Did you raise an eyebrow when you read the title of this post? Our local residents surely didn’t...
Many live by the rhythm of the steam whistle that resounds in the area on working days, at set times. It’s still operated by hand: one pull on the handle in the steam production hall is all that is needed to operate the whistle with the escaping steam.
The use of the steam whistle dates back to the early days, when it was used to notify the labourers – who often worked in noisy production units – that it was time to begin their day’s work, to have a break or to go home. Several timings are still in use today, but possibly some of them went out of use throughout the years.
Our steam production hall in the 1920s – 2000 kg of steam per hour per boiler
Traditionally on Good Friday, at 14.30 p.m., the steam whistle still blows for 15 seconds straight. Another tradition was to bake herring and black and white pudding on the boiling hot piping of the steam boilers every Friday. Better insulation of the installation resulted in this tradition disappearing years ago. That’s a pity, but then again, it wouldn’t be appropriate in any modern company nowadays.
Today our workers take their breaks with a shift system, but the steam whistle tradition still remains. And if the steam whistle happens to be faulty, it is repaired immediately. “Hasn’t it blown yet?” is a question you hear quite often around here if the boilerman happens to pull the handle somewhat later than usual. Some people are so familiar with the sound that they even know which boilerman is on call from the length of the whistle.
We employ four boilermen to ensure that one of them is always on site. Although they tend to work ‘behind the scenes', their position is crucial - no steam means no beer. Without them, the machinery wouldn’t work, the CO2 bottles wouldn’t be filled… So it’s only fair that every now and then they remind us of their presence!