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30th September 1924
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Page 18, 30th September 1924 — A VAST FRENCH LORRY FACTORY.
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Interesting Details of the Berliet Works at Lyons where an Output of 45 Lorries Per Day is Reached.

THE immense works from which Berliet commercial vehicles and cars are turned out in ever-increasing numbers and despatched to all parts of the world are on the outskirts of Lyons. The original works at Montplaisir, which for a long time was regarded as one of the most upto-date establishments of its kind, had finally to cede pride of place to a vast new factory at Venissieux, just outside the city on the banks of the Rhone. This new works is, as it were, a model factory, the whole being laid out on absolutely level ground, and, except for the drawing and administrative offices, all on the .ground floor, so that from the foundries at one end to the paint shops at the other the vehicle, in its gradually developing stages, passes unhampered through one shop after the other, growing as it goes. It is interesting to recall that when the Berliet concern was founded in 1899 the works only occupied a space of 265 sq. metres, whilst only four workers were employed. In 1024, that is, 25 years later, the works cover 1,200,000 sq. metres of territory and 10,000 workers build annually more than 22,500 commercial vehicles and pleasure cars. It is claimed that the Berliet works, which turns out 45 five ton lorries a day, has the biggest output of this type of vehicle in Europe, if not in the world.

In order to see and appreciate fully everything in this vast works one would need to spend a fortnight at Venissieux alone. As it is, to see what one can in a day makes the use of a car essential, so that one may walk through the long shops, meet the car at the other end and be taken to the next point of interest. The gunmetal and aluminium casting department occupies a considerable area, for, besides the moulding and pouring in of liquid, metaI, there have to be numerous machines for cleaning and washing the cooled castings. However, this process does not take very long, because the castings are unusually clean, partly owing to the good quality of metal employed and partly owing to the fine moulding it is possible to do with the sand brought from a point some miles out of the town. The finer articles are die-cast, for which there is a thoroughly up-to-date plant. We were impressed particularly by the cleanness of some lorry engine governor and radiator-top castings. Passing next into one of the assembly halls we inspected a char-à-banes chassis with an unusually low loading platform and very neat front-wheel brakes. The equipment of these chassis is most complete, as they have pneumatic tyres, self-starter and electric lighting, Tecalemit grease-gun lubrication and gravity oil feed from a tank on the dash to the universal joints in the transmission.

Close by, in the shipping department, we had an insight into the manner in which lorries and vans are sent to Loudon

as open chassis, but with radiators and bonnets boxed in. While, there we noted a, 30-cwt. chassis being crated for despatch to Melbourne and a 5-tan tipping lorry, also for Australia. Several taxis were also crated for despatch to Calcutta. Apart from road vehicles, the Bullet works construots a large number of petrol-engined locomotives for light and normal-gauge railways. Many of these are used in Morocco.

No char-A-bancs or motorbus pro. printer in France any longer even considers a vehicle with sand tyres. Tke majority of the Bernet heavy chassis are, therefore, supplied with giant pneumatics, 1,925 ram. by 185 mm. Michelin, with twin tyres on the rear wheels. Although pneumatics are, of toupee, more expensive than solid tyres in first cost, they give the advantage of much greater chassis reliability, owing to the reduced wear and tear on the transmission and suspension systems, whilst on had roads they permit of much higher speeds. It has been found, therefore, that with pneumatic tyres the periods for which passenger vehicles are m dock are greatly reduced. Small municillohties, which can ill afford to have separate fire-engines and street-washing water-carts, find a distinctly useful vehicle in the combined street-washer and fire-engine, mourned on e Bernet lorry shassis.

Sufficient water is carried to enable the fire to be sprayed if a hydrant supply is not immediately available. The connection for the fire hose is on what would be the near side in this country, while two sprayers for street watering are placed in front.

The lorry assembly shop is really

impressive, being approximately 250 yds. in length. The chassis. are assentNed en transporter chains and conveyed slowly forward as each new Part is added. When the works are at full pressure, 82 men assemble an this conveyor 45 lorries a day. At the end of the line the metal-to-metal brakes are run-in. The engine is started up, a gear engaged and the wheels kept revolving, the driver alternately applying and releasing the hand and foot brakes. This operation, which takes three hours, ensures the brakes being perfectly bedded down and at maximum efficiency before they leave the works.

A feature of the paint shops is that in the spray-painting cowls the operators do not need to wear respirators as in similar departments in England. The reason for this is that lead-painting is not permitted in France; and the constant feeding with milk to counteract lead poisoning does not have to be carried out The standardized Bernet 5-ton chassis sells for very little more than the price of reconditioned war lorries, that is, 31,000 francs.

One large steel casting forms both the chain sprocket and the brake drum, the drum and sprocket teeth being subsequently machined. Perliet also have their own chain-making department, a variety of punching and shaping machines turning out the various parts. The burnishing machine, consisting of a long, internally threaded screw, cleans, polishes and delivers at the other end a beautifully burnished blue, the dirty and rusty links entering at the one extremity.

While to the practical man the great iron foundry would be impressive on account of its size, it provides a thrilling sight for those not used to inspecting works of this kind. Great masses of black and grey metal stand in semi-darkness, while, melted in hugs blast furnaces, the metal is poured liquid and white hot into the moulds ; a great travelling crane, operated, with extreme accuracy by a woman, lifting and conveying vast crucibles of white-hot metal. The castings are cleaned up in a special sand-blasting shop, where weird-looking masked figures, dressed somewhat as

deep-sea divers, wcirk in an inferno of whirling sand. In an adjoining shop great steam hammers pound red-hot iron and steel into the ::.hapes required for various parts, whilst close by great guillotines cut through L-in. iron as if it were cheese. Some of the presses used for pressing out the steel chassis side members can exert as much as 1,550 tons pressure. Farther on, in another department, are most accurate instruments for finding the exact centres of gravity of connecting rolls and for balancing crankshafts, so as to make the engines as smooth running as possible. The pattern shop, where the patterns are made for the foundries, occupies the area of a tolerably large works, whilst the wood used is taken from a great timber ydrd, where the wood is carefully seasoned before being cut into planks on high-speed band-saws. Indeed, the capacity of the timber yard is such that the Berliet works turn out, as a side line, a large amount of household and domestic furniture, which keeps (heir wood-working shops fully occupied should the demand for commercal-vehicle or pleasure-car bodies at any time fall off.


Locations: Melbourne, Calcutta

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