The following brief history of the NOHAB Works was presented by a former employee of the company, Mr. Olaf G. Janson, at the 40th anniversary meeting of the locomotive of our foundation, on the 15th November, 2003, in the building of the Budapest Area Directorate of the Hungarian State Railways. Some details were added according to later contributions of Mr. Jansen, for which we would again like to express our gratitude.
The history of the Swedish NOHAB company began in 1847, as Trollhättans Mekaniska Verkstad was founded by Antenor Nydqvist, Johan Magnus Lidström and Carl Olof Holm.
Nydqvist was an engineer while Holm was rather a businessman, however, both had a technical education and worked for other companies before. Prior to founding Trollhättans Mekaniska Verkstad, Antenor Nydqvist went for a three-year journey across Europe, spending most of the time in France, England and Germany. His technical expertise was well-founded and also shown by the fact that he held numerous patents dealing with water turbines, the first main product of Trollhättans Mekaniska Verkstad.
Soon, the company was renamed to Nydqvist och Holm AB (NOHAB). Meanwhile, the product scope was widened: aside from water turbines, agricultural machines and other tools were produced, too, as well as steam engines for road and railway use (starting with 1850). The first steam locomotive of entirely own production left the factory halls in 1865.
From 1867 to 1916, Antenor Nydqvist was sole proprietor of the enterprise; at that time, NOHAB became the largest private company in Sweden. In the mean time, the original factory location was given up and a new site (i. e., NOHAB's final place) was established on the opposite side of the Trollhätte canal. In 1916, NOHAB became a public company with one of its new co-proprietors being SKF (Svenska Kullager Fabriken) of Göteborg. The descendants of Antenor Nydqvist kept working for NOHAB until 1930.
In 1920, NOHAB received the largest contract to that time: the Soviet Union placed an order for 1000 steam locomotives which was, however, reduced two years later to 500 units due to political reasons. The batch, delivered between September 1921 and December 1924, cost altogether 230 million Swedish crowns which was reciprocated by the Soviet Union with 56 tons of pure gold!
The company, employing about 2600 people at that time, found no comparable orders upon completion of the 500 locomotives and promptly faced financial difficulties which could be only partly mitigated by the construction of other products, such as bridges or bridge elements.
Urged to do so by the Swedish government, NOHAB began building aircraft motors in the 1930's. The subsidiary NOHAB Flygmotorfabrik AB purchased a license for building English Jupiter engines from Bristol Aeroplane Co. and began the production in 1933. NOHAB Flygmotorfabrik AB was later renamed to Svenska Flygmotor AB, eventually purchased by Volvo in 1970. Volvo Aero AB still continues to build jet engine parts for civil and military airplanes (among them the Gripen fighters to be used in Hungary), as well as parts for the Ariane rockets of the European Space Agency.
The Swedish government also suggested NOHAB's cooperation with another company based at Linköping. As a result, the common enterprise Svenska Aeroplan AB (SAAB
) was founded which began building complete airplanes from the beginning of the 1930's on. Also SAAB remained in business, while some areas of production were allocated to separate companies (passenger cars at SAAB Automobile
and freight vehicles at SCANIA
Between 1925 and 1935, NOHAB sought the cooperation of other companies, such as BOFORS, to hold its ground. This eventually resulted in BOFORS purchasing NOHAB in 1936 which then became BOFORS-NOHAB AB. In the 1930's, the product scope included mainly aircraft motors and turbines for power stations.
In the 1940's, BOFORS switched to war production, and after World War II, the company began building diesel engines. In the early 1950's, the construction of mainline diesel locomotives was outlined which was to a noteworthy part due to the demand of the Danish State Railways realized under cooperation with General Motors Electro-Motive Division. First to emerge from these common efforts was the European version of the EMD export model AA16 locomotive which deserves being called the first true Pan-European mainline diesel. The construction proved to be very successful and soon, Societé Anglo-Franco-Belge (SAFB) obtained the license of the locomotives as well.
In the 1960's, the Swedish S-60 tanks were added to the product line of BOFORS-NOHAB AB, as well as large printing machines for daily newspapers. The production of diesel and electric locomotives went on, too; a typical example was the EMD export type JT26 built for the Danish State Railways (MZ class at DSB). The latter machine was later built under license by the Spanish company MACOSA as well.
By the end of the 1970's, the railway motive power market began saturating, foreshadowing the decline of locomotive production. The last motive power to leave NOHAB's assembly halls were class Rc electric locomotives, built for the Swedish State Railways (SJ), in late 1979. These machines were (with exception of the traction motors built by ASEA, a predecessor of ABB) entirely produced by the NOHAB works.
In the early 1980's, BOFORS-NOHAB AB went out of business. Employees were laid off, production lines were sold separately (the last ones in 1986). Several branches of production were continued at various smaller enterprises. Diesel engine manufacturing for ships and small railway motive power was taken over by the Finnish Wärtsilä
company already in the 1970's. From 1981 on, building of printing machines was continued at GMA-NOHAB Printing AB while turbine production was acquired by Kvaerner Turbin AB of Norway (now Aker Kvaerner
). Kalmar NOHAB AB supplied railway products, while numerous smaller departments were purchased over the years by former NOHAB employees or others.
Eventually, almost the entire factory site was taken over by a Swedish building company. The only survivor is NOHAB Industri AB
, specialized in milling metal machine parts, where some of the tools and workers of the once huge NOHAB company can still be found. NOHAB Industri AB is still located at Trollhättan, though another site of the company is based at Uddevalla.