Although LOUISE, Europe’s oldest briquette factory ceased operations in February 1992 its freshly plastered facades and renovated roofs give it a smart impression. For the workforce, who have remained loyal to the works, still maintain the buildings, restore machines and guide visitors around the various stages of production. The path of brown coal begins in the bunker. Here it is roughly crushed and then ground in disintegrators with the help of water. After that, during the drying process, the coal sweats out most of the water which has been absorbed. It is then taken to be cooled in the cooling house. Finally the press shapes the crushed coal into briquettes which are pushed into a channel to be loaded. Visitors can see, hear, feel, and smell all of this. The various different museum collections, including a workshop with transmission-driven tool machines, offer visitors a great deal of technical history.
The problem was nutty slack. It wouldn’t burn on the usual grate fires. What was to be done? The solution was to shape the slack into large pieces. In 1866 the first briquette press in the Lausitz went into operation and it soon became clear that the calorific value of these man-made briquettes was twice as high as that of rough coal. Factories shot up out of the ground, one of which was LOUISE which started operations in 1882. Its equipment consisted of two presses, four disc driers and four steam generators. Before excavators came on the scene the brown coal came from primitive drift mining shafts. Later, around 1900, these were linked by a chain railway to the neighbouring open-cast mine. From 1928 onwards the coal was transported in large volume tubs. The factory which had always been one of the smallest of its kind in the Lausitz at first produced briquettes under the most primitive conditions. To give but one example: the first time a lighting dynamo was used was in 1896. This generated electricity for lighting the plant and enabled the workers to dispense with the dangerous and ineffective system of petroleum lighting. In the following years a number of extensions were added to LOUISE. At the same time a lot of the old plants and machines from the early years were still in use. The oldest briquette press, for example, dates back to the year the works were opened.