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Iron heart of Hnúšťa

In the beginning it was a story. A story that was almost perfectly romantic. She, beautiful and rich; he, powerful and famous, the second lord after the king. And what remains from all of it? Nothing. Or maybe something after all? The story and places where all of this played out have remained. The story of Muráňska Venuša and the hiking trail of Mária Széchy.

Red marked tourist route - the route of Mária Széchy - follows the original route between the castles from the year 1644 that goes between castle Fiľakovo and Muráň. It was named after the second wife of paladin František Wesselényi, Marie (also known as Muráňska Venuša) who was in Hungary the wife of a paladin for many years after the queen, the second lady of the country. The route begins at the Muráň castle, continues over the hill Tŕstie to Rimavská Sobota, then it arrives in Fiľakov through the red highlands. In places that it leads through, there are many sacred monuments, castles and significant archeological sites. In one part of the route leading to the cadastre of Hnúšta, the city created an educational trail in 2021, which shows interesting moments from history which played out here.

 The road of Mária Széchy copies an authentic road that was in the past a relatively busy road marked by homesteads, serf settlements, and hamlets. Nowadays, roads head along valleys and crossing the hills in the most available way. In 1644, the roadway was headed by these crests of hills. No one knows why. Probably, in these times the roads which followed ridges were more accessible - river crossings often required fords which were often impenetrable. The way by the crests was safer, as they gave the traveler a good view of any impending danger. It was partway through the 17th century - century which was full of wars and fighting encounters. In addition to the constant attacks of the Ottoman Empire and the ongoing 30-year war, Hungary faced gentry uprising. In the woods the remnants of scattered armies, defectors, and gangs of robber knights roamed.

At first sight this place might seem uninteresting. But maybe right here is where Mária Széchy stopped a horse 400 years ago. She measured both valleys of the Rimava and Blh rivers with her eyes. When she assured herself that there was no danger in sight, she continued along her 83-kilometer route to castle Fiľakovo to her beloved Hungarian paladin. A story so powerful that it hasn't disappeared from the minds of people over time. The unbreakability of their love in the present is still alive. You can learn the whole romantic story on board no.4 in the saddle of Brezín. state uprisings. Remains of scattered armies, refugees, and gangs of robber knights wandered the forests.

Our educational footpath has brought you on a view spot under the hill known as the Cigán. Why it is called so, this history did not save and the view point was not here for several years. The prospects to the town Hnušťa, also Klenovec and in background majestic Klenovský Vepor, had been open after whirlwind Žofia in 2014, which was the second biggest for the last decade. The surrounding forest has not been remembered for these days and it takes years, until you will see from this place an industrial premise, which was part of the iron empire forming the iron heart of the whole Hungary. In certain periods at the beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries in Likierska ironworks annually produced the most pig iron in Slovak region.

6. The iron industry was under control of "Rimamuránsko-šalgótarjánska" Iron Participatory Company, which was the greatest mining and metallurgical enterprise in the whole of Hungary. The company owned brown-coal mines (with annual production around 650 000 t), the blast-furnace industry (with annual production capacity of pig iron around 350 000 t), steelworks, iron foundries, rolling mills, zinc works, railways, cable-railways and others. In the domain of current Hungary alone worked over 12 000 workers. In the territory of Slovakia, the company owned mines in Železník, Rákoš, Rožňava, Rožňavská Bystrá, Nižná Slaná a Drnava, a lime kiln in Tisovec, large forest properties, as well as limestone quarries. Production of pig iron was concentrated in the Likier industry. The company had even its own significant employee program, they built accomodations for their employees in Likier (workers' colony), casino, skittle ground, parks and fountains, even an orphanage.

7. The region has experienced unexpected prevalence  since 1883 which had an effect on the building of the first coke blast furnace in Slovakia. The second one was built in 1885 and the third one in 1892. Before the war the daily capacity of production was on the level of 200 tons of raw iron. The supply of iron ore was provided for its time by a unique 12-kilometer cable car from the mines of Železník, which was built on oak poles in difficult terrain.

8. Likier’s blast furnaces burned out in July 1921 and in August 1924 the whole establishment was bought by the company Rimavsko-dolinský lúčobný priemysel - a limited partnership of Dr. Blasberg (dry wood distillation company). Chemical production continued even after changes after WWII; in 1966 the name of establishment was changed to Slovenské lučobné závody, national enterprise Hnúšťa – Likier and in 1978 production of technical rubber  was added to chemical production. After privatization in in the 1990s, chemical and rubber production started to decrease. Now (in 2021) there are already new companies in the industrial park, which are oriented on production of cable harnesses, plastic buckles and products from rubber.

9. Even long ago, the territory of Slovakia was famous for its rich mineral deposits, especially for iron ore. For of this reason, iron processing became historically the oldest department in our territory. The extracted iron was processed by hammer and later on processing was made more efficient in hámre, which were essentially buildings, which used the river flow to power hammers and blacksmith's windbags to blow air into the furnace.


In Hnúšťa and its surrounding area, mining and processing of iron ore was the main mineral material, and the record of iron ore mining in Hnúšťa is preserved in writing from 1758. The miners processed the mined ore near the mining site .With the increasing production of extracted iron, it was necessary to modernize the method of mineral ore processing. The first surviving written mention of iron processing in the ironworks in Hnúšťa - Maša dates from 1772.

11. In the first decade of the 19th century, the Rimavská Coalition was founded, based in Rimavský Brezovo, which united most of the guilds and ironworks from the whole Rimavská valley. In 1852 it was joined by the Muránská Únia company and the Rima-Murán Ironworks Company was founded, with its headquarters in R. Brezovo. The newly established company immediately began to record an increase in iron production, which it processed in the blast furnace in Maša (part of the town of Hnúšt'a) and in the surrounding ironworks. For its time, the ironworks in Maša was a large factory, with up to 200 employees at the time of its heyday. In its workshops it produced machine parts, stoves, grills, pipes and common tools pickaxes, hoes, spades, rakes, pitchforks, axes, shovels and also iron tombstones for cemeteries, for example. The iron was processed by smelting in a charcoal blast furnace, according to contemporary records with a weekly output of 120 tons of pig iron.

The ironworks, despite being outdated, continued to operate alongside the modern coke blast furnaces that had stood since 1883 in nearby Likier. After the last coke oven in Likier (today's part of Hnúšte, formerly a separate municipality) burnt down in 1921, the ironworks in Hnúšt'an Masha was also demolished in 1923. In its place, a sawmill for wood processing was built in 1942, and many remains of the famous ironworks were buried under a mass of concrete. However, some interesting features have been preserved - a raised stone wall from the top of which the blast furnace was fed into the blast furnace, which the locals call a kychta, a house built of slag bricks and two stone bridges. One of them was saved thanks to the initiative of the local civic association Horná Rimava. The Rima-Murano Iron and Steel Company wanted to increase its prosperity and so in 1855 it focused on iron ore mining in the Ladislav ironworks in Železník, whose mineral ore deposit was one of the largest iron ore deposits in the whole of Hungary.

In 1881 there was another merge of companies, called Rimavsko-Muránská iron company and the Šalgotarjánska Company, from which the Rimamuránsko-šalgotarjánska iron company was established in Budapest. The company concentrated all mountain production in the newly built ironworks in Likier, which had an enormous impact on employment. The company also focused on the social program, which sought to improve the lives of its employees. It had an orphanage built (later to become a hospital) for the orphans of the workers, who were to take 100 children. The company also built a home complex - a workers' colony. For the aforementioned pleasure of the workers, a dance hall, a casino, a bowling alley, a park, fountains and many workers' houses were built in the colony, to which carefully designed vertical streets led.

By the end of 1870s, the society felt the need to increase deliveries of iron ore, which is higher in the context with plans to build high ovens with new technology which were supposed to use a koks instead of wooden coal. Since the transport of the iron ore was difficult because of hard terrain from Železník, in 1881 they started to build a cableway (see table number 2) between the works of high ovens in Likier and the iron oven mine in Železník. The cableway was done in 1893 sabstituted the complicated transport of iron ore to the smelters on the trolley, pulled by horses (it is more than 30km into Železník, on hilled terrain) There had been cableways which consisted of oak poles, which were replaced by iron mast in 1893-1896. The cableway was 13 098 metres long. Rope trucks, also called “hunty” had weighed 150kg. Loaded ore had a mass of 330kg. The speed of the transport was 1,7 meters per second. There were 170 000 tons of iron ore transported per year. Compared to the yearly capacity of transport of trucks at the level of 20 thousand tons, it was a huge progress and impulse to build other high owens.

In 1883 the first coke blast furnace in Slovakia was built in the ironworks in Likier, in 1885 the second and in 1892 the third one. It was after the launch of the cable railway and the acquisition of tall coke furnaces that in Likier establishment the highest amount of pig iron was manufactured in the territory of Slovakia. The daily capacity of production before World War I was around 200 tons of pig iron per day. Production at the Likier ironworks was also extended to include cast iron products in this period.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the metallurgical industry began to decline due to political changes in society and the First World War. The definitive decline of the iron industry occurred after the war, when the Hungarian owners decided to move their property to Hungary in the difficult times associated with the establishment of Czechoslovakia. All the equipment of the Likier facility was dismantled and transported to Šalgotarian and Ózd, where the company continued production. The decline of the iron industry in Likier peaked in 1921, when the last blast furnace burned out.

In 1922, German Dr. Eugen became interested in the dilapidated factory in the north of the Rimavská Valley, who also began negotiations with representatives of the Rimamuránsko company on the purchase of the company facilities. Dr. Blasberg transformed the previously iron factory into a chemical factory, in which he needed to process the carbonization of wood by chemical means and the production of related products. The plant was called Rimavskodolinský lučobný (zastar. chemický) priemysel, komanditná spoločnosť Dr. Eugen Blasberg a spol. v Likieri. It began its production on October 1, 1924. In this factory, Dr. Blasberg employed around 330 people and other workers who were employed in the forests to harvest the timber needed for production.

In 1927, Dr. Blasberg made an agreement to sell off the entire chemical dry distillation of wood in Likier to the German concern I. G. Farbenindustrie A.-G., which between 1925 and 1945 was the largest chemical company in the world. In business relations, and under the tacit agreement of the then Czechoslovak government, they remained under the old name, but under a new owner.

I.G. Farben also stepped into history in an undignified way, by producing chemical substance Cyclon B for Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. This substance, originally developed as a cyanide insecticide, was presumably not produced in this factory, because a year before the war in 1938, I.G. Farben sold his factory in Likier to the Czech Union bank.

During the existence of the First Slovak Republic, there were changes in the ownership of the company. In June 1940, the limited share was taken over by the company Akciengesellschaft für Asphaltierungen unf Strasenbau in Bratislava. The company's headquarters moved from Hnúšta - Likier to Bratislava. The plant in Likier remained only as a branch of the company. The prosperity of Lučobný priemysel Dr. Blasberg a spol. kom. spol. was very significant in the years 1940 - 1942. In Slovakia, the industry for dry distillation of wood was only represented by two large companies, in which the production capacity was about 250,000 q (1 q = 100 kg) of beech wood. Representatives of the mentioned industry were the following companies: Lučobný priemysel Dr. Blasberg a spol. kom. spol. in Likier and the company Chemická továreň Pállfy, Smolenice. The two companies employed around 1,000 workers in their plants and also employed larger numbers of forest workers.

The products of this industry can be divided into four main groups: charcoal, the group of acetic acids and acetone, the group of wood alcohol (methanol) and solvents and the group of wood tar. These basic products are produced by the company in Likier down to the finest medical products. This industry was strictly export-oriented. Its sales progressed to England, Switzerland, France, and overseas, to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, to Germany and Italy following the outbreak of World War II.

After the end of the Second World War, the company became a Czechoslovak enterprise. Subsequently, Lučobný priemysel Dr. Blasberg a spol. komanditná spoločnosť was issued an acreage and placed under the national administration with the new company name Lučobné a farmaceutické závody Likier, later renamed to Slovenské lučobné závody Likier. In 1948, the factory introduced the production of paints and varnishes, but this production only lasted 5 years. Following that, the production of solvents, namely butyl acetate and crystalline inorganic acetates, was introduced. In 1960, a new modern dry distillation of wood was put into operation. In addition, the production of cement powders was introduced in 1958. In 1965, the company experienced development, mainly due to the production of faolite, which was an acid-resistant construction material. In 1966, the name of the plant was changed to Slovenské lučebné závody, národný podnik Hnúšťa - Likier.

In 1978, the operation of the so-called technical rubber began. Products from technical rubber were used for the necessities of the automotive and engineering industries as well as for agriculture and construction. Until 1992, products such as alcohol detection tubes, respirators or medical tubes were also produced.

The cable car Sirk – Likier

The Rimamurán-Šalgótarján ironworks participating company, based in Budapest, took over several mining plants in Gemer, including the Železník complex – Sirk – Rákoš. The company concentrated the processing of iron ore in the ironworks in Likier near Hnúšťa. It was a modern plant for a period of time. A unique Bleichert-type cable car was built in the years 1881-1884 for the regular transport of fried ore in the Ladislav tunnel in Železník to the nearby Likier ironworks, which became not only the oldest cable car in the Spiš-Gemer mining area, but also one of the longest cable cars in the Europe. The length of the Železník-Likier cable car reached 13,098 m and led from the roasting plant near the Ladislav tunnel through the southern outskirts of the village of Sirk through challenging terrain to the ironworks in Likier. The cable car replaced the former horse-drawn carriages, which caused the loss of employment of a large number of carters. Angry carters could not come to terms with the loss of employment, so they began to undersaw the wooden pillars on the rope way. The company solved this problem by building the so-called houses for guards in which released carters worked. After the reconstruction of the trackway in the years 1893 - 1896, the wooden pillars were replaced by iron ones.

In 1921, the high furnaces in the ironworks in Likier in relation to the post-war crisis were canceled and the ironworks were disbanded. It´s area bought by Dr. Blasberg Company in 1924, which created a chemical factory on dry distillation of wood- the Slovak Tree Company. From 1924 to 1935, this company rented a Sirk-Liker cable car and used it to transport wood. The cable car was driven by steam from its beginning until 1929. In this year most cable car trails were under reconstruction due to electrification. In 1945 around 105 workers worked on the cableway, of which only 16 were from Sirk and 20 were from Likier. The others were individual stops at Brandzová, Brezina and Suchá. In May 1946 Ing. Ján Kodl used a cable car for transporting gravel, sand and cement from Likier to Brandzová and Brezina stations, from which the material was transported to build a road Hnúšťa-Ratková. The termination of the cableway trail occurred in 1953, when this oldest and longest functioning cable car in Spišskogemerská mining area  was dismantled. The forest cut down pitches were used for electric network, which today follows the path of the seduced cable car. In some places we can still see a preserved portion of pillars and ruins of guard houses. You can find more detailed information about the rails on the northern part of the educational trail; on No. 1, you will learn about the Sirl-Likier cable way and on Table no 3. about Burda-Hačava cable way, which transported the magnesite to Hačavská magnesite.


Preklad: PaedDr. Zuzana Vojteková, študenti EGT Tisovec (bezplatný preklad v rámci štúdia)