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Bertan > Bertan 16 Burdinaren Industria > Ingeles bertsioa: Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles

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Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles

137. Wheels leaving the forge.
137. Wheels leaving the forge.
If Patricio Echeverría was the driving force in Legazpi, Compañía Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles was the equivalent for the nearby town of Beasain. The company's origins date back to 1860 and the San Martin de Urbieta Iron Factory. During its first two years of operation, it only had two puddling furnaces and a cylinder rolling mill but the first charcoal-burning blast furnaces were added in 1862 and 1865.



136. CAF’s modern and advanced plant in Beasain has is important not only for the town but also for the entire area.
136. La moderna y avanzada planta de CAF en Beasain tiene una gran presencia no sólo en el municipio sino en toda la comarca.
The firm's promising future was cut short by the outbreak of the Second War of Spanish Succession, and it was not until after the end of the conflict that the company was re-launched under the name of Goitia y Cía. Metallurgy had changed considerably in the interim: coke furnaces and Bessemer converters-now in widespread use in the neighbouring province of Bizkaia-were the order of the day. Realising that he was unable to compete in this arena, Francisco de Goitia reoriented production and travelled to London to import the patents he needed for manufacture tin plate. The plant he developed was the first of its kind in all Spain.

135. Production line at CAF.
135. Production line at CAF.
On 16 April 1892 a new company was formed, La Maquinista Guipuzcoana, to manufacture all kinds of railway machinery and rolling stock, as well as metal constructions for buildings, bridges and works of all kinds. This new company had workshops for casting, trimming and reverberation, boilermaking, forging and fitting. The coach assembly department had carpentry, paint, decoration and draughting shops. The facilities were so large and complex that an intricate internal transport network had to be built to communicate all the different bays. As well as the production facilities, there was a turbine room, stores, offices and dwellings for the manager and workers.

Coaches and other rail parts formed the company's chief output and in order to corner the market and compete at an advantage, a new company, the Sociedad Española de Construcciones Metálicas, was founded in Bilbao in March 1901. A few months later work began on the building of a vast new manufacturing complex, the Beasain Coach Factory, on the site of the old San Martín works. On 1 February 1905 the company delivered its first order and just three years later it was already employing nearly 900 workers. (LEGORBURU FAUS, 1996).

138. Wheel shop.
138. Wheel shop.
Like Patricio Echeverría, the firm benefited enormously from Spain's neutrality during the First World War. Indeed, demand was so great that it led to problems when the firm was incapable of meeting all its orders and had to face penalisations as a result. This situation was resolved in 1917 with the renting of the coach factory by Compañía Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A., a firm which had been founded on 4 March of that year with an initial capital of three million pesetas. This transitory period lasted until 1925, when it finally took over the old Beasain Coach Factory. The registered activity of the new company was the construction, purchase, sale and rental of coaches and any other materials that may serve for the transport and operation of railways and tramways.

139. Machining the wheels.
139. Machining the wheels.
The facilities taken over by the newly created C.A.F. were essentially obsolete, with outmoded mechanical equipment. Productivity had to be increased and costs reduced to a minimum. The firm started by modernising the casting workshop, reducing fuel consumption, incorporating a Siemens Martin furnace and finally downsizing the workforce.

The 1920s saw rapid growth, motivated by growing demand from both domestic and foreign markets. The factory at Beasain produced all types of rolling stock: electric locomotives, railcars and trams, and catered to the state railway network, benefiting from the strong protectionist measures of the time. This sustained growth allowed the company to upgrade its facilities for manufacturing tyres for rail wheels, building new workshops for forging and rolling monobloc wheels.

140. Annealing ingot for the wheels.
140. Annealing ingot for the wheels.
But between 1931 and 1936 demand for coaches fell dramatically. The company had no alternative but to diversify. The result was a new line for manufacturing agricultural machinery and automobile parts. In addition, because of the saturation of the Spanish market, C.A.F. began to export to South America-Argentina and Uruguay-and the Near East, as well as making inroads on the Belgian and French markets.

141. Process of manufacturing monobloc wheels at CAF (Beasain).
141. Process of manufacturing monobloc wheels at CAF (Beasain).
After the Spanish Civil War, the company faced the problems of international isolation and the difficulties of post-war reconstruction. The 1950s saw new deregulation and development, which was to continue in the 1960s and 1970s. The result was the complete modernisation of the Beasain plant. In 1971 the firm Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles was set up, the culmination of a long process of business concentration. Using its initials C.A.F.-which have been maintained from 1917 right down to the present day-its coaches, trucks and locomotives travel the railways of the world.

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