Brownlee & Co.
Brownlee & Co., The City Saw Mills, Craighall Road.—
Glasgow, for her variety of industries, stands in the foremost rank of the cities of the world. And the reason of this is not far to seek, it being none other than the proverbial foresight, energy, and perseverance of its keen inhabitants. Were an illustration required of our statement, no better could be given than that of the history of the firm now under review, and that firm is known as Brownlee & Co., of the City Saw Mills. Passing through Cowcaddens and along the Garscubs Road, and thence onwards through a deep cutting in sandstone rock, and under the massy archway that carries the channel of the Forth and Clyde Canal, access is eventually gained to the Craighall Road, and there we find Messrs. Brownlee’s huge structure.
This business was started on a small scale in the year 1848 by Mr. James Brownlee, the premises being on the bank of the canal at Port Dundas, and the machinery was at first of a very simple kind, but was improved by him from time to time. In 1852 Mr. Henry Stewart (who, to the loss and sorrow of his friends, died in 1887), then in his twentieth year, entered into the service of the firm as cashier, but by his talents and energy he quickly raised himself to the responsible position of manager, and so great was his reputation for his knowledge in all matters concerning the timber trade, and in such esteem was he held for his straightforwardness that in any disputed transactions it became almost a bye-word to refer the matter to Henry Stewart for his decision.
Business, however, increased so rapidly that in the year 1870 it was found necessary to enlarge their premises and buildings, and for this purpose about fourteen acres of land in Craighall Road were acquired, and on it was constructed the present extensive City Saw Mills, which for extent and perfection of its machinery, &c., is one of the most interesting and instructive concerns in Glasgow. The mills themselves, with all the yards and property incidental to them, cover an area of fully twelve acres of ground. On one side they are brought into direct connection with the Forth and Clyde Canal, and on the other with a branch of the North British Railway, both the rail and the waterway affording an excellent means of transit.
The business offices are situate at the entrance gateways, which give access to the two divisions of the property. The old or original portion of the City Saw Mills is that part lying between Craighall Road and the canal bank. Here are two large sheds, each one hundred feet in length ; one measuring thirty feet, and the other forty-five feet in width. In these sheds are maintained, in full operation, five vertical log frames and three circular saws, provided with the requisite travelling tables, and doing an immense amount of work. A new engine of 120 horse-power, with many features of improved capacity, has recently been erected to drive these frames and saw plant, replacing one that had previously been in constant use for five and twenty years. Prior to its being sawn the timber is collected and stored in a basin, of an acre in extent, which communicates with the canal. Thence it is lifted by powerful steam cranes on to the mill floor, and is there manipulated as required ; thence to carts for transmission to its destination.
The new saw mill, standing in the centre of an extensive area of ten acres of timber-yard, opposite to the old mill, and on the other side of the Craighall Road, is a fine, substantial brick edifice, of large size, covering a ground space of one hundred and forty by two hundred feet, and surrounded at convenient distances by a superficial acre of wooden sheds. The engine-house stands apart from the main building, and is a neat, pavilion-like structure. The engine is of horizontal construction, and steam jacketed. The cylinder is twenty-four inches diameter, the stroke of the piston is three feet, and its action comprises seventy-two strokes per minute. The condenser is placed ten feet below the sole-plate of the engine, and is supplied with water from the canal by an underground channel or mine two hundred feet long. The walls of the mill are surmounted by four roofs supported on forty-two cast-iron columns of great solidity. The central row of these columns is of much heavier proportions than the others, and carries the main line of shafting, from which motive power is communicated to all the different machines in operation. The roofs run transversely to the working line of the machinery ; the doors dividing the mill from the engine house and boiler shed are all of iron ; and the precautions taken on every side against risk of fire are such as to be almost a guarantee of security in this respect.
The machinery on the ground floor of the mill consists of six deal frames, three flooring machines, five moulding machines, eight circular saws, one horizontal and one vertical band saw, two American planers, three cross-circular saws, and one chair-back saw. Also three horizontal single-bladed saws, which are used principally in the cutting of hard woods, such as mahogany, &c. They are driven by long wooden connecting rods at a high rate of speed, and have a peculiar merit in the fact that, instead of the slides being on a straight line, they form a circle, and thus throw the sawdust from the centre to the outside with each stroke of the blade. A large horizontal band saw here works, and is about forty feet long by fully five inches in breadth of blade, and travels over two wood-covered pulleys, six feet in diameter, at a rate of nearly one mile per minute.
Upstairs is a large department which occupies two galleries, hundred and forty feet long by thirty-five feet wide, situate on either of the building, and thus leaving seventy feet in breadth of clear space in the centre of the mill. This department is well lighted from, the roof and at the ends, and contains a fine plant of improved machinery for the execution of mortising, tenoning, sawing, turning, planing, moulding, dressing, and curvilinear work. In addition to this department the City Saw Mills possess a well arranged engineering shop, with large and small lathes, boring machines, and other appliances for making new machinery, and for the proper repairing and conservation of any class of plant employed in the entire industry.
The yards adjoining and surrounding the mills are, as already indicated, of great extent. The first yard, of two acres, is devoted entirely to log sawing and the converting of heavy timber, while the other and larger yard, in which the new mill stands, is sectioned off in departments for the storage and piling of hard woods, deals, battens, &c., both in a primary and manufactured state. The machinery and yards are allotted to various foremen of experience, each responsible for the management of his own staff of men and plant of apparatus.
Public sales of timber, deals, and sawn boards are conducted at intervals of from six weeks to two months ; and a comfortable hall, capable of accommodating two hundred persons, has been erected by the firm for the purpose of providing dinner for the company attending these sales. The number of men employed at the mills and in the yards is about four hundred, and forty horses are kept constantly at work. Between eighty thousand and one hundred thousand tons of timber pass through the saw mills in the course of the year. The wood is prepared for all purposes, but principally for house building, public works, coal pits, factories, and ship building ; and in these respects Messrs. Brownlee & Co. carry on a very large business. The amount of the daily sawings would cover about three superficial acres, and the vast quantities of mouldings, flooring, lining, and other lineal wood goods produced in one day would, if placed lengthwise, extend over a distance of something like twelve miles.
The City Saw Mills, in short, rank among the largest establishments of their kind in the United Kingdom. Mr. Brownlee, the founder of the business, spent a considerable period of his early life in America, and brought back with him for the benefit of the establishment he founded some of the newest and best ideas of that great timber-growing and wood-cutting country. Mr. Brownlee retired from the business in 1878, and since then it has been carried on by Mr. Robert Brownlee (brother of the founder), Henry Stewart, William Forrest, James Forrest, and George Christie Young, partners of the firm of Brownlee & Co. Since the death of Mr. Henry Stewart, already alluded to, the managing direction of this extensive concern, together with the firm’s large saw mills at Grangemouth and Kilmarnock, has now devolved upon Mr. William Forrest. From the partners’ practical knowledge of the trade in all its branches, the business it is safe to predict will gradually increase year by year.
Back to Index of Firms (1888)