity has increased to the point where the annual figure is now around 4 million tonnes.

All the factories produce cement of the highest quality. Some of them have successfully undertaken the production of special cements, such as fast-hardening and high-strength cements.

Of the 3,200,000 tonnes of cement produced in Belgium in 1929, 2 million were exported, representing a turnover of about 192 million francs.

This industry also contributes to the activity of a large number of related industries: transport, coal, barley, paper, jute, construction and electricity.

The percentage of Belgian production in the manufacture of artificial cement is around 4 p.c.
As far as mining is concerned, the Belgian coalfield covers an area of 1,400 square kilometres. It is divided into two fractions: the western deposit comprising the basins of Mons, the Centre and Charleroi; the eastern deposit straddling the Meuse, including Liège and extending to the Dutch border. More recently a new deposit has been brought into production in the Campine.
The Belgian basin is divided into six districts, namely: the Mons couchant, the Centre, Charleroi - Namur, Liège and Limburg.

The Belgian mines are connected to the French river system by the Sambre, to the port of Rotterdam by the Meuse, and to Brussels and Antwerp by the Scheldt and its tributaries.

In 1934, the coal industry employed a monthly average of 125,114 workers, bottom and surface combined. The total production of coal in that year was 26 million 365,760 tonnes.

Coal-based industries are very important in Belgium. In 1934 the production of coke amounted to 4,363,230 tonnes, while that of agglomerates, briquettes and other products reached 1 million 350,770 tonnes.

© Le Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles 1935