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English   Henschel Kassel plant
19.08.2010 von admin

German version

Henschel Kassel plant
  • An eventful existence: the Kassel plant replaced the Henschel star with the Mercedes star in 1969
  • Beginnings as a gun and bell foundry
  • Major success with locomotives and commercial vehicles
  • Now Europe's largest axle plant

The "Dragon" - the first locomotive made by Henschel

Today the Kassel plant employs some 3000 staff, with a product range that includes axles for all kinds of commercial vehicles. Kassel is Europe's largest axle plant.

Yet this specialisation is a fairly recent phenomenon. Moreover, the history of the plant – due to celebrate its 200th anniversary next year – could hardly be more colourful. For well over 150 years its history has been associated with the name Henschel, a name that is as illustrious today as it always was: back in the 18th century, the Henschels ran their own foundry business. And in 1810, Georg Christian Carl Henschel set up the business in Kassel we now know as the "Mercedes-Benz Kassel plant". The same business has well over 10 million axles to its name – axles that are used on the most disparate vehicles bearing the star on the radiator grille.

Interlude involving bridge and shipbuilding

The Henschel Foundry in Kassel started out life with a range of disparate products including bells and guns. Things took off quickly in the early days of industrialisation: the plant employed 200 staff in 1837, with the company constantly looking to move into new business segments. Only a few years after its foundation, the company's remit encompassed mechanical engineering, bridge and shipbuilding, including everything right through to the fully-fledged steamship, which Henschel launched as an inland vessel under the affable name "Eduard" in 1848.

Meanwhile, Henschel christened its first locomotive with the fairly dramatic albeit uninspired choice of “Drache” (dragon). A mere five years later, its older brother "Eduard" would stomp out of the workshops, opening up another major chapter in the history of the Kassel plant. The early days of locomotive production may well have appeared modest. Yet over the next 30 years Henschel would produce more than 1000 locomotives; by the time of the production site's centenary in 1910, production had increased a staggering tenfold – the 10,000th locomotive was being built in the Henschel workshops. The factory was now running full steam ahead: the total number of Henschel locomotives produced then quickly doubled to 20,000 units in 1923.

However, the severe economic downturn and inflation brought the booming business to a sudden stop. 1924 saw just 100 firm orders, while in 1925 new orders came to a grinding halt. Oscar Robert Henschel – just 25 at the time and set to be the last member of the Henschel family in charge in Kassel – took over the company reins in this challenging environment.

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